Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I picked this up with absolutely no expectations other than some friends being abnormally excited it on Twitter, and damn were they right. This is, hands down, some of the most creative, evocatively written, and experimental SFF I have read in a really long time.

The Spear Cuts Through Water balances 2.1 storylines. The first storyline is directed as a fictitious unnamed reader, an attendance of the Inverted Theater where the main storyline is told. We don’t learn much about this reader, the world they live in has a war, they have many brothers and a deadbeat father, and their lola, their grandmother, would tell them stories about the Old World, including the one being told today. The second storyline is more the main story, where two companions Jun and Keema meet by chance to escort a god across the lands to take down the tyrannical Moon Throne. The 0.1 comes from the short little interjections from the supporting cast, giving the reader an outside perspective on events as they happen in the second storyline.

What’s so creative about this story is how it’s told. I’ve never seen a book so seamlessly blend 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person narration and use those stylistic choices to elevate the way the story of conveyed. The unnamed reader’s tale is told in 2nd person, with lines like ‘you remember your lola saying…’ or ‘you sit at the theater…’. 3rd person is the main narrative, with an epic fantasy-level storyline. The fun part is the 1st person, which are the little interjections throughout the 3rd person sections, marked in the paragraph in italics. It certainly took a while to get used to, but I think it’s such an incredibly cool feature. As the main story is told, we hear single from minor characters with minor roles, a cook, a guard, a dying soldier, about the current events. On paper, this really shouldn’t work but for some reason, it does.

I say the main narrative, our throne toppling narrative, has a epic-fantasy-esque vibe to it, yet this is one of the rare occasions in epic fantasy that I’d say the plot plays second fiddle to the characters themselves. As one of the characters says in the story, ‘this is a love story’. Every event that occurs, every big reveal, all fuels the absolutely incredible character work Jimenez puts into this story. Really, this is a story about the connections that Jun and Keema make together, from strangers to a partnership that transcends simple romance.

And while I saw that the first emphasis lies in the character work, I don’t want to downplay the beauty of the writing and the worldbuilding. Jimenez has this incredible mastery of prose that every line, every sentence had to be paused and witnessed. And through the writing, this mythos-like worldbuilding is born. The Spear Cuts Through Water is one of the few books that actively make me want to pick up the audiobook. The storytelling format is already very suitable for an oral narration and I really want to see how the narrator incorporates the experimental structure of the writing.

Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. This is very much not a turn your brain off and read book. Jimenez really forces the reader to work for their story, to understand how all the pieces come together, but it is so so so rewarding. An absolute masterpiece in prose and character work.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not exactly sure which aspect of this book wasn't for me. I think it could be the way the writing was woven together with the story and the prose and the poems. I just didn't get a good enough sense of the characters and the world, but I did like the blend of historical fiction and fantasy (that's one of my favorite sub-genres). Overall, this was okay: I liked the pacing, and the plot, but this specific combination just didn't click for me. I would love to take a dive into this author's backlist, or check out their next work, though!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

In a land plagued by the long tyrannical rule of the Moon Throne, the emperor and his sons, the Three Terrors, wreak continual havoc. In a desperate attempt to find a way to end the Moon Throne forever, a god escapes from her captivity with the help of Jun and Keema, and their ensuing five day pilgrimage is wrought with danger and mystery.

There’s so much to say about this book that I can’t really figure out how to say any of it. I guess the first place to start is that this book is a long 544 pages. So much is crammed into each paragraph that you really do feel the length of each and every page while you read. That said, I do think the length of this book is well-earned. Jimenez is an astute storyteller, and does not waste your time with filler content. Every moment of this book is essential to the overall story, whether it feels that way or not.

I do wish I had taken notes, because a lot of the perceived slog of this book’s length is due to trying to figure out what, exactly, is going on. There are parts in second person, in first person, in third person. There is a performance on stage and a story being orally recounted to a grandchild and the actual plot of the adventure. There is dialogue denoted by quotation marks and dialogue and internal thoughts denoted by italics. It feels, for most of the book, that you are holding this messy, barely-containable mass of stuff that doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to see where it all connects and how the pieces play together and what it all means.

But the name of this game is certainly patience and attention, because holy cow, the last 20% of this book is so worth it. Almost like magic, the story transforms from this jumbled mess of disconnected bits into a breathtaking saga spanning generations. It is truly masterful.

And, at its core, this is a love story, and there is so much to love about that love story and the ways in which it is so much beyond a simple love story. 

To sum up, this is a long, somewhat laborious, but ultimately breathtakingly unique, beautiful piece of art. Jimenez really does weave magic on the page and I cannot wait to see what else he has up his sleeves.
Was this review helpful?
I was skeptical when I first started this book. It had a very unique writing style, with interjections showing the thoughts of various characters, both significant and insignificant. It had a frame story that was sometimes a little difficult to follow. It switched from 2nd to 3rd person frequently. It didn't seem to have "chapters" in the traditional sense. And I wasn't sure whether I liked it.

As I read, though, I found myself more and more drawn in by the story. The frame story bit wasn't the highlight for me, although someone with intergenerational trauma and a family who had recently been immigrants to a country like the US would probably relate and get more out of it than I. What I loved was the story that was being put on for us like a play, of two warriors seeking meaning, redemption, and absolution in a brutal world as they tried to help a goddess destroy the throne she helped create. The two main characters, Keema and Jun, had distinctive personalities and voices, and seeing them grow in themselves as their relationship with each other deepened was a delight. Although there was a lot going on that was very large scale in the realms of both mythology and politics, Keema and Jun's journey never failed to feel personal, relatable, and important. 

The Spear Cuts Through Water works on a number of levels. If you want it to be a story about heritage and how mythology and trauma is passed down through generations, it can be that. If you want to enjoy it purely as a brutal and vivid fantasy adventure, it can be that. If you want to revel in the world building, inventive and grotesque as it is, you can. If you want to relish in the tender complexity of the relationships between characters, you can do that too. If you want to use it to think about larger themes of family, power, corruption, religion, injustice, etc, that's all there too. While I agree with the book itself that it's ultimately a love story, it is so much more than that. 

I often fall into the trap of being vague in reviews because I don't want to reveal too much to the reader before they read it. I still don't want to do that, but I will try to pull out a few details that I found interesting to help tantalize prospective readers (I myself requested the book purely because of the cover and the title, knowing nothing of what it was about). The fantasy part of the story is set in the Old Country, where the moon fell from the sky and birthed a dynasty of magical and brutal emperors. These emperors use telepathically connected tortoises to communicate and maintain their control over their empire. A lot of people get beheaded, exploded, eaten, drowned, trampled, and otherwise killed in a number of brutal ways. Two men grow closer even as they struggle with their own demons; when they get too emotional and don't know how to handle it (or are scared of what acknowledging it would lead to), they wrestle. Everyone has excellent titles, like The Three Terrors or Araya the Drunk. There's all sorts of magic, and one sort is dancing. The threads of the frame story, which initially feels a little jarring, ultimately weave together with the threads of the fantasy story to form a rich tapestry that you feel even if you don't fully understand it. There are no people who are just "good" people; the world isn't forgiving enough for that, and yet some people continue to seek and give forgiveness. There are bits involving unintentional mind reading that are both funny and intensely sensual. You get to see the point of view of a bear! 

This is just scratching the surface of what The Spear Cuts Through Water includes, but I wanted to provide some of the things that if I had read them, would make me want to seek out this book, which ended up being the kind of book that I read over half of in a single day and almost a single sitting because I couldn't stand to wrench myself out of the world and the story.
Was this review helpful?
I am a totally new reader to Jimenez’s work.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this author, would I be disappointed, or would I be impressed?
To my amazement, Jimenez has done the remarkable construction of building a masterpiece. 
The story follows two warriors on a journey as they are tasked with guiding an ancient God across a deteriorating kingdom.  Ruled by the authoritarian, atrocious royals who command the powers of the God.  Jimenez introduces us to the mysterious person out of 3 in this mysterious, magical tale.
The story tells of Keema of the Daware tribe and Jun of the Red Peacocks, who have the quest to bring down the suns. 
Keema is an orphaned, one-armed warrior desperately seeking human connection. 
Jun is tormented by the memories of his past.  The voices of the dead, the horrors that he committed in the name of his father’s Army while he was a soldier.
Jimenez gives you sections, rather than chapters which makes the story exceptionally long.
However!  You will not even notice, since you will be so engrossed in the unfolding of this novel.  The novel is told over 5 days while the evil emperor Smiling Sun and his wretched sons, First, Second and Third Terrorize everyone. 
Keema and Jun have to deliver a special package from the west to the east, these chapters are one for each day. 
Jimenez is mind blowing with his ability to be so flexible with his language, which makes this his greatest asset.  Many authors cannot command an audience in the second or third POV.  However!  Jimenez does so with the ease of an expert magician.  His word building is incredibly powerful and feels effortless and smooth.  There is no flowery word dumping whatsoever in the book, nor any fluffy language just to add context.
Jimenez fantastical journey is amazing with his talking tortoises.  Then there are the Terrifying Terrors, each one so powerful. 
 All want power and the one thing that they cannot have.  What they cannot have is that they are each neglected but want more power.  Since they cannot have the attention, they a searching for, they will seek power instead.
However!  The 3rd Terror is seeking something the other 2 are not.  He is seeking love, but love is just as deadly, if not even more dangerous.  Which makes him the most terrifying.
Jimenez has outdone himself on this novel.
The book was emotionally touching, a roller coaster of emotions that will leave your heart in pieces. 
Not a dry eye throughout the entire end of the novel.
Loved this novel and would thoroughly recommend this book to any and everyone.  If you are looking for an amazing read, this is for you.
Jimenez is a “WORDSMITH” at his craft!
Kudos to this superior author for this REMARKABLE BOOK!!!

Thank you to NetGalley, Simon Jimenez, and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine.  Del Rey for this free eARC.  My review is of my own volition.
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to love this book. I really enjoyed Simon Jimenez's Vanished Birds so I hoped I would also love this one. The frustrating thing is that I can't pin down exactly what it is that didn't work for me. I enjoyed how the story switches between points of view and I loved the idea of the inverted theater and those watching being part of things. However, I never connected to the characters and what they were going through as much as I would have liked. I'll be anticipating Simon Jimenez's next book and while this one didn't work for me, it definitely could for you.
Was this review helpful?
This book was a trip!  I love how it weaved poems and prose with story. It was the perfect blend of everything and I could not put it down.  I think those who love a blend of story as well as fantasy and historical fiction and more will enjoy this one.  This was a wonderful weave of a world that I will not soon forget.
Was this review helpful?
5/5 stars.  10/5.  An entire expanse of stars raining down from the heavens.

Gorgeous.  Absolutely gorgeous.  Entirely unpredictable, refreshingly original, poetic, heart wrenching, magical…  This book had me in a chokehold.  

Its characters were compelling, its mythology captivating.  Its plot was simple, but the execution was the most incredible, fantastical romp I’ve had in a long, long time.  Its action beats weren’t just engaging, they were bombastic, which says something for me since I tend to lose interest in drawn out battles or fight scenes.  There was never a point in this book where I was bored; there were only moments of rest where I felt like I could put it down and try to catch my breath.

I will say that the writing style might not be for everyone.  Time and space are very fluid in this book, but I think the narrative structure does a lot to keep this from being confusing at all.  Still, some might not like the regular transitions between second and third person narration.  Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this book so I can see the way blocks of paragraphs were broken up by bold italicized text, like a drum beat calling your attention to focus on a new scene, or a specific person, or a moment of tension.  The setting of this story begins with a play in a theater outside of time and space, and the flow of the story really puts you into a seat in that audience.

Another thing to be aware of is that this book does not shy away from gore or vivid descriptions of violence.  It was a bit more than what I like, but there were large stretches of story where it wasn’t an issue, so ultimately it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.  Still, if you’re a little squeamish, just be aware.  Lots of people die in pretty horrific ways.

Anyway, fantastic.  Glorious.  I’m running out of adjectives that even come close to summing up this book, so I’ll just leave it at that.  This will absolutely be in my top five reads for this year.  Again, I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy.
Was this review helpful?
this immersive tale is told in a reflection of a theater in a spirit land, where a moonlit body sets the scene and performs for you a story of the last of the moon throne, how one eats and swallows the essence of a god, terror triplets with ungodly powers, and a spear that tells of a dance on its wooden body. this is an epic fantasy but

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

i went into this without knowing anything it might contain (not even reading the synopsis), but with a masterful storyteller like simon jimenez, what else could i want but trust myself completely to his lyrical, seamless writing this one has the privilege to experience? as mentioned by other early readers, this tale told is not for everyone — meaning, it breaks the conventional hold of reliable chapters, of steady perspectives, of linear storytelling. it is challenging. it is unhinged brilliance. i can easily imagine readers getting red-hot frustrated and dizzily confused at jimenez's juggle of i, you, and the third person perspectives, of his fluid narrative writing that shifts from one setting to a backstory to a different perspective all at once. it's always a story in constant motion. so, do not do this book a disrespect by expecting simple entertainment. that type of energy is not allowed here, is not permitted entry. you devote hard to read this story — you open up your mind and heart, you focus — and in return, this tale smiles and cries for you, it offers you an experience that you will never experience again.

simon jimenez demonstrates the true essence of storytelling in his writing. i am in awe, always. it is a breath of fresh air, a dance made on the spot. his words capture my heart so effortlessly, in just a few sentences. you get to hear what everybody is experiencing, a range spanning from our main characters to a passing traveler that we do not see. the way he can get me to care about characters is lovely and terrible because plot armor does not exist here (we laugh in plot armor's face) yet i cannot help but care about their wellbeing, their hopes and dreams and fears. and the yearning!! truly, i could not predict any plot twists that ripped open the top of my skull. there was no frantic plot guessing, just frantic reactions as i was seated alongside the audience, just watching the performance play out, fervently hoping the warriors see tomorrow.

this tale told was glorious. gory. exhilarating. horrible. hateful. hysterical. dreadful. (check the trigger warnings). i thought, "there's no way this is a love story," yet i found bottomless love in enemies, in strangers, in nature, in family, in lovers. this is the greatest book i have ever read, if not the greatest. nothing will ever top this book, except, perhaps, another simon jimenez piece. sir, you deserve a standing ovation. i am applauding not only the sheer excellence of your performance but the love of storytelling evident in every word. and finally here i am, excited to see what you come with next and bowing to you in thanks.

thank you to netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Wow. I have no words. This is one of my best reads this year. Simon Jimenez delivered a stunning piece of literature, at least as good as The Vanished Birds, which is one of my favorite books of all times. It has beautiful prose, extraordinary storytelling, a grounbreaking plot, It's unlike anything I've read before and I just love it so much.

Given my love for the author and his works, my expectations were already really high, but this book still managed to meet and exceed them. The narrative structure is fascinating to me and executed in the most perfect way. Simon Jimenez was already a master of unconventional storytelling, but he really outdid himself with this book.  I can't stop thinking about it.

The premise of the book is so good, all the different plotlines are so interesting, the lore and characters are amazing, the themes are tackled beautifully. This is just brilliant. I have no other words. The reader feels like they're part of the story, and it's really the most amazing experience I've had with a book in a long time. I'm obsessed with it and I regret reading it so fast and not taking my time to enjoy it slowly. This is a masterpiece.

I don't want to say too much about the story and ruin the experience for other readers, but obviously, I adored the book and I strongly recommend reading it. This book is not for everyone, and you will require patience and an open mind, but if you enjoyed The Vanished Birds and if you love Simon Jimenez's kind of storytelling, then go for it, I promise you won't regret it.
Was this review helpful?
I requested a NetGalley ARC for this book because Vanished Birds was one of my favorite books of its year. Simon Jimenez has a great style, and that book covered a huge emotional range.

Well, I can't say I liked this quite as well as Vanished Birds, but it was still a good book. It's *weird,* though, told in a very unconventional way. It starts with a framing tale, in the second person, contains some stories by "your" grandmother, and then there's a dream sequence, and within the dream there's a theater, and a play is being put on, and THAT is the actual story. Because you hear the story as a play in a dream theater, you get snippets of everyone's thoughts.

It has a folkloric feel: these are the stories of the old country, where you come from, the story of how the moon came down from the sky. Strange things constantly happen: tortoises telepathically communicate with other tortoises, apes talk, severed heads remain alive, people eat each other and gain their powers. There are gruesome tortures and deaths, and we get the impression of a bleak world under control of an evil emperor and his sons.

The main characters, Jun and Keema, are two young men accompanying each other on separate quests. They fight with each other all the time for no clear reason, but there's also a homoerotic tinge to their interactions which is mainly subtext through most of the book.

I'm always looking for books that aren't like other books, something done in a new way, something that doesn't fit into existing genre expectations. And this is one of those books. In some ways, it goes a little too far off the beaten track, and got a little hard to read. But, although it took me some time and focus, I'm glad I pushed through it.
Was this review helpful?
I am very new to the writing of Simon Jimenez but once I read the description for this book, I was immediately intrigued. At first glance, The Spear that Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez seems to be a tale of an epic quest. Two strangers and a powerful being go on a journey to the eastern side of the country to fight against a nation that was ruled by the evil emperor, Smiling Sun, and his triplet sons, the terrors. To minimize the story in this way is a big, big mistake. 
The novel operates on two levels: a “you” level which draws you into the underlying story by introducing the reader to a person whose family tells him stories. You hear about this person’s lola, father and older brother throughout the story. The second story is a mythological one dealing with the “Moons” who fell from the sky years ago. After being trapped for a long time, the Moon set on quest to undo the damage that its progeny⸺the three terrors⸺as caused throughout the land. In her company are two young men:  Jun, the son of one of the three terrors with a red peacock tattooed on his face (A symbol of a fearsome warrior) and Keema of the Daware tribe who happens to join along on this journey after making a promise to someone. All occurring in what “you’s” lola refers to as the inverted theater.
The ways in which Jimenez has constructed this story is unbelievable. The two stories have a meeting point and once you get there, you wonder how many years it took him to construct such a masterpiece. Most of the magic of the story can be found in the ways in which Jimenez uses writing to convey so much. Specifically, within the text, there are several moments where interjections are placed in the form of italics. The use of italics to get more knowledge into the interior mind is a brilliant signal to the reader and also gives clearer insight. Oftentimes these interjections add a layer of humor to the sometimes heavy events. Some of the lines that are thoroughly enjoyed are the following:
Fathers leave in all sorts of ways. Some of them leave in the dark. Some leave only in their heads while their bodies remain, staring at the world around them forever distantly. Others fade out over time, like an old photo rubbed raw. 
They stopped throwing food and started throwing harder objects. The Archers cursed. I got hit with a fucking ladle.
 The people on the cliff watched in stunned awe as the wave unzipped itself.

Only just a sample, these lines have a beautiful melody to them and in context, they are even better in how they describe actions occurring scene by scene. It is important here to warn that the novel does contain some gore as these terrors are known for their tyrannical rule. However, I often found myself distracted by the use of words rather than the scene before me. The magic of this world seems to be as natural as the air we breathe and the animals add to the mysticism of it all. If you are looking for a book with fantasy, gay romance, an observation of a family and complex characters, I would highly recommend this book to you.
Was this review helpful?
a master in class in storytelling and creativity and indulgence. no one compares.

jimenez takes unconventional approaches with the grace and elegance i expected from him (and above) ever since i read the vanished birds. he knows how to make me love and ponder over each sentence. he knows how to make me stall in awe due to the beauty of his writing. this, in fact, is the type of book that inspires me to work on my own manuscript. not only was i truly immersed, but i didn't want to leave this world. jiminez is insane.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This book was probably the most unique I’ve read - I don’t just mean this year, I mean in my lifetime. The story itself was interesting enough, but the way it was written was completely new to me. It was told from several perspectives but also, in a way, had only 1 narrator - it’s told as “you” are watching a play in the Inverted Theatre and having flashbacks to the stories your grandmother used to tell you. Admittedly, it took me a while to catch on to the writing style and fully follow along. 

The story itself was fascinating - the characters were well fleshed out and rarely did I ever accurately guess what was coming next. Though there were parts I felt were unnecessarily vague or complex, I did enjoy Keema and Jin’s story overall. 

I tentatively recommend this book, but acknowledge it is not for everyone. The writing is difficult to follow at times which, while entertaining and brave in its own right, took me out of the story at times as I struggled to switch perspectives and time periods. 

Not a book I would read again, but one I am glad to have experienced.
Was this review helpful?
There are few novels I can firmly say have astounded me or been a genuinely original concept. But, I must add Simon Jimenez’s upcoming fantasy epic, “The Spear Cuts Through Water,” to that list because–to simply put it–hot damn. 

The Moon Throne has ruled over a faraway land for centuries–perpetuating a cycle of suffering that has robbed the land and oppressed its citizens. The fickle emperor and his sons, the Three Terrors, literally terrorize the people with the powers they inherited from the imprisoned god under their palace. 

With the help of two warriors, Jun and Keema, the imprisoned god escapes and leads our young heroes on a holy pilgrimage for freedom and a way to end the Moon Throne’s reign forever.  
Although nothing new to the fantasy genre, the concept is a rare gem in storytelling. With a delicately detailed world, “The Spear Cuts Through Water” is set in a vaguely familiar but unfamiliar land with folklore woven effortlessly into the world and its people. 

This novel is like an onion–a story within a story, within another–and jumps from the first, second, and third points of view. These layers can be challenging at times, but there’s no denying the immersive and wondrous experience of “The Spear Cuts Through Water.” Using a theater as a first POV element is an ambitious risk that could have spiraled. Yet, Jimenez works it into the narrative with admirable mastery. Jimenez drags the reader into the narrative without pandering, and his storytelling flows flawlessly through the layers of the novel. The writing alone is an experiment in creating the most visceral, atmospheric prose imaginable, which could be described as cinematic. Still, I don’t think any words in the English language can fully explain the visceral effect of Jimenez’s writing. 

Yet, the most fascinating piece of “The Spear Cuts Through Water” is the character work. Unlike any other fantasy novel, Jimenez writes his characters with startling clarity and introspection–instantly rooting themselves in the hearts of readers within a few pages of their first appearances. A rollercoaster of emotions and moving experiences, Jun and Keema weasel their way into your heart when you least expect it and blossom into flawed but beautifully expressed anti-heroes. Their stories–and the first and second POVs–are nuanced in such a way they could be autobiographical, and that’s no exaggeration. 

Jimenez dives into the thoughts of nearly every character in the novel–nothing more than snippets of consciousness, but immerses readers more profound and deeper into the world of “The Spear Cuts Through Water.”

A heart-racing and intimate observation of identity, family legacies, and love, “The Spear Cuts Through Water” is unlike any novel you’ve ever read–and demands devoured. Jimenez’s writing and characters will stick with you long past you close the book, thus transforming even the most skeptical readers. Rather than proclaim any more of my praises for Jimenez’s novel, I’ll simply tell you to pick up “The Spear Cuts Through Water” on August 30 and read for yourself the wonder of this novel.
Was this review helpful?
With a narrative structure that is dreamlike and dramatic, Simon Jimenez's second novel manages to be simultaneously foreign and familiar, grand and intimate. Part fantasy, part folktale, part allegory: there is an elegance, first seen in The Vanished Birds, in its execution. Jimenez has this awe-inspiring ability to methodically yet chaotically build and balance tension. That The Spear Cuts Through Water is a novel of epic proportions taking place in a five-day timespan, it is something absolutely unheard of in traditional fantasy. For those who appreciate not only the blurring of genre lines but also the almost defiance of them, this novel may be the perfect novel for you!
Was this review helpful?
This book was incredibly well written and the story was complex and beautiful. To say this is unconventional would be an understatement, it is definitely unlike anything I have read. If you are looking for a fun feel good story, do not read this. This book will make you think, it is gory, and it is dense. If that is your kind of book though, this will for sure become a favorite.
Going into it, its important to know that the first chapter is confusing, which will make sense as you’re reading later chapters. But since these chapters are ~100 pages each, its a long time to be confused but it will be worth it when you get to the second chapter and you start putting the pieces together, I didn’t enjoy the incredibly long chapters a lot, as I like more clear places to finish the books, but it made some logical sense and there are some other ways of dividing chapters to get to a stopping point. All in all a beautiful read!
Was this review helpful?
This is phenomenal book. I was simply blown away by the quality of the storytelling, the layers to the story, the characters, the narrative, all of it.

The structure of The Spear Cuts Through Water is incredibly inventive. If someone had told me before reading it that a book that flits between third person, first person, and second person narration would end up being one of the best books I'd read in years, I would probably have laughed. It takes a writer of rare talent to pull that off, and Jimenez did it in such a skillful way, weaving these three points of view flawlessly into one tapestry.  The prose is lovely, the story touching, the characters unforgettable. 

The second person voice is a framing device, a "you" narrator who is simultaneously being told a story and witnessing the same story being told in dance. This POV brings a sort of cyclical perspective to the story. While the characters in the main narrative are attempting to bring down a dynasty and right a wrong, the listener is living in a country embroiled in a war. The impacts of imperialism and diaspora is never far behind in this POV, particularly when the second person narrator relates that the tales of the Old Country are all but forgotten. This "you" even feels at times embarrassed by their attachment to these all but forgotten myths. It is tempting, at times, to skim these bits to get back to the main narrative, but this would be a mistake. The frame is worth paying attention to. 

The third person narration is the story itself, a tale that takes place many generations before the second person framing device. It is the story that is the heart of the book, centers primarily on the two main characters, Keema and Jun, who are on a quest to take a goddess across the world and bring down the reign of her tyrannical suns. Jun is haunted by memories of the deeds he did as one of his father's soldiers, the voices of those he killed, and regret for the person he had once been. Keema is an orphan, missing one arm, who desperately seeks human connection. We also get perspectives from, among others, a disabled telepathic tortoise, a moon goddess, a drunken warrior, a war criminal who is also a loving father, and a trinket seller. In a story that is sweeping and epic, Jimenez also lovingly renders even the smallest characters, so that I cared about each and every one of them. I was so emotionally invested in the fates of Keema and Jun, and the story moved me to tears many many times. 

the first person is a sort of chorus of personal experiences, the inner narratives, given in fragments, of the many characters, main, minor, and incidental (or are they?), who we encounter in the story's telling. The first person fragments add an intimacy and an immediacy to the epic story of a the felling of a tyrannical dynasty. They remind us of the smaller voices (the victims, the common people, the sex workers, the farmers, the merchants) that are often lost in grand narratives of war, tyranny, love, and redemption.

It is impossible to do this book justice in a review. The prose is superb, the structure is amazingly inventive, the characters are beautifully drawn, the themes are timeless. It is a love story, a redemption story, a war story, a liberation story, a cautionary tale, and a myth all rolled into one. It is hands down the best book I've read this year and one of the best books I've read in many years. It might take you a bit to get into it and adjust to the unconventional style, but it is well worth the investment.
Was this review helpful?
I was lucky enough to have read Simon Jimenez's other novel The Vanished Birds in 2019 before it was released and I still find myself dwelling on it now, having read at least 500 more books since. So, I jumped at the chance to read The Spear Cuts Through Water early and Jimenez is doing it like nobody else. Stunning, sweeping, grand, and soul-wrenching in the best way. The only negative is how hard to boil down a coherent synopsis and articulate how much it destroyed me. As a +200 book a year reader I know this book will be living in my head for years after most others are vague "I remember enjoying that book but can't remember anything else about it"
Was this review helpful?
This story is told in the mysterious inverted theater, outside of time and space. You are transported there with a spear in hand and your head full of stories. Stories your lola has told you about the old world. Performers enter the stage and begin to act out the five day journey of warriors Jun and Keema. They are tasked with delivering a dying god to her final destination across the old country. They face many obstacles and adversaries on their way. The author pushes the boundaries of storytelling in a way reminiscent of how stories are passed down through generations. This is a wondrous tale of family, duty, regret, and love.

I loved this book! Jimenez has such a way with words, I’d read his grocery lists. The writing is breathtaking, as are the characters. This book will require an open mind; The narration is done in second person for a good portion of the book. This invites the reader into the story in an incredibly unique way. If you like fantasy and myths, take a chance on this book. I promise it’s worth the leap.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book
Was this review helpful?