Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

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Member Reviews

The novel is a fantasy and adventure story.  It is an investigation of legacy and belonging.  The shifting perspectives and plot made it difficult to really get into the story for me.  There are three POV that carry the novel.  
I don’t know if my confusion that occurred  while I was reading this novel or part of the experience I was suppose to have.  It didn’t make it easy to read (for me).  I do think there are many people who will enjoy this style of writing.
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When I first received the publisher’s request to review The Spear Cuts Through Water, I almost didn’t accept it. I had reviewed The Vanished Birds and “meh” about it. But when I read the blurb, it caught my interest, and I decided to give this book a chance. I am glad I did because this book was one of the most uniquely written books I have ever read. Oh, and I also really liked it.

The Spear Cuts Through Water had an exciting plotline. It follows the journey of Keema, a one-armed outcast, and Jun, grandson of the emperor, as they escort Jun’s goddess grandmother across the country. Jun and Keema face many dangers but discover strengths they didn’t know they had. There is also another storyline that is intertwined with Keema and Jun. That is the story of an unnamed man who finds himself in a place called the Inverted Theater after a lifetime of hardship. He is watching a play about Keema and Jun and their journey. Like me, he had questions about their journey. Will they complete their journey?

Usually, I will put a trigger and content warning at the end of my review. But, if I feel that the book’s content will immediately affect the reader or the triggers are horrible, I move it to the top of the review. The triggers in this book are a combination of both. If you are triggered by gore, genocide, ritual cannabilism, body horror, dismemberment, and ableism, do not read this book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a medium-paced book in a dystopian ancient Japan or China (I couldn’t figure out which one). The author uses a lot of Japanese and Chinese folklore as a base for the story. I loved it!! It made the book so much more enjoyable for me to read because I enjoy the folklore/mythology from those areas.

As I stated above, this was very uniquely written book. It was written in equal parts, 2nd person and 3rd person POVs. I can count on one hand how many books I have read in 2nd person. And I can count how many of those books I have liked on half of that hand. The author seamlessly switched between the 2nd and 3rd person without disrupting the book’s flow. I was surprised at how much I liked the way it was written. Now, saying that the way this book is written isn’t for everyone, and I would keep that in mind when starting it.

The main characters of The Spear Cuts Through Water were well-written. The author did a great job of fleshing them out and making me care about them (and their journey).

Keema—I liked him. There’s not much I can say about him other than that he was almost stupidly brave. I wouldn’t say I liked that he was looked down upon for only having one arm or that the other guards picked on him because of it. His journey with Keema was to find himself as much as it was to bring the Moon to her final destination.
Jun—So, he didn’t make the best first impression when he showed up in the book. But, as the book continued, I saw Jun’s character evolving. He started to care about Keema and what the Terrors were doing to the people during his journey. Heck, he even cared about the tortoise. By the end of the book, he has changed from the beginning.
Unknown Narrator—This is the person being told Jun and Keema’s story and their own life story. I felt terrible for this man. He had been through so much in life. He was amazed to find himself at the Inverted Theater, watching this story unfold. There was a more fantastic connection between Jun, Keema, and himself that was revealed at the end of the book. I didn’t see that twist coming!
The Three Terrors—I was going to make them secondary characters, but I got to thinking, and they each, in their way, were main characters. To me, they embodied the worst traits that society had. Jun’s father (the First Terror) was Violence. He participated in genocide in the Old World. He did love his sons, but that was his only redeeming quality. The Second Terror, to me, was Greed and Gluttony. In my eyes, he was the scariest Terror, mainly because of what he did to gain the powers of the tortoise. The Third Terror, I couldn’t place him in any group. He was a horror exiled from his family at a young age. I will not even get into what he was or what he did. But I did feel bad for him. The scene with the man in that dungeon was both gruesome and heartbreaking at the same time.
The Moon— I wasn’t sure about her. I understood why she wanted to leave (who would want to be held captive under a palace). But I wouldn’t say I liked how she coerced Jun and Keema to do what she wanted. She didn’t get to her destination, forcing Jun and Keema to do something atrocious, something I had heard of but had never seen written in a book before. She also held no love for her children. That bothered me more than anything, to be honest.
The Spear Cut Through Water did have a lot of notable secondary characters. I will not list them, but they all added extra depth to the book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water was listed as a fantasy novel. I agree, but it is more suited as a dark and epic fantasy. The author did a great job weaving the epic fantasy angle (the journey) and the dark fantasy angle (everything else). It made for a great read.

I also want to add that there is a romance and LGBTQ+ angle to this book also. Keema and Jun’s romance is cultivated throughout the entire book. There was so much given with a look between them. And the yearning, oh my, it was almost too much for me to bear.

The author amazingly wrote the main storyline with Keema, Jun, the Terrors, the Moon, and their journey. The author had me glued to the book, wanting to know more, and you know what? He gave it to me in spades. The author explained everything, and he tied everything together. The author left no loose ends with this plotline. There were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming.

The storylines with the unknown narrator and the Inverted Theater was well written. I didn’t get as invested as I did with the main storyline, but still, it drew me in. A twist in that storyline made me put my Kindle down. I needed a second to process what I had read because the twist was that unexpected and that good.

Several secondary storylines give some added background and depth to the main storylines. The author incorporated them into the main storyline without pausing the book’s flow.

The end of The Spear Cuts Through Water was not what I expected, but at the same time, I expected it, if that makes sense. I loved how the author ended the main storylines and how he merged them both.

Three reasons why you should read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

The storylines.
The characters.
Jun and Keema’s slow-burn romance
Three reasons why you shouldn’t read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

The triggers. I am usually pretty good with the number of triggers in the book, but even I got triggered by this book.
The way it was written. Being told in 2nd and 3rd person isn’t most people’s cup of tea.
The Terrors. They genuinely creeped me out.
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Thanks so much to the publisher and Net Galley for a chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.  
Lovely lyrically told story- a fable really. The language is rich and dreamy, but I found the story rather dull; a spoiled brutal prince ( ala GOT) on a mission for his father the “Sun” to find the key to everlasting life, interwoven with a modern story of a dreamland theater. Very well written, but not my cup of tea. DNF
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**Thank you to Del Rey Books, the author, and NetGalley for providing this eARC in exchange for an honest review. This book was released on August 30, 2022.** 

*So hear me, audience of the theater—listen to the Moon on High, the Empress of the Eight Sons of the Moon Throne, for I have a tale to tell.*

Once upon a time, the Moon promised a warrior his greatest desire if only he would cut her from the sky so that she would not be replaced after her death—and so the Moon Throne was born. Now the current emperor and his sons, the Three Terrors, rule over the country with an iron fist. But the Moon has been plotting her release, and with the help of Jun and Keema, she will find her freedom—and the end. And you are going to witness it all.

About two sentences into beginning this review—right after I finished reading the book (on an airplane, sandwiched between strangers and crying so much I was grateful I was wearing a mask)—I knew that I wouldn’t be able to speak coherently about this book for a WHILE, and gave up. In fact, this review is definitely not going to be a fully comprehensive picture of its deep and powerful narrative, but it’s time for me to try and talk about THE SPEAR CUTS THROUGH WATER anyway, because this feels like a truly original and masterfully crafted contribution to the fantasy genre.

I’ll admit that I was a bit wary for the first little while as I read, because I personally don’t always do well with narratives that shift through points of view from chapter to chapter, let alone in the midst of one. I also generally prefer linear narratives. But I eventually found myself captivated, because this is a story within a story, a performance, evokes oral storytelling, is full of myth and legacy—all things I obsessively love in fiction. It’s nearly impossible to read quickly, and I found myself grateful that I read the majority of it in one day; while it took me longer than another book might have, I didn’t have interruptions to the rhythm set by the plot and I was able to fully sink into the story, which is set over the course of five days. Perhaps my favorite technique, though, was how different moments in time were bridged through italicized sentences set in the middle of the page, sometimes they tied the two together and sometimes they didn’t, but man, when they did, it was incredible. 

These and so many other little pieces stacked on each other to build up my admiration for this book. First of all, the setting and the worldbuilding—everything feels so lush and fully realized, whether the reader is currently in the time of the Old Country or the present or the Inverted Theater. All of these elements (especially the tortoises, oh my gosh) were so fantastically unique that I’m still thinking about them. Not to mention the writing—I copied down so many passages that just sang, that cut right to my core, and I wish I could share them all. But they wouldn’t mean anything without the weight of the story, or without You (as both the reader and as the person experiencing the performance of this story), or without Jun and Keema, who I grew to love and laugh with/at over the course of the book. I didn’t expect them to be so FUNNY. The audience inclusion is another amazing aspect; it felt like immersion in the truest sense.

And the ending. My god, the ending. Or perhaps more accurately, roughly the last half-to-last third. I do not want to give away the bit of the story that set off the waterworks for me, but it was wholly unexpected and I am still in a sort of mourning for this character, despite everything they’ve done. Like, it was “Omelas” levels of sorrow. The epilogue, or “After,” of the main plot is long but I think it’s earned. The closing off of each thread, and the way everything comes full circle… it can’t be overstanding how stunning this book is. It just can’t.

Again, this is the kind of thing that drives a person to sob quietly for over an hour on an airplane. And I highly, highly recommend it.

On a final note, I don’t normally include content warnings since I don’t really seek them out myself, but if you are a person who does prefer to know what they’re getting into, I absolutely recommend you look up a full list. Off the top of my head, though, CW for gore, body horror, cannibalism, torture, and more. But if they are things that you can take in, you are in for a gorgeous, brutal, tender, and transformational adventure. I don’t think anyone can walk away from this book unaffected.
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"This is a love story to its blade-dented bone.”

I have never read anything quite like this book. I tend to find second person narration distracting, but it was effective here. I love the creative storytelling and will definitely give this a reread. 

I would call it a story within a story, but that doesn’t capture its expansiveness and also connectedness. 

The “you” in this book grew up with stories of the Old Country told by your lola. One of the first stories you remember is of the Inverted Theater: a place mortals could be invited, through dreams and luck, to visit and watch a performance. Ugh, I know that sounds boring, but it isn’t—I don’t know how to describe this effectively. Epic. Surprising. Violent. Delightful. 

This was my first book by Jimenez, and I’ll definitely be reading his other, The Vanished Birds. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey!
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Just because this wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it won’t be for you. I’m either dumb or confused, but this was as layered as Malazan, which I tried but never finished. To be fair, I listened on audio. This may or may not be better on print. 

What’s confusing? The first, second and third person perspectives that change without a thought. The shifting plot. The fact that all of this encompasses a few days. Triple terrors. A tortoise. So many changes in scenery. 

Maybe I’m just not in the right headspace (am I a guy on a dating app or what), but this was not the right book for me at this point in time. Maybe I’ll revisit.
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Simon Jimenez burst onto the SciFi/Fantasy scene with 2020's The Vanished Birds, which was an utterly fascinating book, even as it was kind of a bit more in the literary direction than my usual read. The story followed a number of characters who interacted with a mysterious boy, and dealt with the choices and sacrifices those people made for their professional and personal lives, among other themes, and featured some really great character work, even if its ending felt a bit rushed and the antagonist just felt kind of there. It was a really well done and interesting novel, especially for a first novel, which made me very eager to get to Jimenez' second novel, The Spear Cuts Through Water.

And The Spear Cuts Through Water is honestly my book of 2022 so far, even as it is a very very different kind of novel than The Vanished Birds. Told with phenomenal prose as if the story is a stage play of the past shown in a dream-like magical theatre (to an unnamed but not undefined narrator), The Spear Cuts Through Water is a love story, a quest story, a story of memory and who we are, of guilt and redemption, and more. It's a beautifully told story that had me gripped from its very beginning and while it takes its time getting to its main two protagonists, it never felt slow or tiring...and once it got to the protagonists, I fell slowly but deeply in love with them. This is going to be a difficult review to write because of the type of novel this is, but let's just be clear up front, this novel is fantastic and I cannot recommend more highly that you give it a try.

-----------------------------------------------Plot Summary----------------------------------------------------
Years ago, your Lola told you about the Inverted Theater, the product of the love between the Moon and the Water, which can only be reached through dreams, when the Theater issues its one and only invite during a person's lifetime. Now that invite is yours and you visit the Theater in a dream, where you are shown a story you vaguely remember your Lola telling you about long ago, a story about the Old Country, a story involving the Spear that you find yourself holding in your hands, that you know only as a family heirloom hung on the family wall.

The story features the legendary five days in which the all powerful Emperor, the Smiling Sun, blessed with the powers of the Moon, planned to make a pilgramage through the Country before taking a voyage towards immortality.

But Fate had other plans, and soon the Emperor is gone and the Moon escaped with the help of two young men - one covered in a mask and one lacking an arm - and on the run from the Emperor's three powerful Moon-blessed sons: the Three Terrors.

This is the story of these two young men, the Spear one of them carries, the Moon they flee with, and the Water who yearns for her, as the age of the Emperor comes to an end and a new era is born from their actions......
The Spear Cuts Through Water is told in a fascinating way, with the story weaving in and out of the framing device - a person from the industrial-era future of this world seeing the story in a dream theater of a more fantasy/medieval (almost Asian inspired?) past - from section to section.  The prose features each chapter broken up into small sections, with each section introduced by the last few words of the last section blown up and bolded into a new section header, so that each section flows naturally from one part to the next.  And within each section the story is sometimes told in second person, or with first person plural "we" narrators occasionally serving as a Greek Chorus, but somehow none of this ever becomes confusing and the prose is just tremendous to read.*

*I say this, but one friend of mine who has Aphantasia found this difficult at the start to get into.  I have issues myself visualizing but do not think I have Aphantasia (even as I usually dislike descriptive prose), and found the prose did work for me and was more character based than descriptive based*

And so it leads to a fantasy story that is large in scope and yet at the same time quite small in its scope, as its two lead characters, Jun and Keema of the Daware Tribe, venture forth, first coincidentally on the same path as Jun tries to help the Moon/Old-Lady escape and Keema tries to fulfill his oath to take the Spear to its intended recipient. The two characters are excellently done, both with mysteries in their past that matter to some extent (and don't to others) which are revealed slowly, and their growing relationship, which turns into something more (M/M romance) is really really well done, culminating in one...not quite typical sex scene..but one that is quite spectacular. And the two are great characters on their own as they each struggle with their own vows and goals: Jun to redeem himself for what he sees as unforgivable atrocities in his past, and Keema to make something of himself by fulfilling the vows he made to those who didn't make it. And between the two of them, their eventual vow to help the Old Lady/Moon escape and end the nightmares her power caused through her sons the Three Terrors.

The story takes these two main characters through a world that is filled to the brim with people and factions and beings that are all incredibly well done and deep, like villagers who live among the water who wish for a chance to strike at freedom, or turtles that form a magical communication net, and noble merchant factions who wish to make their own claim at power, etc. etc. It's a world that feels tremendously real and painted, helped by the gorgeous prose, and even the parts talking about the industrial future, where war is waged for who knows what reason and families are torn apart by it, work well as a contrast. The result is a story that uses its quest to touch themes of who we are, how our pasts, our families and heritage, and choices define us, and where we can go from there, and what we all deserve as a result. And it's all done so well up until the ending that is just perfect - maybe a bit too easy, but perfect nonetheless.

It's just a tremendous novel, both in character and in prose, and I cannot recommend it more highly.
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I really enjoyed this author's first book and was really excited to pick up this book.  It look me some time to get into this book with its crazy blend of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person perspectives but I kept reading because the characters were so interesting and I wanted to see if he could pull off these unique storytelling technique--and he totally does.

The story begins with an unnamed narrator (in second person) being told stories of the Old Country by his lola.  Later, the story shifts to the Inverted Theater where dreamers come to see the world and stories that his lola told acted out in a performance on a giant stage.  In this world, the land is ruled by a cruel emperor and his three sons, known as First Terror, Second Terror, and Third Terror.  The story involves two warriors with the task of sending a package east over the course of five days.  At the same time, the Terrors need to be dealt with to continue on the quest.  

The world building is fantastic but know going in that this is a brutal and violent world.  The various points of view are blended seamlessly where the warriors story is told in third person and many secondary characters are told in first person.  It definitely requires some patience but once I got going, it was so fascinating to read.  This was a fantastic story that was well worth the effort.
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DNF @ 11%. This is VERY dense and heavy and, at times, uncomfortable, and it's not even remotely close to what I thought it was going to be based on the description. I liked the use of second-person, and the worldbuilding itself was accomplished quickly and skillfully, but it just very much was not for me. I found myself dreading reading it, which means it's time to DNF. Maybe I'll pick it back up eventually, but this was just not for me.
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This book had some high highs, but also some low lows in terms of plot. The beginning sets you up to be entered into a mystical world, but then the journey takes far too long to take off. I felt like within the first 30% of the book, I had gone from couldn’t put it down to barely picking it up at least twice. Would certainly give the author another try as the writing style is respectable, but sometimes I found this book hard to connect with
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The Spear Cuts Through Water is many things. At its core, it’s the tale of Jun and Keema, two strangers who help a fallen god escape her captivity at the hands of her cruel husband, the emperor, and their sons, aptly dubbed the Three Terrors. But Jun and Keema’s adventure is actually being acted out in a magical theater in another dimension hundreds of years later, with the book’s narrative winds between Jun and Keema’s story, the performance of it, and the experience of one man watching from the audience — though he’s fated to forget what he’s witnessed as soon as he leaves the theater.

The Spear Cuts Through Water recalls Gabriel García Márquez with its surreal fluidity, though the way Jimenez weaves together first-, second-, and third-person perspectives creates an immersive style just his own. And his decision to consistently disrupt the primary story with the flowing thoughts of surrounding characters gives you the sense that you’re floating through this world, both tethered to and set free by Jimenez’s mesmerizing prose.

So, as I said, The Spear Cuts Through Water is many, many things. It’s a spellbinding tribute to oral storytelling and folklore. It’s a thoughtful exploration of identity and family. But more than anything, The Spear Cuts Through Water is a love story, and one unlike anything you’ve read before.
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I absolutely adored this book. The nested narrative structure is unique and feels dreamlike at times. I really loved the blurring of genre lines. The character work is stunning. The world building is phenomenal. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the plot. While I don't think this is a book for everyone, I cannot recommend this enough!
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This is going to wind up in my top five for the year, and one I recommend when people ask me for recs, just from how unexpectedly this book took me. The summary almost does the book a disservice because it boils the narrative down to the bare actions and frames it as a fairly tropey fantasy narrative, which this book is anything but. I'd almost recommend going into this book blind, and just letting yourself experience it. The whole story is framed as a theater performance that you (second person) are watching, complete with Greek chorus, and Jimenez weaves through third and second person narratives like he's surfacing and diving over in a swimming stroke and weaves them together perfectly with interjections from the crowds around our main characters. The writing is amazingly, gorgeously lyrical, and I have a feeling I'll be coming back to turns of phrase from this months down the line. This is a gorgeously framed, sumptuous world with lyrical as hell writing. Pick this up; you're going to be seeing this on end of the year lists.
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I've said it twice now and have been proven wrong but I think I'm right this time. This is my number 1 read for 2022. Cinematic. An epic story told by the child of the Moon and Water upon a stage within a dream. A story told by the voices of ancestors and goddesses, in a place outside of time. 

I went in without having read any reviews and was concerned when I saw the format. It broke all the traditional "never use this tense or this voice" rules and by doing so created a more immersive experience. To see through the eyes of the villains and heros and even brief glimpses into the head of witnesses, brought a humanity to characters who would otherwise be one sided or flat, and brought both the good and the bad of a situation that would otherwise be seen through one scope. Death came for those I believed would make it to the end. Tears threatened to fall. My stomach churned as each Terror faced, sons of the Moon, became more feared than the last. Somehow the author still managed to make inhumane monsters pull at your heartstrings. 

Then there was the heat building between our two men on their adventure that whew! JUST WHEW! I cannot say enough about this story because so much was said. Even when I thought a thread of the story had been completed, a surprise twist resurrected the thread and weaved a new layer into the novel. I love this story and thank you so much Netgalley for the chance to read it.
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What a beautiful homage to oral storytelling and generational tales. This book defies expectations and typical narrative structures by combining perspectives to create a tapestry of storylines that all coalesce at the end.

Half of this novel is your typical third person narrative about two warriors tasked with carrying the body of a dying god east across the country. Half is a second person narrative of a grandmother telling the tale to you as the reader. And yet about part is a glimpse into passing characters as we hear their thoughts on each page. 

I dont think I'll ever get over how beautiful the writing is, and while it may not be for everyone, I feel like so many people will appreciate the style and how it paints a picture in your mind if the landscape and characters. 

Now we can finally talk about the heroes. I'm gonna be in love for a while. The way the author builds up their backstory just enough to make me care about them, but still keeping true to the oral storytelling "genre" with only pertinent details being shared?? I could never. 

I'm going out and immediately buying my own physical copy.
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The beginning of the story started a little slow, and I initially had to reread it a few times. After the initial hang up I was hooked. Simon Jimenez has such a unique style of writing that is so refreshing. I was given an ARC ebook, but I bought the audiobook. I plan to buy the physical copy and add to my home library.
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"This is the tale of your land, and the spear that cuts through it."

This book took a while to draw me in, but the writing is absolutely beautiful and the story is totally unique.
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I was very excited for this one but unfortunately I have to call it quits. The way it’s written is definitely unique but it’s not working for me. I can’t get invested in anything 
Quitting at 10% feels pretty early but I dreaded picking it up. Each chapter is over 2 hours each and I need shorter chapters. 

Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.
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The Spear Cuts Through Water
by Simon Jimenez

The personal struggle of two desperate people who find that their country and their world needs more from them Jun, a guard of the Moon throne finds that he need to step up. The corruption of his culture has caused so much suffering he can not stand by any more. A heroic tale that can be share with teen readers to help inspire them to stand up for what is right.
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Simon Jimenez’s debut novel, The Vanished Birds (2020), is one of my favorite science fiction novels of recent years. It earned an A from me when I reviewed it and made my Best of 2020 list.

I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the release of The Spear Cuts Through Water, Jimenez’s follow up and a novel in the fantasy genre, and was thrilled when I obtained a copy.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is an ambitious novel. It balances unusual scope with unusual intimacy, not an easy thing to do. Its POV structure and formatting are experimental, and it shifts between three fantastical settings, two of them different lands separated not only by a large body of water but also by eras in time, as well as a third place/time that is in fact timeless and that connects the other two.

This is hard book to describe, and the best I can do is to start by mentioning some of the unconventional style choices before getting into the characters, settings, and plot summary in the reverse order from what I usually do.

Even the way the text is laid out is unexpected. There are bolded, italicized and centered titles between some of the scene breaks, and often they are comprised of a phrase or a sentence that begins the next scene or one that ends the previous scene. Once in a while a title doesn’t seem to be part of either, and is (I think) being used as titles typically are. Sometimes the titles are complete sentences but occasionally they sometimes only a part of a sentence.

More importantly, though, much of the narration is in second person, not first or third. There are also sections where the main narration is interrupted by another character or characters’ POV for a sentence or a few sentences. The interjectors are often unnamed, though I was usually able to figure out who they were from context. Their interruptions (for lack of a better word) frequently shift the narration from second person narration to first person and then back to second person. They usually don’t get a separate paragraph but are offset by within the same paragraph through italicized text

This is a partial review. The complete review can be found at Dear Author, here.
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