Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

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Member Reviews

Great story, slow burn, huge amount of attention required while reading. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC.
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This was a great fantasy. I loved this one and it was my first by this author. Serious talent right here.
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This book was pretty hyped, but I didn’t really like it. How it is set up is really hard to get into and follow initially. There are 3 “timelines.” We’ll call it present, where we don’t even know who the narrator is. We find out all about their family, but very little about them. Then there is a “outside time” where the narrator goes in a dream-like situation. And then finally, we go to a time where two warriors are helping a god try to end the royal family. That part of the story was interesting and enjoyable. You weave in and out of these timelines and it can be difficult to follow, and frankly, I didn’t really care about the “present” timeline. It really feels like this book tried too hard to be different and interesting and just fell short for me.
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One Sentence Summary: When a goddess is freed from her prison after a great deal of bloodshed, it’s up to two young men to safely shepherd her across the country and deliver a rebellion to fix her wrongs.

My thoughts:

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a love story wrapped up in a brutal, unforgiving story of a goddess seeking to redeem herself and save the world she helped break. There’s a great deal of this world’s history and mythology woven into the story, painting a brutal, sometimes terrifying world. But, oddly, enough, it’s told in a strange theater to you, the reader who gets to become a character in this book, a story that happened so far in the past that the stories hold hardly any sway anymore, making the story feel a step removed. This was a bit of a bizarre book for me, in that it was so hard to figure out what was going on with all the switching POVs and time lines, and yet I could not look away.

The Spear Cuts Through Water presents a unique and sometimes discombobulating reading experience. There are multiple time lines from past to present and everything in between, spanning untold years and generations. It was difficult to pick up whether a section was the story of a person (AKA you) in the general present who is taken to the Inverted Theater to view a staging of a story from the far past, the far past itself starring broken warrior Jun and a one armed outcast named Keema shepherding a goddess across the country, or the general near future in which the person in the present (you) have lost all your siblings to the winds and are yet stuck in the family home. Then there’s the multiple POVs, ranging from Jun and Keema to you and even to the goddess herself. There really isn’t anything to signify a transition in any way, so it’s up the reader’s brain to make the adjustment and catch up, making for a difficult reading experience.

And yet I found the story itself so compelling I couldn’t put it down. My attention was immediately arrested by Jun and Keema, though the story told in second person felt more invasive than anything else. The goddess is not an easy deity to travel with, but, in her own strange way, she has a heart, even if she’ll do anything to ensure she can redeem herself and save her world. I really felt for Jun and Keema with everything they were put through for her sake. But they did it with willing souls, believing in something greater, and finding their own story together along the way. Their love story was easy to see a mile away, but much more difficult for them to see for themselves. They really felt like two halves of a whole, worming their way into each other’s heart as they journey together and endure so many trials and tribulations. I couldn’t take my eyes away from them. The story told in second person was neatly woven through the story of Jun and Keema, but, even weeks after finishing this book, I still can’t figure out a purpose. I was not invested in it and really could care less about it. All it really did was bring me out of the story I was most invested in, and I have no idea why it was woven in. I liked that it made me feel like I was brought into the story, but the two time lines are so distant that I had a hard time reconciling the two. Still, I have to commend Jimenez for working in that second person POV as well as he did.

As confused as I was by so much of this book, I still found myself really appreciating the strong filial themes in this book. While there is a very lovely love story, the relationships that are most at the forefront are that between fathers and sons and mothers and sons. It’s really focused on family, one family in particular, and the lengths they’ll go to in order to preserve their lives and lines or to break the world enough for something new and less corrupt to be born out of it. I loved how these families, these relationships, were so complex and complicated, how so many parents and children had to make difficult decisions even as their hearts wept.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is ambitious, and I’m not sure I fully understood it and what it was trying to say and do, but I quickly found myself fully committed to this book and story. It’s absolutely brutal, painful, and unforgiving. The world is vast and dangerous with so many bad and terrible things lurking around the bend. But there’s still that love story offering a bit of softness and some much needed heart.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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The Spear Cuts Through Water was a phenomenal book. Simon Jimenez's writing style is always so enrapturing. The characters were lovable but at the same time it was easy to see their flaws. I liked how it wasn't written like most books, the story form made it more imaginable. I was not always able to lose myself in the writing but that is not necessarily the fault of the author as everyone is different in that regard. There was a lot going on in the book but it never became difficult to understand or remember. I really enjoyed the main characters and the little stories sprinkled throughout the book.
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The Moon, lured from the sky generations ago, has been held a prisoner for centuries - until now. Over the course of five days, she will be escorted across the land by her grandson and a mysterious outcast - if they don't die on the journey.

The blurb of this book promises a book like nothing I've ever read before - and unlike many book blurbs, The Spear Cuts Through Water actually delivers.

I can see the narrative style being divisive  - it is more complex than anything I've read before. The author uses first, second, and third person to carry different strands of the story forward, and these strands make up layers that overlap and sometimes interconnect in very surprising ways. It ends up creating a lovely chorus of voices that highlights the oral tradition and how it has played a part in so many epics. 

The plot too has plenty of twists and turns and transgressive moments, and feels epic on a scale that's hard to achieve in a standalone. And it's so many things - an origin myth, the story of immigration and identity, a horror novel and a love story... it really boggles the mind. The writing, the characters, the beats of the plot are all pitch perfect.

It's a tough book to describe, but it's one that really has to be experienced.
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This is my first book by Simon Jimenez but it certainly will not be my last. 

I'll admit, this started out rough for me but that was entirely my issue rather than the book. I simply wasn't used to the writing style - and was surprised when it changed throughout the book. I put it down for a while until I was in the right 'mood' for it, and when I picked it up a second time, I found it a lot easier to get through. I can honestly say, this is unlike any book I've ever read before - and I mean that in the best way possible.
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The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez weaves a spellbinding journey about a god who is seeking to overthrow a tyrannical ruler and his cruel sons.

Now, this is a sort of book that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Content-wise, it’s utterly fantastical and bizarre. I mean, it’s got a talking tortoise.

Stylistically even it feels like a surreal fever dream to the point that the story felt very confusing to me. It bounces between tenses and timelines and from second to third person to first person. These switches felt jarring at times and took me away from the story every time I had to reorient myself so that I could try and piece together what the was going on.

All in all, I have to give major props to the author’s creativity and ambition, but be forewarned that is the sort of book that requires rereading over passages and a lot of brain juice.

Thank you, NetGalley and Del Rey, for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book! I am at a loss for words but so full of feeling. This is a very special book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is an epic in the ancient and most grand sense of that word. It uses first, second, and third person narration to tell a story that is all at once about our connections to family and homeland, the nature of love, and the fall of a tyrannical dynasty. The style takes some getting used to but is well worth sticking with because it is part of what lets this story be so intricate and intimate.

It is a long book and it felt long but every bit of that length also felt warranted. The world building spirals outward and is clear and creative- the tortoises alone are enough to make it fascinating. The writing is lyrical and beautiful but avoids feeling overwrought. The characters are clearly defined and I felt connection with even some who made only brief appearances. This book!!

Please read this book. It’s really special. Ambitious, creative, and powerful. It’s a myth, a performance, and- most importantly- a love story.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I loved this book so much!

I have already posted reviews to Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and Amazon.
I am also planning to post to my bookstagram about the book.
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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.

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.
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I may be an idiot but I don’t understand this book. It’s thick with symbolism that makes it such a chore to read.
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“…some tales are too large to be told by one voice alone.”

This is the best book I’ve read all year, and I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of putting into words every astonishing aspect of THE SPEAR CUTS THROUGH WATER. It’s an epic tale of two warriors charged with transporting a god across a kingdom and ending the tyrannical rule of a royal family, a journey bursting with powerful magic and harrowing adventures. The world Jimenez creates is intricate and fascinating; there’s both an edge of absurdity (e.g. giggling telepathic tortoises, pornographic stone tablets) and a terrible throughline of gruesome violence. But the beating, bleeding core of this novel is a stunning love story between Keema and Jun, two young men who find what they both desperately need in each other: companionship, playfulness, desire, acceptance, and belonging.

There’s much to be said about the delightful, deranged, and devastating specifics of the story, but (1) the joy is in the discovery for the reader and (2) I want to focus on what Jimenez achieves with his layered narrative and multiple perspectives (using first-, second-, and third-person voices); it’s nothing short of incredible. There’s Keema and Jun’s story taking place in a lush, complex world of centuries past; there’s a unnamed young man in the present day, remembering legends told to him by his lola from the Old Country that his family has left behind, which connect to the warriors; and there’s the realm of the heavenly theater, where the young man is transported to, watching the warriors’ story play out on a stage that crosses space and time. Interspersed within are flashes of voice from background characters (or their ghosts), revealing their hopes and fears and deepening our emotional connection to the people. All this in combination with Jimenez’s gorgeous writing and the poetic structure of the book is frankly unhinged, unparalleled, and completely unique.

I could talk about this book forever, and I could never speak of it again and hold it close inside my heart; it’s that damn good. And we haven’t even gotten into what I imagine to be the intimate connections to Jimenez’s Filipino-American identity (or the homoerotic wrestling). This novel is an ode to oral storytelling, to the ache and affection one feels towards one’s ancestors and homeland, and ultimately to forgiveness and connection. Once you sink your teeth into this strange, fantastical story, it’s utterly transporting and for me, unforgettable. THE VANISHED BIRDS, Jimenez’s debut science fiction novel, is one of my favorite books, and this sophomore fantasy novel is even more ambitious (though both made me cry equally hard). I can’t wait to see what Jimenez creates next. Thanks to Del Rey Books for the review copy; this book is out now.

Content warnings: burning alive, violence/battle, gore, body horror, cannibalism, torture, murder/death, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, animal injury, animal death, child abuse
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Impressed as I was by Simon Jimenez‘ beautiful and moving first novel, The Vanished Birds, I have to say I’m just staggered by his second, The Spear Cuts Through Water. Using the second person, the narrator lures “you” with intensely lyrical but dramatically apt prose into a world between worlds. One of several story tellers within the story, “your lola”, an often short tempered elder talking to a young man of a recent era, envelopes her listener in a cloud of smoke, as she urges him to “let the dreaming body go.” He does so and steps out of a cloud into the world of the Inverted Theater.
The Spear Cuts Through Water

This is a timeless nether world where the dreaming shades of people from many times and places mingle as the story comes to life on the stage. An attendant “unfurls the parchment of your people’s history” and locates him in an age of trains and steamships, where there is a war, so it is also a time of posters and propaganda. The listener does not understand why he has been called here but focuses on a spear he finds in his hands, an intricately carved heirloom that no one in his family was allowed to touch. This spear is a focus of the story he is about to hear, one that places him in a long lineage that slowly reveals itself in the performance of the Inverted Theater.

So begins The Spear Cuts Through Water, an epic fantasy of the last days of the Moon Emperor and his sons, the three Terrors, over a period of five days. Events of mythic proportions break through all conventions of place and time as the Moon God, embodied in the withered form of a woman who appears almost dead, empowers two young men to fight on her behalf and ultimately restore her to her lover, the vast Sea. These two are Keema, a one-armed warrior of Daware, who is entrusted with the spear that he must deliver to a soldier named Shan, and Jun, one of the sons of the First Terror, who betrays his imperial family and all its cruelties to escort the Moon God on her journey to fulfill her destiny.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is an amazing achievement that works on many levels. It’s a story that richly repays re-reading to linger over its beautiful details, as one would pause over the tapestry of life that is one of its key metaphors. In a year crowded with remarkable SFF novels, this stands out as one of the best.
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The writing was so hard to follow, that I almost gave up about 5% into it. But after it got passed the 2nd person part, it got more interesting and easier for me to understand. There were still confusing parts, but that's my problem not the book's. I liked the writing for the most part and the parts of it that I could understand. If you like grimdark fantasy and want a different writing style, then I would recommend this book. I definitely understand why people would love it.
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This was a dnf for me.  I gave it about 100 pages, but it was not for me. I think it's the writing style that I didn't care for. It just wasn't for me.
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First, a big thanks to #NetGalley and #RandomHouseBallantine for the free book #TheSpearCutsThroughWater - the opinions are my own.

I don't quite know where to begin. I have no words to adequately describe the creative format of this story. As the blurb says, I've never read anything like it. And to be honest, it took me a bit to get into the flow and get past thinking "this is weird". Because after a few pages, weird became brilliant. Told in 1st/2nd/3rd person at various times, some might find that off-putting. Don't let it stop you from trying this book. It's handled so deftly and is so intrinsic to the story, I can't imagine another way to tell it. 

In the most simplistic terms it's the epic story of five days in the life of 2 young men as they take an ancient god across the country to try to end the rule of the tyrannical royal family. The main plot is of the two warriors and their trek and is told in 3rd person; the secondary plot is told in 2nd person and pulls you out of that story a bit as the narrator relates bits of his life in the 'current' time; then the genius part is the random 1st person comments dropped into the narrative as exclamation points from a unspecified character about the current events. Hmmmm. I think if I read what I just wrote in a review, I would take a pass on the book. Please don't. The characters are wonderfully drawn, and  following the relationship between Keema and Jun is a pleasure.

The plot is not particularly complex. The storytelling is. It's complex, and beautiful, and thought provoking. Part myth/legend/folklore, this is not a book to breeze through, but one to relish and savor. I wouldn't say it's a particularly quick read, not because of the page count, but because of the depth of the story. A treasure of a book. Be sure to read it.
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What a startlingly original story. Breathtaking, other worldly and exceptionally written. This is the most unique writing style and story I've read this year and in a very long time.

I feel so honored to have read this book! If you like high fantasy's that need your full attention to truly appreciate the message, this is for you!

Thank you NetGalley and Simon Jiminez for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This was a uniquely told story that caught me off guard. The telling bounces from first person, to second, to third, as well as telling a story within a story. It took me a bit to understand what was going on and the chapters are very long, with the 'Before' chapter the length of a novella. At times I still didn't quite understand the flow of things, most of the book takes place over five days but there would be references to things happening over several days that didn't line up. Maybe I just misunderstood? I'll definitely have to reread this at some point and see if it makes more sense.

The main characters are Jun and Keema, who are tasked with getting the god to freedom and stopping her horrible sons for good. I liked both characters and seeing their relationship evolve over the journey. There's not really enough romance for me to tag it, but there's something there and I hoped the guys would get their happy ending.

For a longer book, this was quick paced and felt a lot shorter. I really enjoyed this one and will be looking into the author's other works.

There are a few gruesome scenes, particularly cannibalism, that readers may want to be aware of. There's also death, dismemberment, and overall violence. Check content warnings on the book's page if you have any concerns.

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Del Rey Books and NetGalley for the copy
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The Spear Cuts Through Water was my first introduction to author Simon Jimenez. I could immediately see why he is so celebrated. However, his style of writing is simply not what I prefer to read. If you like literary fiction and surreal non-linear chapters, then you will probably love it! His voice is unique and and his writing is fresh, but it just wasn't for me.
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Wow, 4.5⭐️ that may get rounded up to 5 depending on how this sits with me. What an amazing undertaking, a nice thick book that a review cannot possibly explain. The structure of the book and the writing were truly next level, incredibly skillful and unique. Bravo Jimenez! I Loved the characters, so fleshed out and real, even those we saw only snapshots of, I felt I knew them well with just a few short sentences of explanation. 

Then the plot - I was confused for the first 10% then had the "oh that's what you are doing, ok, yaaa I like that!" moment around that point and really loved it up until maybe 50%. It felt like the intermission was slowing the plot down a bit too much, but it did build my anticipation so ok, successfully done on the authors part. And then at the 70% mark up until the end I just couldn't stop, and was thinking about what would happen while I wasn't reading.  

The book is long but worth it, and so unique, a great ride. Excited to read more from Jimenez.
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