There is a tendency for novelists to focus on the way that a hero is presented, rather than the hero himself; Achilles, they argue, wasn't really so much better than everyone else, he just had a good PR agent. And in a way, they are right to do so – a hero's 'kleos', or 'glorious reputation', was all he really had. It is fun to sling mud at heroes; but, if one has grown up enthralled by the mystique of Achilles, King Arthur et al, one can always return to that pristine image, however much it has been damaged.
So it is that I found myself thoroughly enjoying Philip Reeve's new novel, Here Lies Arthur, despite the fact that it shows King Arthur as a macho, muscle-bound boor with no thought in his blowsy head except for power. The resourceful heroine is twelve-year-old Gwyna, who, when her village is