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Review: The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez


Thanks to the publisher (Del Rey) for the ARC of this book.

Finally, finally, after nearly two weeks of struggling, I am done with this book. I don’t think I’ve ever had such complicated feelings before, or struggled as much with a book I couldn’t help but see as excellent in many ways. I wonder if perhaps I might have loved it in another mood and another time, if it’s me or the book, but in the end, it’s no use.

This is a story with many layers. It’s a story of a goddess fallen from the sky trying to right the wrongs she caused. It is the mythical story of two young men and their quests. It is the story of the person invited to the Inverted Theater to witness and then forget it. It is ambitious and experimental and beautifully told, masterfully intertwining first, second, and third person POV. It attempts to touch on themes of of redemption and identity and imperialism and family. It should have been just up my alley.

And I hated almost every second of it.

I had seen what happened to all of those sons I gave birth to. How they were molded by the world they had been given, for even the man who had started it all did not know why he made the choices he did. It is all a spiral that feeds into itself with the gathering weight at the center that we call Power.

The beginning was unengaging, but then, beginnings often are, especially when I’m in no particular mood. I thought it’ll get easier and hook me eventually, but it never did. I was never particularly confused by what was going on, I’m used to confusing literary fantasy and going with the flow, but the main plot was incredibly boring until about 70% in and mediocre from there on, and the opaqueness of the style got in the way of even remotely connecting to the characters. The almost-grimdark level of graphic violence (though the book is, ultimately, in no way nihilistic) didn’t help my enjoyment either.

The story may have been enough for a standalone volume but it still collapsed a little under the weight of its ambition. It was such a slog I nearly DNF’d about three times. The last of those, at 60% or so, I finally caved and skipped forwards to catch a glimpse of the ending. Satisfied and curious to see that, I went back to where I left off and read on. A drastic measure for me – but I finished it. The ending was quite good (though again, not without hiccups) and a far smoother ride, but it did not make up for the resentment of having had to drag myself though the rest, fighting every step of the way. Perhaps I should have DNF’d after all.

Ultimately, this is a book I respect more than liked, or enjoyed.

Enjoyment: 2/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: I don’t even know, man, I really don’t – read an excerpt and see
Not recommended to: those who hate omniscient narrative style or get easily confused, anyone sensitive to violence and torture

Content warnings: lots of extremely graphic gore, body horror, torture, ritual cannibalism, scenes of someone being eaten alive and so on and so forth


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