Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

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Member Reviews

What an immaculate, beautiful, intricately weaved story. I have never, ever in my life read anything as unique as this book. It did take a moment to get into, to understand the perspective points and how the story was being told, but once it clicked the story grew even richer.

It reads like one of the most human stories ever told. It starts in the second person with your Lola telling you a story which then beautifully blends into a story told to you in ethereal, dreamlike theatre. The story becomes a play and, like most people do, you keep relating this play back to things your Lola told you. I felt so wrapped up in this story, in this world. 

I felt like, truly, I was sitting there, watching this play unfold, watching it fall into something so beautiful that, when it went to third person and we followed Keema and Jun, I still felt like that watcher, over their shoulder or at a distance watching historic events unfold. And not only are you getting *your* perspective, Keema, or Jun's, you also get the lost souls that lived through this time's perspective. Their words are brief, heartbreaking, but it makes this story so much more alive. So much more human. Real.

It took time to get used to, and at a point it was frustratingly confusing, but remained interesting. 

While this story isn't marketed as a tragedy it truly is. At a certain point during the story, you know what is to happen. You know the steps these characters you love are going to have to take and, like every great tragedy, you hope there's an out. You experience beside one of the characters the terror of learning their fate and want to fight alongside them against it. And like all tragedies, it's beautiful and romantic and loving and human.

For all the praise I've been giving, I will say the treatment of women in the book had me a little down. While there were visceral deaths throughout, the women's (or at least women-presenting) deaths always seemed more than the rest. And I don't know if it's meant to say something, or show something symbolic for the story, but to see a woman's death described brutally while a man gets a sentence, maybe two, is a little disappointing. Just something that rubbed me the wrong way, but didn't ruin the entire book as it didn't feel hateful (and we've all read a hateful death given to a woman).

The characters though were some of the most beautiful characters I've had the pleasure of reading. They were mean, they were cold, they were warm, they were kind. They didn't shy away from what they are to make the reader love them. They were so, so human and sometimes that is so hard for an author to accomplish, and Jimenez accomplished it and beyond. The way they interacted with each other, and the world, the way their stories remained intimately tied to one another, not to the reader, all made that oral story-telling aspect so much stronger.

And the love in this book... the love that pours from it if you just read it how it's written to you... it is truly astounding. Truly beautiful.

Like everyone has been saying, have patience. Love this book. It will love you back.

My first review with content warnings! CW: gore, torture, genocide, cannibalism, ableism
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I read Simon Jimenez’s debut novel, The Vanished Birds, last year, and while I didn’t necessarily think it all came together, the prose and the secondary characters were good enough to spur me to pick up his next project. That next project was this year’s fantasy epic, The Spear Cuts Through Water. 

The Spear Cuts Through Water could be described simply as a fantasy quest story, though it’s told in such a way that there’s nothing simple about it. The lead characters are traveling together trying to reach the Divine City on the East coast of the land before a major celebration planned five days hence. Both have deliveries to make that could upset the dynastic succession and change the course of their land. 

But it’s more than that. The Spear Cuts Through Water leans hard into the mythopoetic style, being communicated as a stage play performed for the reader in a second-person frame story partially taking place hundreds of years later, in an industrial society, and partially taking place outside of time entirely. And every minor character has their part to play, as demonstrated by frequent interruptions of perspective, where someone met in passing—often not even a named character—delivers one or two sentences demonstrating how they viewed the events. The pair of warriors carrying out the quest are absolutely the focal points, but we hear from everyone, and cuts through the fourth wall to the frame story are not unusual. 

It makes for a tale notable for the storytelling as much as it is for the story. The prose is excellent, and the framing of the tale puts the reader into the mind of an audience hearing and seeing the performance of an epic, not of a reader of fantasy novels. If you enjoy different storytelling voices, the style itself is worth the price of admission. 

About the story, on the other hand, my feelings are more mixed. It’s clear from the beginning that there’s a potential revolution in the works, but we see little enough about the revolutionaries to have a sense of whether their cause is any nobler than that of the tyrannical Emperor. And so the first half of the story is left to be carried mostly by an extended chase, with the heroes doggedly pursued by agents of the Emperor whose supernatural endowments make them almost impossible to either defeat or escape. For readers whose interests fall in the intersection of literary stylings and epic chase scenes, The Spear Cuts Through Water may be a new favorite. For others, the success of the first half of the story will depend on the interpersonal relationships between one of the two leads, the fallen goddess he escorts, and the pair of villains, all of whom have long and complicated histories with each other. Said relationships tend toward the archetypical and are characterized by extreme actions and emotions, which fits nicely with the mythopoetic style, but to me didn’t capture quite enough nuance to sustain the length. 

The back half of the story, on the other hand, opens up more context, with details about the revolution, a third powerful enemy, and a lot more time devoted to the relationship between the two leads. I wouldn’t say that the main plot ever develops an abundance of complexity, but fans of high-stakes adventure fantasy will have enough to satisfy, and the storytelling technique continues to provide depth and nuance, even where the plot is more straightforward. 

Ultimately, I’m not sure The Spear Cuts Through Water offers enough from a plot or character perspective to ascend my favorites list, but there’s quality in both aspects—even if it may run a bit long—especially if you don’t mind frontloaded action and backloaded context. But the true star here is the storytelling, with excellent prose and a mythopoetic style that’s worth the price of admission for readers looking for something beyond the typical Western fantasy epic. 

Recommended if you like: quality prose, interesting storytelling techniques, mythic voice.
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This book was a nice read and I really enjoyed it's slow paced plot. It is full of mystery and fantasy. I enjoyed every thing about it a lot.
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DNF at 10% - Not for Me

I loved the premise of this book and was really excited to give it a try. However, it just really didn't jive with me. I didn't enjoy the narrative structure. All the reviews I read said you had to be willing to give it an open mind, and I just don't have the brain capacity at this moment in time to try to figure that piece out. It had vague Night Circus vibes so I may try to come back to it at some point, but it just wasn't working for me right now.
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4.5 rounded up

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez is a beautifully written story of two warriors traveling across a country over the span of five days at the behest of a goddess, but it is also a story of identity and family and love.

The narration style Jimenez employed in this was absolutely genius and skillfully done. With few exceptions, I don’t think I’ve read such a well-crafted blend of narration styles. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd narrations worked in tandem to tell the story and remained easily distinguishable throughout the story. It did take me around 50 pages to feel settled in the narration style and story, but that isn’t so different than most epic fantasy books I have read.

Although the story only took place over the course of five days, Jimenez presents fully fleshed out characters. While the reader may never discover their entire backgrounds, by the end of the book you understand their motivations and dreams. I loved Keema, Jun, Shan, Defect, and the unnamed narrator as much as each of the Three Terrors creeped me out.

Every good thing said above is successful because of Jimenez's talent as a writer. Second person alone is a hard style to successfully to pull off and he blends it seamlessly with other points of view all while crafting lovely sentences.

I really enjoyed Vanished Birds and I will be eagerly awaiting what he writes next.

Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Evocative and thought provoking this book kept me hooked. It was a unique read. Thanks Netgalley for the eARC
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The Moon Throne is controlled by a despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, known as the Three Terrors. All four hold the countryside hostage, oppressing everyone in their kingdom with the powers inherited from the god beneath the palace. Accompanied by the guard Jun and outcast Keema, the god escapes from her own children, the triplet Terrors. The trio begins a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom and a way to end the Moon Throne, a journey more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

This novel begins in second person - a grandmother telling a story based on myths. Within the dream court, stories and plays are played out, telling the story of the Emperor and the Terrors. It's a fascinating way to start, as the second-person POV can be very difficult to pull off. It works very well here and gives a very personal experience reading the book. You feel like the narrative pulls you in, especially as the story grows more layers and characters. The Terrors have enemies enough, and various tribes and villages seek to kill them. The goddess and Empress is old and dying, with little bursts of power, so she can't fix all their problems. Jun is the First Terror's favorite son, and no longer wants to kill and maim in the name of the Moon Throne. Keema has one arm and a tendency to make vows that he keeps until his death. The two young men are also saddled with a tortoise that isn't as psychic as its brethren, but who wishes to roam free again. This just so happens to be in the same direction as the Empress must go, but the treacherous land and people aren't beholden to Her at all. If anything, the Terrors are determined to do whatever it takes to lock her up again.

As a goddess, the Empress doesn't care about people, feelings or problems that don't impact Her directly. The Emperor and the Terrors are the same way, and the power they hold means this inhuman unconcern leads to the death of commoners. It's fascinating that we have their ghosts speaking as well as the living characters, and we have the history of our unnamed "you" as well. The story of the Holy Week pilgrimage is one that has the hallmarks of mythology we might learn in school, and I was sucked deeply into this tale. I had to see if Keema and Jun made it to the end, as I cared about their journey and how it would affect them. The Empress was distant and kind of like a plot device, the magical macguffin that everyone was fighting for. Later, when we see more of her past and she takes action herself, we see her as an actual character.
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this was the first time i've read something by simon jimenez and wow. almost had this at a 3.75 because of my extreme frustration in the beginning, but it soon picked up for me and left me extremely immersed, flabbergasted, and astonished. will definitely be picking up the vanished birds soon.

my overall thoughts:

- this is definitely an ambitious book, objectively unlike any in the fantasy genre. do not come into this book expecting a run-of-the-mill fantasy or you will be disappointed. it is definitely not for everyone as it requires a certain level of patience and open-mindedness that a lot of people just do not have. there were times when i got frustrated and had to re-read a few times to fully understand it, but once i did... wow.
- the story design and the character work are so memorable and stunning. there are so many layers to this book - but it all flows very naturally and nothing ever feels out of place. the world is so meticulously crafted, the characters so rich and complex, and the love story... maybe i am a romantic after all. no review could ever articulate the absolute adventure i had while reading this book, honestly, it was such a ride. the third act especially had me on the edge of my seat. i think it's something that people are only able to understand if they check it out for themselves. 
- the writing was stunning. this was my first introduction to simon jimenez and i was not disappointed. he has such a mastery of language and it shows in his prose. every line, every fragment of a sentence left me so immersed. i was honestly blown away

the docking of a star is mainly just due to me not enjoying it to its full potential right now, but i'm sure that will change. simon jimenez has cemented himself as a formidable force in the literary industry and i am so excited to see what he does next.
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A carefully crafted story close to my heart. Simon Jimenez just has a way with words. An attention grabber right from its first page.
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"Once, the Moon and the Water were in love..."

I wasn't prepared for this novel. After loving *The Vanished Birds*, I kind of thought I knew I was getting into. I did not.

However, I actually ended up loving so much of this book. It was beautiful and weird and so, so unique. I've seen other reviewers say that readers will need patience and an open mind to really get into this book, and that is 100% true. 

At first, the story was so strange and the world felt so mysterious and massive that I was afraid I would really DNF this. I wanted to like it, though, so I pressed on and just let myself be along for the ride. I'm so very glad I did. And now I feel heartbroken that it's over.
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Thank you Simon Jimenez and Random House Publishers for the opportunity to read an ARC of The Spear Cuts Through Water. All the opinions that follow are my own. 

I was very excited to read this book after reading the synopsis on NetGalley. However, I did not end up finish this book. The synopsis failed to mention this story is told in second person perspective—which was a bit jarring to read as most books I’ve read are not written this way. While I can appreciate the core of the story, I was unable to enjoy it based on the perspective it was written in. It was confusing and took me out of the story. 

If you enjoy second person perspective, I think you’ll love this book. It just wasn’t for me.
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The Spear Cuts Through Water
by Simon Jimenez

A story told by a grandmother to their grandkid, and you're the grandkid... And after that unexciting exchange, I started to realize I was not liking this book. The so-called 'main storyline' started around 4 or 5% but it was too contaminated by the slow and dull beginning, and there were numerous 2nd person interruptions.

I feel bad and I hate doing it, but I gave up at 7%. There are no descriptions or anything that pulled me into this book. And the 2nd person, meaning you were the main character...'you went here, your dad did this' etc., didn't do a thing for me. Maybe if there were more descriptions, action, and life given to these characters there might have been something there.

My brain must work differently, where I need more action, descriptions, or life in stories that I read so I'm pulled right in, wanting to know what happens. I kept expecting this book to end as if it was only a ten-page short story. It's not a short story.

I dreaded reading this book after the 2% mark and became afraid that if I forced myself to keep reading, I'd never pick up another book again. It was that tedious.

I'm not going to force myself trying to figure out why people have been giving this book 4 and 5 stars. I need more out of my books.

1 Star
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I am slightly conflicted on my rating for this book. It is an ambitious story and well done but certain stylistic choices were not my favorite. The story is framed as just that. A story being told to a young person and then a story seen in that person’s dreams. The story follows two young men, Jun and Keema, from very different backgrounds on a quest across five days. Certain parts are told in the dream theater and some in the more present-day young person’s life. Some parts come across a little contrived in one part but no spoilers. I really liked the world building and for such a long book, told over only five days, I got pulled into the story and the two character’s arc. The use of italics for people’s thoughts almost in the way of a chorus was practically well done. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention that this is a very violent book. It is gory; there are lots of dismemberments, torture, and cannibalism. Between the gore and the dense, prose this book is not for everyone but I give it a four for a very ambitious novel that overall, has a satisfying arc.
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NOTE: The Blog review will be Live on the 23rd of August

It’s honestly best - in my opinion - to take this book with the most basic of description and dive in. In fact, I’m going to try and keep my review as spoiler free as I can because I want so many people to do just that and to experience this the way I did.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a fantasy epic that tells the story of an Empire’s fall at the hand of two young men and an escaped Goddess. The themes here explore belonging, redemption, family, hate and love, and what it is people will do for what they believe. It is also structured in such a way that you feel and see so much, even at times the thoughts of the people around - you truly sink into the story. It is by no means a traditionally structured or told story, so keep that in mind when you pick this up. It’s done so masterfully that it only adds to the story (though I know some struggle with unusual narrative styles).

The world itself is vivid, dark, rich, and so layered. I honestly was so engrossed in the world and the aspects of it that I was heartbroken to leave. I cried on finishing this, and nearly turned around and picked it back up. You feel the heat, the dark nights, the fear of the people. The smells (thanks Defect) and the sounds.

The characters as well are nuanced and flawed. There is only one character in this story I’d consider in anyway a traditionally ‘good’ character. The rest, Jun especially, were incredible renderings of ideas and people. The Goddess for example, I spent the first half of the book assuming I knew her story. It seems so obvious and clear what happened and I was righteously angry for her. But then when she wrenches the narrative voice and tells you the truth? I read the book with my mouth gaping. I hated her but loved her even more.

Melding a story between time and perspectives I truly think Simon Jimenez has created a classic and something everyone should at least try. This is going to be one of my favorites of the year, and something that is going to sit on my shelves in a place of honor. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

5 sad, lonely Tortoises out of 5
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“People died so that we could live. Others suffered so that we may prosper. This is the way of the world. To believe otherwise is to never grow up.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Plot: Simon Jimenez’s The Spear Cuts Through Water is an epic fantasy crafted with storytelling that is not like anything I’ve ever read before. To put it simply, this story follows two men on a quest to transport a god almost at the end of its life across the land in an effort to end the Moon Throne’s reign. However, this story is so intricately woven, that it is nearly impossible to detail every amazing thing about it. There are tyrannical rulers with god-like powers, various animal castes that play their own roles in the story, and an expansive cast of characters.
It is also important to note how this story is told. The read starts in second person, with “you” being an unnamed character being told a story by a family member. Jimenez weaves throughout first, second, and third person in such a magnificent way. “You” are taken to the Inverted Theater, the place where the basis of the story unfolds. We also see inside the thoughts of various side characters, sometimes even unnamed ones. 

My opinions: While this book will not be for everyone (I wasn’t too sure about it before reading it myself), it is an absolute masterpiece of artwork. I have never read an adult epic fantasy before, and while I had to take my time with this book, I found myself constantly thinking about the story. It is incredibly slow paced for a large portion, but because of the attention to characters, it never dragged for me. No matter where I left off, or for however long I waited until picking it back up, I immediately knew where I had left off. This isn’t set up to have chapters like I am used to; it is mainly 5 or 6 long chapters. Despite being worried that it would hinder the story for me, the method of writing/storytelling made it impossible for me to forget where the story had left off.
Reading The Spear Cuts Through Water was an experience, in the best way possible. As is mentioned in the description, it is not like anything I’ve ever read before, and it will always stand out in my memory. While there is a large cast of characters, the two I would consider the main characters (Jun and Keema) were developed so well they felt real. We really get to see how the atrocities they have and are facing affect them and how they react. Jun is being eaten up by the guilt he feels about his past, permanently marked physically and emotionally by his past. Keema is an outcast, looked at as a cripple for having only one arm, but he is determined to never give up without a fight. 
The land is ruled by the Moon Throne and feared by everyone. The ruler’s sons are known as Terrors. They are tyrannical and, with the use of their god-like powers, rule with a harsh hand. The novel does a great job of showing the atrocities that the people face at their hands, with some being too scared to take a stand and others plotting rebellions. One quote even says:
“I’d assumed you were meeting with people not as… wealthy.”
“Of course we are… We want to win.”

By using all three points of view, you really come to understand the characters- their fears, emotions, guilt, determination, etc. It is a pretty descriptive story; there is plenty of violence, gore, and sexually explicit scenes. At times, it can be tough to read about the bloodshed, but I personally don’t struggle with reading these things. Despite how uncomfortable it could be to read them, I think it was part of what made the story stronger- to show the worst parts of this world. 
We are told at the beginning this is a love story, and despite not understanding that sentiment, it all starts to fall into place. The ending wrapped everything up and learning everything about the characters and the world felt like a satisfying accomplishment that I enjoyed deeply. The ending was beautiful and touching.
This book was the most challenging thing I have ever read, but it was so worth it. I am still unsure of how Simon Jimenez’s mind was able to encapsulate this story in such a strangely unique way and make it work so well. 

Who I Recommend Reads: I can definitely understand that this book will not be for everyone. You need the patience to stick with the characters to really get the plot and to understand the workings of the world. If you are in to slow paced and/or character based works, I think you’ll be more inclined to like this one. It is an epic fantasy, so the plot is pretty out there. If you like to annotate, I think this book would be a great one for it. 

Trigger Warnings: violence, gore, sexually explicit content, torture, ableism, cannibalism, dismemberment
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I waited fervently for this ARC to be available, because I loved The Vanished Birds so damn much I couldn't stop talking about it to all my book friends. When I started reading this book, though, it struck me immediately how different it felt from my first love. I believe in honesty, and will say that I almost bounced off this one from the beginning because of how different it is. I've never been a very literary reader despite reading literary fiction, so when confronted with a clearly very literary book I immediately get discouraged and think most of it will go over my head and I'll never understand what's going on. I stuck with it, though, because it's an ARC and I felt obligated to finish what I start, and noticed that after I let the book begin and got used to the different way it tells its story, I was completely sucked in. It's a bit of a dense book, but if you just give it space to tell its story (and the beginning was a bit slow), it's not a hard read. I loved this book.

I'm going to be brief with the summary because it's a hard book to summarize. A country is led by a tyrannical family, and a quest to rescue a dying god out from under these rulers brings two warriors together to bring an end to their rule. There's lots of magical twists and turns along the way, but your lola wasn't kidding when she said that this was a love story at its core.

The story's told using basically all points of view at one point or another. As the story with the main characters is being told, you're also being given little snippets of what people around the main characters are thinking at the same time in a weirdly non-disruptive way. It's also told as if you're in a theater watching the story unfold as a play at times too, the Inverted Theater your lola told you stories about. It can be disorienting in the beginning, but it really grew on me. Things get incredibly wild towards the end, so if you're looking for a straight fantasy tale, this probably won't be for you. It's fantasy, but surreal fantasy. It's also an incredibly dark story, so if gore bothers you, maybe pass on this.

I never thought literary fantasy would be a thing I'd enjoy so much, but here we are. This was a gorgeous, compelling read that I highly recommend.
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Let’s talk about this book… It gets 3 stars it was mostly me.  I feel like I needed trigger warnings but to which triggers I ,don’t want to list because giving the story away.. 
It was beautifully done.  Almost like a song.  There are 3 stories inside.  All interesting 2 are about family one is about a theatrical event.  The 2 stories about the family I found sad, depressing and completely frustrated..  The line of the theatrical event was interesting it did coincide with one of the stories.  The way it was written you could have been there.  
There are events in the book that caused me great anxiety.  I really don’t want to feel so upset that I cant get over it.  I want to feel wow that was amazing.  I did not feel that,  I was mostly sad and upset about some of the storyline.  At some points it felt long winded and I just wanted it to be over.  
So if you like lyrically written books ,family dynasty, war this could be the book for you.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

On a craft level and a story level, The Spear Cuts Through Water is a book of all time for me. This is wonderfully written and delightfully experimental, weaving multiple threads together. The use of point of view was just so incredibly well done, as was the framing of the story. I really enjoyed seeing how every thread and layer was interconnected with one another, and the world building in this was so intricate that my internal monologue while reading was just saying “oh my god” in varying tones. The character work in this was also exquisite, and being given every scope imaginable was just? Perfectly done? I loved getting to hear anyone and everyone’s thoughts as the story progressed, from the Moon and Keema and Jun down to the most insignificant villager they meet along the way. This was so risky and ambitious and it came together so, so well.

I went into this not really knowing what to expect, but I whatever expectations I had were just utterly exceeded. The few things I did know about this book—an emperor, a god escaping captivity, a quest to bring down the empire, use of the second person—were things that are catnip for me to begin with, but the way that Jimenez fleshes out all of these bare bones ideas is stunning. This was weird and epic and lush and, in addition to being one of the most original and creative things I’ve ever read in my life, a deeply heartfelt love letter to storytelling and storytelling traditions. 

I do think that even though this novel contains a lot of classic epic fantasy tropes and ideas it will have a specific audience, as it does require a fair bit of patience and the willingness to simply not know what the hell is going on for a while. Still, the payoff is so worth it, especially because Jimenez has such command of his prose that every line is a banger, my god.
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This book will not be for everyone, but I think it is undoubtedly an excellent and truly unique piece of art. The focus here is on the prose and style of storytelling, so while I was very interested in the world, plot, and characters, they were in the backseat. That's not to say any of those aspects were weak, on the contrary, they were all very well done, but I personally couldn't get past the style to really enjoy reading any of them. 

This book is for you if you enjoy:
-Unconventional framing devices
-Beautiful and thoughtful prose
-Eccentric world-building
-Books that make you think

Overall, my enjoyment of this was not quite what I was expecting going in, but I really respect this as a piece of work and think it 100% accomplishes what it sets out to do. The Vanished Birds was one of my favorite reads of last year, and I will definitely be picking up anything else Simon Jimenez releases in the future. If it sounds at all interesting to you, I really urge you to try it, because I can almost guarantee it will be the most unique reading experience of your life.
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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm giving this a 3-star because, despite the fact that I very much didn't like it, I think a ton of people will and I'll understand why they feel that way. Allow me to explain.

The Spear Cuts Through Water has a VERY distinct writing style, told mostly in 2nd person with some sections in 1st or 3rd as ALMOST EVERY CHARACTER WE MEET gets some time to narrate. The structure of this is also unique, foregoing real chapters in favor of a few long sections broken into short vignettes. That's as good of a job as I can do describing it anyway. 

This books is very much focused on the writing, placing it on the same level as, if not prioritizing it over, the story. If you love lyrical, experimental, highly stylized prose, than you'll probably be cool with this, but I found it highly distracting.

TL;DR = I think people will either love this or not be able to handle the writing.
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