Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

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Member Reviews

This was an exceptional read in every way. The style, the voice, the story - all exceptions to all rules. This is not a read that everyone will appreciate, but if you give yourself a chance to get comfortable in Jimenez's storytelling, it is so easy to fall in love with the characters. The cadence of the style becomes easier as you read and you stop losing track of who is talking and where you are in time. I won't say you have to "suffer" through the first few sections, because it's not that intense; but if you aren't open to Jimenez's rhythm, I can imagine this story would be painful to get through. That being said, if you are open and able, this story will stay with you for a long time after you finish it. It's beautifully and completely told, with fully developed lore and so many voices that every detail is clear. As you follow the warriors through their quest, paired with "your" journey watching the story unfold, you can't help but become invested in how it all ends. It truly is a love story in the deepest way. I cannot recommend highly enough that readers take on this challenge - it's worth the reward. 

**Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for the eARC**
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I genuinely don’t know where to start or how to review this book. The Spear Cuts Through Water is a book unmatched in storytelling and delivery and definitely my favourite book of the year. Despite it being told in a way I’m not accustomed to or done in other books, I’m in awe of how everything blended together to form a gripping story after a couple of pages.

This book releases today and I’m hoping my review urges you to pick up this book and be immersed into this fresh world. Albeit it will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I do ask you to be patient with the story and let it guide you with the flow.

“For you are the Moon who cursed us with this gift.”

story within a story
I’m honestly a huge fan of this form of storytelling done right. It sets up the right stakes and there’s so much to explore, like peeling off layers of the story. Conveying multiple nested stories until it all clicks together is an art, one Simon Jimenez has mastered. There are several perspectives involved along with the use of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person to provide for all the twists and emotional impacts in the story. The summary doesn’t do this book justice, because as you’re introduced to the Inverted Theater, it’s as if you as a reader are witnessing the story unfold in that theater along with the unnamed narrator who is being told these stories about the Old World. And even though we hear from the minor characters, it doesn’t seem unnecessary, just something to help solidify the gravity of events.

an epic fantasy at it’s core
Through the unnamed narrator we witness the main storyline, about two warriors Jun, the grandson of the emperor and Keema, the disabled guard, who are roped into a quest to rescue a god from The Moon Throne, the tyrannical rulers of their land. With folklore woven effortlessly into the magic, action and setting of the story, The Spear Cuts Through Water has all elements of a fantasy world but the kind that’s surreal and unhinged in all those aspects. And a violent kind too, as the book definitely has gory themes but they perfectly fit into the characterization and world of the novel.

Speaking of characters, I was immediately invested in Jun and Keema’s dynamic and the pure yearning they develop for each other. I loved being opened up to their complicated personalities, from reluctant travel companions to their love for each other.

In fact most of the characters are very clearly imagined with necessary contributions to the plot, Simon Jimenez definitely has a knack for rooting characters into the reader’s brain within a short time.

observes the manifestation of love
We’re hit with the quote above at a point in the story where the narrator’s grandmother tells it to him and it accurately pierces the core of the story. We not only have a compelling and violent love story between the two protagonists but also see how love drives people’s actions, good and bad, and serves as a ray of hope. It’s brilliant how most of the characters are motivated by their want or scorn for love and Jimenez’s mind portrays the consequences for both in a fabulous way.

brilliantly imagined
As a huge lover of mythology and folklore in novels, I found the narrative of The Spear Cuts Through Water so engaging. It has an incredible and expressive prose, and with all the plot twists incoming reading this book was nothing short of a cinematic experience. Even though there was a lot to absorb, at times I was just left stunned by the writing and the emotion behind the sentences. Stunning imageries littered here and there left me in awe.

I was so intrigued by the history of the world and the glimpses we get of it through Jun and Keema’s five day journey — and it’s not just a couple of perspectives but we get insights from the most insignificant characters in first person. I would normally be put off by it but I realised how well this structure worked for the novel as I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I loved Simon Jimenez’s previous work, The Vanished Birds, and I’m happy to say that this too is a masterpiece and I hope he keeps serving. The Spear Cuts Through Water is an exhilarating and glorious tale, that if you’re hooked onto, will have you at the edge of your seat. It’s an ambitious and unconventional fantasy novel with heavy themes (check CWs) and a strange exploration of perspectives that might challenge readers, but I truly hope it finds its way to the ones who would appreciate the substance of the story!
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An Epic Fantasy Folktale

In this story within a story, two young warriors are tasked with taking an ancient god across a land ruled by a tyrannical emperor, the Smiling Sun, and his three sons. Each of the sons is hungry for power and worse than the last. The quest takes five days, each described in a section. These sections are not like regular chapters and are very long. 

The first section of the book sets up the scene. It’s a story telling session where the Lola tells stories of the past. This is the part that gives the feeling of an elder telling folktales. It sets the scene well, but is a bit slow, and it’s long. 

This is an intricately plotted book. The author has done an excellent job introducing the reader to not only the main characters, but many minor characters as well. He has given each character a unique voice which I found excellent. Although the world Jimenez creates is brutal, he pulls you into it. All the brutality makes sense in the world he has created. 

If you enjoy fantasy this is a book you may like. It isn’t for everyone, however. It’s long and detailed, and the author switches voices. This can by hard to follow, but it also adds a depth to the story that is quite remarkable.

The Vanished Birds, Jiminez’s earlier novel, is quite different, but if you enjoyed that one, this one is worth trying. 

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.
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Real Rating: 4.75* of five, rounded up for ambition and talent rewarding purposes

How do you read your books? Tree book, ebook, ear reading? Where are you when you experience the stories you consume...bed, chair, front seat of the car, public transportation? All of these factors will come into play while experiencing this read.

I myownself am an obligate librocubicularist. It was a little challenging at first, reading this magisterially paced polyphony while within easy reach of the off switches on all my lighting devices. I was lights-out far more than once in the first quarter, maybe because I wasn't sure this story was going somewhere I entirely wanted to go. Especially as there's a hefty salting of second-person narration to endure as the price for learning how love animates and exculpates both lover and belovèd. What one receives for this benison bestowed on the narrative is a story of the impossibility of eternal power, unending dominance, unchallenged imperium. In the end, glory is fleeting because humans are ephemeral.

The roles we accept, and even eagerly seek, aren't unique to us. I think Jung was by far the closest to grasping the eternal truth when he posited archetypes, those massively misunderstood and mischaracterized patterns of being. But each of us seems to seek a pattern, a focus of individuation, and that seems or feels to us and to others as an inevitable end-point of a life-long search. Is it? It is for Jun and for Keema, whose story this (ultimately) is.

Echoes from a distant past? This story is. Explicitly. Designs for a present? This story is, not so explicitly though. It's decolonization writ personal; it's the massive machinery of culture caught in the tsunami of rage arising from inequality. It's deep, and very dark, and shot through with the awful truth of violence. It's just like, in other words, the real world around you.

Jun and Keema, the men whose love animates the story from beginning to end, aren't going to do the wild thing for your amusement. They are going to manifest for you the eternal story of accepting the love patiently offered you, in spite of believing you're not worthy of it. If you believe you're not worthy, you aren't; because the offering is not to you, but to the one you will become with the gift accepted.

That's not a truth I expected to see made so plain in a fantasy novel. A lot gets heaped on all the players in this astoundingly violent tale. It's shocking what hatred, spurned love, multivalent deprivation will drive a person to enact on the world. It's far and away the hardest of life's lessons to see that without one's own rage obscuring the real source of the problem. Othering and disempowering might be the means to gaining temporary, temporal acquiescence. They do nothing to improve the long-term odds of success for those who Other, who disempower, who use their own weapons against those they need to succeed. Those who use the weapon forget the other edge, the power of the spirit.

And that is the ultimate truth of the spear, the artifact and symbol of the disempowered, the metaphor for power as it is transferred in the world of rank and division. It is, in its very nature, a symbol of what enables leaders to become dictators. It is supremely easy to pass the spear on through family lines. It is always the case that the spear is turned against its user.

Never forget that. Who lives by the sword, dies by it as readily.

But Jun? His Keema keeps him safe from the spear. In spite of everything they've seen, they've been to and for and against each other, Keema is the one whose patient offering of love never wavers even when it morphs. That's how you know it's the love Jun needs, and that's how Jun finally knows he is not Jun, but Keema's Jun.

No one who has the patience, the fortitude not to check out of its reality back into ours, to read this uniquely told story will leave it the same person as they entered it. That's the best thing I can thnk of to say about a story.
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Sprawling and orginal. This book is epic.  I’ve never read this author before, but getting this ARC has added yet another author on my list to watch for.  It reminded me of the fantasy stories I grew up reading.
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I’ll admit that I came to this story expecting something like The Vanished Birds, and that expectation failed almost immediately. That isn't a bad thing.

If you are looking for a fantasy quest, The Spear has got your back. Our main plot follows Jun and Keema, on a mission to protect the Moon Goddess as she destroys the reign of her murderous sons, the Three Terrors. Under their rule the land has become a desperate and starving country, unsafe to travel alone, even for a goddess. We’ve got a broken turtle who can smell feelings, a purple bird whose love language is violence, and spliff smoking Apes for all your fantasy creature needs. There are sword fights and a battle with a giant, really a one-stop shop for fantasy fare.

But Spear isn’t just a run-of-the-mill fantasy. This is a story about identity in the face of obligation, an homage to the immigrant family, and, above all, a demand to be seen. Jimenez takes real risks to deliver a vulnerable and honest look into his mind, indulging his creativity for maximum reward. Although the narrative style takes some getting used too, it lends the story a sense of intimacy and depth that could not have been achieved with a more traditional structure.

Overall, I enjoyed this story immensely. Jimenez has a talent for making fantastical situations relatable and injecting humor in the most unexpected ways. (If you don’t laugh during the bear scene, I have to ask why you are so opposed to joy.) My only real issue was the climax being drawn out for far too long, certain aspects felt redundant, which lessened my enjoyment. Even so, this is a tale meant to be read again, if only for the prose, and I look forward to that experience in the near future. 

This book will not be for everybody, it is challenging in ways that will turn off some readers. I recommend this book for seasoned fantasy readers, seeking an ambitious story that is heavily influenced by oral story telling traditions.
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This book is pure storytelling!   I loved this book.  You might need patience to get going but the creativity and beauty of this book are so worth it!
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This is one of the most interesting and original books I’ve read this year! When I first sat down to read this book I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was such a nice surprise to learn that the author is Filipino-American like myself! Additionally, the unique narration made it feel like it truly was my lola recounting the myths of our family’s past. The tale Jimenez weaves is intricate and emotional, consisting of stories within stories and overlapping perspectives. Does this style make it hard to follow if you’re not invested? Perhaps. But I think that it emphasizes the point that everyone’s story is important and worth hearing, from our heroes to characters that appear once. The Spear Cuts Through Water is everything I want in a fantasy book and more; It’s a love story, a mythic quest, and the writing is challenging yet thoughtful.  It is a refreshing and much-needed step in the right direction for fantasy literature.
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An imaginative and unique tale, an experience unlike any I've had reading a fairy tale. Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for the ARC!
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Content Warning:
- Serious gore at times
- A few mentions of rape and non-consensual body modification
- Cannibalism 

Jimenez does not pull any punches in this book. It tells the history of a people and that is often times violent and messy. If any of these make you uncomfortable then please put your mental health first and reconsider reading this novel.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is Simon Jimenez’s second published novel. Perfect for fans of N K Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, the main narrative is relayed to you in the second person perspective by various characters. Two disgraced warriors of the empire, a grandson of the emperor and a guard missing his left arm, must bring a lost god across the country to restore her power and end the all-powerful dynasty that she began centuries ago. But a lineage this strong will not go down without a fight. This novel speaks to the power of history and ancestry while also being told outside of time, this is a tough balance to keep but Jimenez does it perfectly. 

The imagery that Jimenez uses along with the second-person perspective immerses you in the book in a way few others have. There were times that I felt like I could smell lola’s cigarette or hear father slam the door. The author brings these elements together to evoke the feeling of sitting with your older family members as they teach you your history as a family and as a people. The prose itself is so beautiful and meaningful that there were times I highlighted a passage just so that I could sit with it for a moment and think. The prose doesn’t hold up the pacing or make things too convoluted. 

I felt like Jimenez truly captured the character of a force of nature in his writing. The Moon does not care about individual people unless they can help her, she craves worship to the point that it actively derails her plans and puts others in danger, she refuses to take responsibility for the ‘gifts’ she gave that might have hurt people, and she is selfish without considering any other being’s needs. Yet she is still the moon and we still need her to function. No human can hold a grudge against her because she is so clearly inhuman.

The pining in this novel was just the cherry on top for me. Same-sex relationships are not exactly accepted in this world while also not being illegal and both characters recognize and have internalized this messaging. Jimenez plays into this cautious tension amazingly. The stolen glances, the duels, the denial of caring for each other even when it's obvious. This is the kind of story that I live for.

The disability representation in this novel was fantastic. One of the main characters does not have a left arm and in the culture, he lives in, that is often a punishment for cowards or criminals. This knowledge complicates his relationships and interactions with others along with the physical adaptations he must make to work around his amputation. At no point in the book is he magically healed, nor does he truly want to be. 

Small spoiler warning here for something that happens at the end of the book: It meant so much to see that when restored to his body, Keema was still missing his arm. That alone would have been enough for me but when another character comments on it, asking why he was not ‘made whole again’, Keema’s response of “I am whole” genuinely made me tear up a bit. It was such as small moment that speaks so loudly to disabled readers, saying you are enough, you are whole.
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DNF at 55% - this book is SOMETHING ELSE and I was really enjoying it. The format, the cinematic nature of it? Just great. My issue is with how much it drags and the chapter structure (or lack thereof). I may pick this up again, but today just wasn't its day.
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I'm honestly at a loss for words when thinking about how to describe this book and my experience reading it. So, I guess I'll just start at the beginning. For the first quarter or so, I did not like this book AT ALL. I considered DNFing it multiple times because I had no idea what was happening. The story has a very unique structure that utilizes first, second, and third person narration without much to mark the different voices apart. It took me forever to realize the story (told in third person) was being watched by someone (the second person narrator) in a theater during a dream with occasional narrative input from people the characters met along the way (first person). Knowing this going in would have greatly reduced my confusion and improved my reading experience of the first part of the book. So, you're welcome. :) I was probably just too dense to figure it out, but in case you're dense too, I saved you the effort. lol.

Once I discerned what was going on, I quickly fell in love with the story. The prose was stunning and had a lyrical quality that kept me glued to the pages. The world came alive and seemed to leap into being as if I was the one in the dream. The plot consistently surprised me, and I was incredibly impressed with the author's ability to create a complex, moving story with so many different parts and voices. The pace also picked up considerably once everything got under way at approximately the 25% mark, and it became relentlessly more intense with a wide assortment of adventures filled with violence, magic, mind-reading, and a bit of humor. There was even a good deal of cannibalism, which seriously made my skin crawl. By the end, I was in awe of how it all came together, with even seemingly small details from earlier in the narrative being tied together in ways I never expected.

I became very attached to the characters, which was probably a bad idea given the intense levels of violence in this book. They were all vibrant and multi-faceted, and I especially loved how the author managed to make even the minor side characters seem well-rounded and deep despite some of them only having a few scenes. I enjoyed following the main duo on their adventure and began rooting for them pretty early on in the story. Their slow-burn romance was one of my favorite things about the book, and it led to some pretty hilarious scenes involving mind-reading. My other favorite character was the tortoise. I'm not going to say too much about him because of spoilers, but I absolutely adored him. He made me smile every time he spoke despite his unfortunate circumstances.

One of the main themes about the book was acceptance/belonging. Most of the characters were outcasts in their own way and were driven to some extent by their longing for connection and inclusion. So many of the stories were absolutely heart-breaking, especially the Third Terror. On a related note, most of this narrative revolved around a love story, and I don't just mean the central slow-burn romance of Jun and Keema. Almost every character was motivated by love (not necessarily romantic), either the desire to obtain it or the anger from being spurned. It beautifully highlighted both the redeeming and destructive powers of love.

This book was an absolutely stunning work of art. I've never read anything quite like it before. It used common tropes in unique ways to tell a story that felt simultaneously familiar and fresh. It felt profound while reading it even though I couldn't quite put my finger on why, and the more I think about it now, the more lessons and themes jump out at me. The story was beautiful, and it is one I will think about for a while to come. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.
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As you read this, you will realize you are reading something that is destined to become a classic. The Spear Cuts Through Water is going to be taught as an example of truly excellent epic fantasy. The world is fully realized, with all the magic and menace being palpable as you read through the story. This is the concept of an epic quest taken to a truly beautiful level of skill. I could gush for hours about how glorious everything here is. The union of nature, myth, and faith all smash into an element of the surreal. I don't even want to talk about the plot (which flows excellently and moves with the exact right speed). The plotting is excellent, and I don't want to spoil a moment of the slow, gorgeous reveals. Seriously, everything about this book is genuinely beautiful.
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Ohmygods this book. Read, you must read this book.

At first I really, reeeaallly did not understand, and so could not get into, the writing style. The brief asides of supporting characters' POVs was super confusing at the start. However, once that sorted itself, and their echo of a Greek chorus become apparent, which echoes the dream play itself taking place throughout the book, I was stunned, and that feeling did not stop until I reluctantly turned the last page.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. I wish I could be more descriptive, but I'm honestly still shook like a week after finishing it, and unfortunately no more coherent. Jimenez had Big aspirations, and the reverberations in me feel just as profound.
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I'm not sure I even have the vocabulary to talk about this book properly. This is literary fantasy at a very high level. This book demands the reader's attention and requires concentrated, detailed reading on every page. As I was in a somewhat distracted state when I started this, it took me some time to really sink into the story and the storytelling. Jimenez is an incredible world-builder, and his characters are unforgettable. The structure is unconventional and yet fits the novel perfectly. I could tell you what this book is "about", but you can read the blurb and still be completely unprepared for the journey this will take you on. Creative, sweeping, expressive, this saga will stay with me long after the last page. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey for a digital review copy.
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Free Netgalley book for review. 2.5 ~ish*

If I had seen some of the warnings at the beginning of the book, I probably wouldn't have requested or read this one actually, but I really appreciate that those content warnings were there!  So this is a bit of an aberration from my usual reading and might explain why it took me so long to read, even though 500 pages or so is a pittance when it comes to epic fantasy.  (I'm going to need something seriously fluffy after this.)  I'm actually adding a star for the author being kind enough to give warnings, so kudos to them.

This fits solidly in the grim dark spectrum of fantasy and is also heavily lgbtq+ friendly.  There's lovely /sarcasm/ things such as body horror, mind rape, traumatized childhoods galore, gore and body fluids in abundance, and cannibalism to top things off probably around 50% of the way through, which I skimmed heavily.   In other words PAY ATTENTION to those warnings.  If that stuff makes you happy instead of running away in fear more power to you.  

The writing is grotesquely beautiful in certain places,.  The best way to describe the unique style of this book is that it reminds me a bit of niche Interactive Fiction style games with limited choices to proceed, similar to some online Twine games I have read in the past.    

It definitely doesn't make sense at the beginning and it's one of those stories you just have to stick with it for the book to finally be understandable in the end.  I'd say with caveats that this is a story worth reading, especially if you like grim dark.  I'm a wuss, so . . .  take my review with a grain of salt I guess.
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💧The Spear Cuts Through Water💧 


Summary: New from the author of The Vanished Birds, this epic fantasy tale follows the journey of two warriors to aid the escaped Moon goddess on her quest to reunite with her lover, Water, at the eastern sea. Along the way, they encounter thieves, assassins, and magical tortoises while becoming embroiled in a plot to end the dynasty of the powerful emperor and his terrifying sons, the Three Terrors. This is a fast-paced, high-stakes story rich with folklore, magic, and the exploration of identity.

As expected, this was a fantastic new title from Simon Jimenez. He takes risks by constructing this tale through the use of framing stories, second-person narration, and interjecting thoughts from minor characters that feel reminiscent of a Greek chorus. All of these elements combine to make the reader feel immersed in an epic poem akin to The Iliad, The Epics of Gilgamesh, or the Ramayana, but with an entirely fresh plot and setting. There are sprinkles of modernity as the tale is told to a child by his lola sometime in the mid-1900s, adding context to the events from the Old Country and exploring the implications of honoring your heritage and identity. The book is a bit hefty at about 550 pages, but it doesn’t feel long and is appropriately paced to the scale of the story. I was able to finish in about 2 days of intense reading, and I honestly think it could have been longer! If anyone is looking for a uniquely styled fantasy inspired by East/Southeast Asian history and folklore, this is your next read! Releases on 8/30. Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for giving me the opportunity to read and review the eBook!

CW: cannibalism, body horror, graphic violence, death, imprisonment, torture, sexual content

For fans of: The Song of Achilles, ATLA, Studio Ghibli movies
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~stories within stories
~dreams within dreams
~telepathic tortoises
~an inverted theatre
~if it really came to it, what would you sacrifice?

There are no other books like this book.

No, really.

Not because there are no other stories like this story – all stories are like all other stories, it’s a fundamental, sacred mystery of storytelling – but because the way in which Jimenez tells this story is something new and unique.



The Spear Cuts Through Water is not what I expected it to be – and no matter how many in-depth, super-detailed, professionally-analytical reviews you read before you pick it up, this book won’t be what you expect, either. There is no way to be prepared for Jimenez’ latest masterpiece; you can’t possibly imagine everything you will meet, see, and experience on this journey. However you pack your bags for it, you will not be ready.

You can try and play tourist, if you like, with sunscreen and map and phrasebook in your pocket. But by the end of The Spear Cuts Through Water, you’ll find yourself an immigrant instead, drawn in and changed and made a part of the dreamwilds Jimenez has spun into being here.

I don’t think this book would have hit me quite like it did had I had a more detailed idea of what to expect. The short, minimal blurb once frustrated me; now I’m incredibly glad I went in basically blind. And besides, no description can possibly do it justice. The Spear Cuts Through Water is a shapeshifter, morphing from one thing – one kind of story – to another, and another, and back again, quick and graceful as a dolphin dancing through waves. It’s one story, and two stories, and a hundred stories intertwined, sagas and whispers and white hot flashes where they cross and touch. It’s dreamy and visceral, soft and brutal, earthy and mythic, a tapestry of contradictions that nonetheless coheres into an incredible, breathtaking whole.

You can fault the dancer, but more often than not, it is the dance itself that has to change.

There are two young men and their grandmothers; one man is a prince, and one is not. One grandmother is a goddess and empress, and the other very much isn’t. Their stories do not run parallel, but are interdependent, each vital to the other’s existence. This is a book about dreams – dreams of the past, the future, the idealised history we hold to, the gleaming future we want to build. And I think it’s fair to say it’s equally a book about nightmares; this is an unquestionably, objectively excellent book, but it is not nice. It’s magical, ephemeral, one moment; then blunt, crude, graphic the next. There is suffering, torture, death, and some extremely fucked-up people. There is injustice and sadism and cruelty. But there’s also incredible tenderness, incredible humanity, that nameless celebration of how fragile and wonderful and precious it is that we all exist. There’s hope and humour, people working together, strangers being kind to strangers. And, of course…

“This is a love story to its blade-dented bone.”

From the very first page, from the very first line, it is immediately obvious that The Spear Cuts Through Water is something spectacularly special. That impression crystallises further into certainty with every page you turn. Jimenez weaves multiple layers of story together to create a stunning edifice, an unfamiliar but powerful structure which is the framework for the tale(s) being told – and oh, how I want to talk about that! I want to dive in and joyfully dissect his structure in particular; I want to write essays about the constellation of merely-mortal voices that dart, there and gone, across the narrative like shooting stars, illuminating the reality of what it means to be caught in the crosshairs of legend!

And I mustn’t, because you need to discover it for yourselves, but I have to say that what Jimenez has done here isn’t just extraordinary; it’s revolutionary. This is storytelling like I’ve never seen it, and I don’t mean that the story he’s telling is a unique one – although it is! I’m talking about the way he tells it, the style and craft and artistry that’s gone into structuring this book. I’m sure some readers are going to call it experimental, but I disagree strongly; The Spear Cuts Through Water is what comes after an experiment, after a successful experiment; it is what a positive, promising result becomes when it is then polished and refined and perfected.

This book is not an experiment because dear gods, Jimenez knows what he’s doing.

“The telling of tales beyond even my knowing.”

I have discarded so many drafts of this review, because no matter what I try, I can’t explain this book to you. I’m serious about the dark awfulness in it – please look up the content warnings; I would try writing them out for you, but I lost track after the cannibalism – but this book is, genuinely, in a league of its own. Reading it, I was mesmerised, I was invested, and I geeked out so hard over the sheer craft that went into it. I don’t know if I liked it, but I loved it, and it feels unfair to call it Jimenez’s magnum opus – how rude and presumptuous to claim he’s peaked, when this is only his second novel! – but I have to admit that I can’t imagine anyone outdoing this book, simply in terms of sheer technical artistry.

I guarantee that you have never seen anything like The Spear Cuts Through Water before – and I doubt you ever will again. This is a once-in-a-lifetime book.

Don’t miss it.
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I started with low expectations about this book. While I love science fiction, I’m finicky about my fantasy. If anything takes me out of the story’s world, it ruins the book for me. But I didn’t need to worry. The Spear Cuts Through Water is excellent! A completely different take on fantasy fiction that will have you regret coming to the end of this 544-page book.

Just like the author’s first book, The Vanished Birds, elevated science fiction, this book does the same to fantasy. It’s best to know nothing of the plot of The Spear Cuts Through Water going in. Don’t miss this creative and innovative tale. 5 stars and a favorite!

Thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.
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This book is like nothing else I've ever read, in the best possible way.

The Spear Cuts Through Water tells two stories: one set in something like the early 20th century and the other set in something like early modern China. These stories are joined by the titular spear, which appears in both, and through a play about the history of the spear in the distant past that the character in the outer frame ("you") watches in a mystical realm filled with shades and spirits from all across time.

For the most part, the story stays in the inner frame (the world of the past as presented by the play), but one of the most astonishing things about the book for me was just how many voices it contains. Not only is there the "you" of the outer frame and the third person of the inner frame, but the voices of the dead continually interrupt the narrative to add their own recollections of what happened in the past. Sometimes, these interruptions are only for a half-line of dialogue, and occasionally they go on for longer.

If I had to describe the book in a sentence, I would end up with something like "An omniscient first, second, and third person experimental epic fantasy." If that sounds equal parts ambitious, bonkers, and amazing, it absolutely is, and Jimenez pulls it off without a hitch.

I did sometimes feel the story was too dark for my tastes, but the prose is so gorgeous and the characters and their world were so compelling, that didn't slow me down too much, especially at first. As the book reached its conclusion, I did find it a little difficult to stay engaged, but I think that had more to do with my state of mind than the book itself. (It's been a rough year.)

In a word, though, this book is astounding. If you don't mind a little experimentation in your fantasy (or if you don't mind fantasy in your experimental fiction), you absolutely won't regret picking it up.
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