Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

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Member Reviews

When presented with the choice: go big or go home, The Spear Cuts Through Water went big. In my opinion (and this is very much my opinion), the book went too big, and ultimately collapsed under its own weight. Any book reading is a collaborative experience between author and reader. The reader brings an open mind, their attention, and a willingness to suspend disbelief, and the author brings entertainment, emotional resonance, beauty and information. Ultimately, at the end of reading this book, I felt that it had asked for too much of me, and not given me enough.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is wildly ambitious and experimental, and I’m glad people are taking huge risks and trying new things--what a horrible stagnant genre speculative fiction would be if people weren’t. But when I say wildly experimental, I mean wildly. This book sometimes felt like Ulysses crossed with Game of Thrones. The story involves no fewer than three nested narratives. One is a grandmother telling stories to her grandson, one is that grandson dreaming of an underwater theater, and finally the story of the play put on in that underwater theater. One part of the story of the underwater theater is told by a consciousness that is split between two organic bodies. It takes place over five days and five centuries. And there’s almost no guide rails to help a reader. For example, in the play, many characters wear animal masks and are referred to as the epithet of the animal depicted, so when I met a turtle, I assumed that this was a person wearing a turtle mask. But five pages later, it became clear that no, this turtle was actually a talking turtle, not a person.

Trying to keep all these threads untangled and clear in my mind took a tremendous amount of effort, and unfortunately, it impacted my experience reading this book. While I was reading this book it mostly felt like work. It was not an enjoyable experience. It required such intense focus and dealt with such unpleasant subject matter for large chunks that I felt like I was doing homework. Which actually made me think that this feels like a book that would benefit from being taught by a really good teacher. I think that I just needed more help than this book was willing to give me, which is a shame, because there were some really good parts.

I think the world building in this book is as wildly original as the book is ambitious, and I just wish I hadn’t had to work so hard to crack this particular nut. There’s some lovely gay and disabled representation, and some lovely sentences. Ultimately, though, I have to come down on the side of “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.” I give this book 2 stars, but if you're curious give it a try, because if I was going to make one bet about this book it would be that it will be divisive, and it’s just as likely you may love it.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (Which they certainly got.)
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Simon Jiminez has worked his magic once more. His second work does not disappoint, personally - it exceeded my expectations. 

There’s just so much to say and I’m not sure if I have the right words to express how much I enjoyed reading this. 

This author has a distinct way of writing and in this novel, one is able to really appreciate how unique and special it is. His first novel feels like a warm-up in comparison to what he does here. The storytelling had a surreal and fanciful quality to it, and is unlike anything I have read: the world building with the rich descriptions and the colorful characters was beautifully done. I also appreciated the attention given to as many individuals as possible, no matter how minor, even if only a sentence or two was written about them - it added depth to the story. Also the use of italics was a brilliant touch. 

Overall, it read like an epic with its whimsical, fantastical elements and as someone who has always loved mythology and folklore, that aspect really appealed to me. I felt like I was sitting in the inverted theater, seeing this lovely tale play out in front of my eyes.

It’s not your typical fast paced read and may not lock you in immediately, but your patience will pay off because the build-up, the climax and the plot in general was satisfying. 

I do want to emphasize though that the best way to approach this novel is to have no expectations and to simply go along with where the narrator(s) take you. 

The only minor critiques I have are that some bits of the dialogue seemed to be a deviation from the overall style of the writing and occasionally- the story and surreal elements did get a bit confusing, making it difficult to follow exactly what was going on. But neither took away from the experience of reading the book and I will eagerly await whatever Simon Jiminez writes next!

Thank you to the publisher for granting my wish on NetGalley and giving me (my first!) ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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What. A. Novel. Simon Jimenez is operating on another level with The Spear Cuts Through Water. This is an evocative tale that beautifully blends fantasy, reality, and fable into a perfect package. To summarize the plot here would deprive you of the wonderful journey that awaits you once you crack open the first page.

Jimenez simultaneously (and effectively) tells multiple nested stories, while exploring the nature of identity, love, and intergenerational trauma. The book is unwavering in its commitment to its characters, its story, and its structure. And it’s told with such fierce confidence and love that I was totally mesmerized from start to finish.

If The Vanished Birds (also excellent) didn’t put Jimenez on the map, The Spear Cuts Through Water definitely will. This is a special book.
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Simon Jimenez's second novel is an intricate, moving work. Such a complex world inhabited by talking creatures and magic. His characters are so well described and understood by the reader. The asides and POV jumping, many times within the same paragraph, builds an empathy for all the characters in the story, minor characters or not.
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An absolute MASTERPIECE!!! In 2020 Simon Jimenez brought us “The Vanished Birds” and I named it my #1 book of the year and one of my favorite novels of all time. Now he has brought us “The Spear Cuts Through Water” and it’s hard to put the right words together to describe this, but it is One of the greatest works of fantasy I’ve ever read and a new all time favorite. It’s unlike any work of fiction I’ve read before. The prose is mind bogglingly beautiful. The structure feels fresh, alive and brand new. This is a story that will consume and entrance you. It will invade your mind and your heart. It will leave you in wonder and awe of the genius and the Talent that is Simon Jimenez. Buy it! It is an undeniable triumph!! Thank you to Netgalley for this ARC!
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The Spear Cuts Through Water is the newest Adult Fantasy novel by Simon Jimenez that centers on the epic story of the fall of the rule of a royal family. The Spear Cuts through water is an incredible exploration of themes like tyranny, guilt, redemption and family that utilizes storytelling in an incredibly inventive fashion. 

“This is a tale of your land,
And the spear that cuts through it.”

	As a huge fan of Jimenez’s previous novel, The Vanished Birds, I was incredibly excited about an upcoming adult fantasy novel from him. Upon seeing the premise, my excitement only grew. Needless to say, The Spear Cuts Through Water did not disappoint. It is in fact, my absolute favorite release of 2022 so far. 

This is one of the most creative stories I’ve read. I think the word ‘creative’ often loses meaning and becomes a definition-less umbrella term, but in the case of The Spear Cuts Through Water, it is, in every sense, the most fitting word. The narrative is  strikingly imaginative, unpredictable, and often self-indulgent in the best ways possible. During a period when most books seem to follow overly familiar tropes and plot structures and what we call Western storytelling structure, this book feels like a breath of fresh air. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this, or anything remotely similar. For that alone, I cannot help but give my highest praise to The Spear Cuts Through Water.

When you read this novel, it feels like you’ve been given a puzzle that you need to unravel layer by layer, until it all makes perfect sense. Each layer of The Spear Cuts Through Water  strategically opens new insight about the world, the lore and characters of the story and each layer feels so personal. It takes time to start piecing everything together and the experience feels incredibly immersive, as the reader becomes the viewer of a play —part of the audience in the Inverted Theater. 

The novel combines several plotlines at once, ranging from small and deeply personal to overarching grand narratives that blend seamlessly together. The general plot is rather straightforward—exactly what the premise suggests, but as each facet of the story becomes more and more developed, the narrative grows in its depth, scale and emotional impact. The journey of Keema, Jun and the Moon Goddess feels grand, urgent yet also intimate, quiet and personal; it goes in a dozen different, unexpected directions, each new turn more exciting and emotional than the last.  One of my favorite aspects of the plot is the inclusion of the theater, and the audience being part of the reading experience as well; at first it felt a little bizarre, but honestly it creates a whole new dimension that allows us to view the story through a more dramatic lens. 

I am always in awe of Jimenez’s character work. Just like other aspects of his writing, his character work feels subtle until you realize how much you end up caring for even episodic characters. I got so ridiculously invested in characters that would take up just a few pages with one single task to accomplish —Jimenez manages to create a compelling character in what seems, a matter of a page or two. The main characters, of course, steal the show. I absolutely love Keema and Jun, I love their dynamic and how it develops throughout the story. The secondary characters of the novel are very interesting as well; we end up meeting a rather large cast of characters throughout the story and Jimenez manages to make them all feel so alive. 


The Spear Cuts Through Water is incredibly well-written. Jimenez’s prose and how he manages to twist and bend language is one of his greatest strengths. I was initially skeptical about usage of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person povs, but Simon Jimenez combined them incredibly well; it was such a novelty to see 2nd and 1st person povs interchange in a single paragraph, but somehow it not only worked, but made the reading experience more interesting. We hear the voices of people who often remain ‘voiceless’ in epic stories of such grandeur —in The Spear Cuts Through the importance of those voices is emphasized not only in the plot and character work, but also the prose. Jimenez’s writing feels effortless and smooth and still manages to pack a punch. His prose is magical—never overly flowery, it’s quiet and heartfelt but also sharp and violent and so effective. 
	
The only aspect of the book that could be viewed as a pitfall is the amount of violence and gore that can seem grotesque and excessive at times. However, for me it wasn’t really much of an issue as the use of gore and violence in my opinion, mattered when it came to fleshing out the themes of the novel. 

I love this book. I care deeply about the story of Keema, Jun and the Old Country told through the lens of  Inverted Theater. That being said, I believe this book is far from being everyone’s cup of tea. I’m almost sure a lot of people will find it excruciatingly slow (and the pace is Quite slow), maybe even boring, overly convoluted and at times confusing, excessively violent and a plethora of other things. So, my advice would be, go into this novel with no expectations (the less you know the better), be patient with this book and trust the narrative; it takes a while to get into it but it is so worth it. (And make sure to check the trigger warnings)

I went into The Spear Cuts Through Water with very high expectations, and I loved every part of this book. The characters, the depth of their stories, the themes and the world of The Spear Cuts Through Water are compelling, well thought out and utterly bewitching. This novel can be subtle, grotesque, emotional and fun; it is an incredibly ambitious and beautifully executed idea(or a multitude of ideas). The Spear Cuts Through Water is brilliant and I sincerely hope it finds its audience. Simon Jimenez’s work blew me away yet again and I cannot wait to see what he does next!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader's copy of The Spear Cuts Through Water.
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While I really enjoyed the author's previous novel THE VANISHED BIRDS, I had a harder time getting into this one. Don't get me wrong, the writing is absolutely beautiful and the prose is top tier. Really gorgeous stuff here. But the story itself was a little too complicated and confusing for me, and I was left wanting a more straight-forward story. Other readers are sure to enjoy the complexity though!
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As its blurb warns, this book will be like no fantasy you’ve read before, and that’s far from a bad thing. I thought The Spear Cuts Through Water was excellent, and rated it 4.5 stars. I also think it’s very hard to describe. Imagine a story told in a theater, and you are a member of the audience (yes, a portion of this book is told in second person, but even if you aren’t a fan of second person I urge you to suspend your distaste; it works here). The subject of this play is the story of an ancient myth, and that myth is real and forms the basis of the tale. It’s told both as the main story and as ‘you’ remember it being told by your grandmother, against the backdrop of some nameless war that takes place centuries after that tale. The whole thing is enlivened by a chorus of ghosts. There are talking animals, fantastically realized mythologies, and world-building so detailed you feel like you’re traveling within the tale as you read it. It’s not for the those who like their fantasy glossy and warmhearted; when Jimenez introduces us to the Emperor and his terrible sons, he does not hesitate to show us, again and again, how terrible they and the machinery of their power truly are. There is a lot of violence. But it is also a hopeful tale; epic and at the same time contained, giving a lot of credit to the ordinary, the day to day. It does not sweep human tragedy under the rug, either. If you’ve ever read a fantasy epic and wondered: How can an entire army just go poof? Jimenez’s chorus of ghosts is there to remind you at every turn that the characters whose deaths merit mere sentences are as living and as real (within the story world) as any person who gets a tale told about them. Perhaps if you like second person (Harrow the Ninth), or story-within-a-story narration (The Night Circus), you’ll like this. But I struggle to compare it to other books; I think only that it’s worth picking up.
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5/5/ 10/10
Jimenaz is unrivaled. The prose in this book alone is worth the cost and chance taken should you go into this book totally blind like I did with Vanished Birds. Though dark at times, this was surprisingly inspiring and I felt like I wanted to re-read it as soon as I turned the last page. Thank you so much for providing me with an ARC Net Galley! Jimenaz has become a favorite author of mine and I look forward to my video review of this on my channel, Wicked Good Books, closer to the release date!
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A sprawling, visionary masterpiece from the unconventional mind of Simon Jimenez. If, like me, you are a fantasy reader constantly yearning for a dose of true originality in the genre, The Spear Cuts Through Water is the book for you, paying homage to ancient visual and oral traditions of storytelling in a way that makes the story leap off the page. The whole narrative is presented from the perspective on an unnamed character watching a play in the dreamlike realm of the Inverted Theater. It follows the story of two warriors who lived hundreds of years before his time. The narrative bounces between the deeply intimate journey shared by the two men across thousands of miles and a string of unspeakable tragedies, to the life of our young unnamed narrator living in the future that their actions helped to shape. The range of the story encompases a staggering amount of time but never feels oppressive: Jimenez unspools the history of this fantasy country as if it were reality and grounds the major events through the eyes of characters we grow to care about and relate too. 

Dance is both literally and metaphorically at the heart of this novel: performed on stage by the actors from the inverted theater, acted by the warriors as they wrestle and spar and fight for their lives and each other, expressed as markings on the eponymous spear as it is passed from person to person. Jimenez presents it as a tool of hope and freedom and much as resistance and protest, and further channels it through the meticulously choreographed story structure and deliberate, poetic prose. I especially loved Jimenez' use of italics to break up the flow of the narrative and give tiny snapshots into the minds of random people around the protagonists, harnessing human emotion as a vehicle for deepening the story and revealing more about the world. 

This was SUCH an emotional read, ugly and cathartic and difficult and beautiful all in equal measure. At one point, the narrator's grandmother tells him that this story is " a love story....down to the blade-dented bone." This is true not only in the compelling, evolving relationship between the two protagonists but also between the other characters: parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, old friends and old flames. It observes love as an incredible force for both good and evil, pushing people to commit unspeakable acts even as it encourages them to do wonderful things,
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Spectacular style. This is my first contact with this author but it made me curious about his other works. The writing is unique,envolving, and combined with the story of the characters' journey will keep you engaged. But it is not a type of book for impatient readers. It's quite complex, slow but worth it
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5/5 stars
Recommended for people who like: fantasy, epics, grand adventures, complicated morality, LGBTQ+ characters, disabled rep, multiple POVs

This review has been posted to Goodreads and Instagram as of 5/15 and has been posted to my book review blog as of 5/17.

This story gets off to somewhat of a slow start, but once it picks up it really picks up. The beginning orients you to the setting and the background of 'you,' the person who has been brought to the Inverted Theater to hear this story. Once the story within the story begins, that's when the adventures and magic begin.

It's told in 2nd POV, which also takes some getting used to, but it works well for the book and as things get going it kind of fades out. There were also a handful of 'other' POVs in 3rd limited. Much of the story focused on Jun and Keema, but there are a handful of different POVs in the book, so we get to see/hear from the heroes and the villains and the people somewhere in between. I liked being able to see so many different perspectives. In some ways, being able to know what the villains were thinking made them that much more horrible, the desire for the heroes to succeed that much more powerful.

I liked both Jun and Keema. Jun is more complicated than Keema is, but even knowing what he's done in the past, it's hard not to like him. Jun starts off as somewhat of a mysterious figure, but he's actually revealed pretty quickly once he and Keema are traveling together. Jun definitely has a lot of regrets from his life prior to teaming up with the Moon. He has the added burden of the (literal) voices of his victims whispering in his head about his wrongdoings and how he'll get his due. All things considered, I think Jun actually handles things pretty well. He sticks to his new convictions and only when absolutely necessary does he raise a sword to others, and only after a couple false starts.

Keema is more open from the beginning. He ends up traveling with Jun and the moon mostly by coincidence, as he gets tasked to deliver a special spear to someone. He's got an easy nature despite having had a tough time of things, though he's just as determined to stick to his convictions as Jun is. I liked reading both of their POVs, but I do think I liked Keema's more, if only because he's somewhat less stressed than Jun is for most of the book.

The relationship between the two men is fun to read too, and goes from distrusting travel companions to friends in arms to lovers. I wasn't sure what to expect when their meeting involved, essentially, beating the shit out of one another, but they end up getting along fine. Jun and Keema actually work pretty well together, and by the end you would never know that they only met that week. Five days is instalove, but it's a bit more forgivable when it's done like this, where there's stakes and tension and a build-up of distrust to respect to friendship then to love.

The moon, too, was a complicated character. Unlike Jun, she was hard to like even though she was working to fix her past mistakes and give the people their own say. Where Jun felt genuine remorse and strove to do better, the moon was still cruel. Still perfectly fine hurting people. But I liked her addition in the story and think that her hard nature actually works well. It's a good example of how people can sometimes do good things while not being wholly good themselves, as well as how people can do 'good' things while being self-serving.

Against all odds, I actually liked the Defect too while he was in the story. He definitely came off as obnoxious at first, but the way he drew joy from even the simplest of things was endearing, especially considering how he wanted not just that joy, but also to share it with the other telepathic tortoises.

The Terrors were interesting to read about as well. The First Terror was bloodthirsty, determined to cut down the throne's enemies and eventually rule the land with his sons as his army. His skill was with his weapons and his power to control nature. While terrifying enough, those are physical things. Floods can be swum through, fire can (eventually) be put out. The Second Terror was, unbelievably, even worse. It is one thing to have power and want more, it is another thing entirely to have power and feel neglected and entitled for more power. Unfortunately, the Second Terror is also the one with the power to telepathically control people. He can, and does, make people do terrible things they would never otherwise do. The Third Terror is actually someone I feel bad for. It's a good example of making prophecies come true by the actions you take to avoid them. The Third Terror also feels neglected, but instead of yearning for power, he just yearns for attention and love. But love can be a poison, and despite his childishness, the Third Terror is no less terrifying than the others.

I really enjoyed this book and the journey it took. I like that we get to see the entire country in one fell swoop and that there's variety between being at court vs. at the gates vs. on the rivers vs. in the Divine City. The settings are different and the people are different. Jimenez also added so many little details that really gave the story an added history and makes it all feel more real.
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My mind has been blown by The Spear Cuts Theough Water. This is one of the most incredible novels I have read in a very long time. Six out of five stars.

This is a book that, superficially, tells the tale of two young warriors, who are given the task of carrying a spear through a mythical land, with the goal of giving it to a soldier. All they know of this person is a name, and nothing more. While we are reading the story, it is also simultaneously taking place in the Inverted Theater, located out of space and time. And we are also reading about the descendants of the people of this country who are also telling the story. 

Yes, the plot sounds confusing., but the unique structure of The Spear Cuts Through Water brings all those strands together. The beauty of the writing just took my breath away many times. As other reviewers have noted, the book requires patience. This is not a book for someone looking for a quick read. But the reward is the pleasure of reading a novel that brings a sense of wonder and amazement, and brought me joy in the discovery of a superb novel.

My thanks to Random House and to Netgalley for an ARC of the book.
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(Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.)

Spoiler-Free Summary: "You" are pulled out of your day to day world and into the Inverted Theater, carrying only memories of your lola's stories, and a spear that has been passed down for generations. The show? The 5 day journey of Keema of the Daware Tribe and Jun the Red Peacock as they cross the country carrying precious cargo and running from the Terrors of a crumbling empire. Along the way, they must contend with magic like they've never seen before, talking telepathic tortoises, the unbearable pressure of family and legacy, and the very Rhythm of the World itself.

Where do I even start with this book?

First of all, I loved it. This book takes its reader through dreams, into a magical theater, across countries, into the spirit world and out again. It spans lifetimes, but also only five days. Its language is lyrical and poetic but also incredibly blunt, gory, and gruesome. Its genre bending in its style, use of multiple perspectives and constant shifting through time and space, but is also solidly Epic Fantasy in nature. And I was hooked with every page. The characters are tragic but joyful and though so many terrible things happen in this book, it is a love story at its heart.

However, it may not be for everyone! That isn't even necessarily a bad thing; this book knows who its ideal audience is. The "chapters" read more like sections or Books within the book itself. If you are the kind of reader who likes to finish a chapter before setting the book down, be prepared for long stretches of reading. The story itself is intricate and can sometimes be confusing! Because the point of view can change at a moment's notice between paragraphs (and even sometimes int he middle of the sentence), it took me a moment to settle into while also paying attention to who's thought I was hearing. After the first fourth of the book however, it became natural to hear the important passing thoughts of those our main characters pass during the story–it fleshed the world out and made every experience in the Smiling Sun's empire all the more real. That being said, definitely confusing at times!

Overall, this book touched me deeply. I will admit to crying at least twice while reading this book. The themes of family, legacy, redemption, and love were poignant and left me thinking every time I managed to put the book down. If you are looking for a rollercoaster of a book that will never go the direction you think it will, I highly recommend this upcoming release! 4.25/5 stars.
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one of the most incredible, original, unparalleled books i've ever read in my life. 

this is extraordinary storytelling that breaks expectations and conventions to deliver us a fantasy story like it's rarely been told before. the spear cuts through water feels like a love letter to oral storytelling traditions and folk tales passed down through generations. the narrative is like a performance in every sense - alongside the fact that the story is acted out as a play in a magical theatre, the writing style is raw, atmospheric, visceral, rhythmic. it absorbs you so easily into the magic and horror of this world that i feel like i've lived a lifetime with these characters in the old country. 

the main plot is actually fairly straightforward: two young warriors are tasked with a quest to escort a dying god across a fractured land in order to end the tyrannical reign of an emperor and his sons. but the narrative goes through so many twists, turns and deviations and is, at its core, a love story between two violent, broken men. even through all the carnage and brutality, there's a love (between family, between lovers) that continues to root the story in the promise of hope and redemption. 

the character work is honestly stunning - i'm in awe of how simon jimenez manages to make us care for characters in the shortest amount of time possible. all he needs are a handful of pages to bring characters so completely to life. i'm so attached to our main heroes and i love how we're taken through the lowest, ugliest points of their lives as well as their most joyful moments. they're going to stay with me for a long time.  

and it's not just the protagonists - we get to hear snippets of thoughts from almost every single person who appears in the story, down to the most insignificant villager. these first-person style thoughts are interwoven so naturally into the narrative that it never feels like they're interrupting the tale - instead, they enhance the theatricality of the story, as if an entire cast of performers is narrating the events from the background. 

there's a level of unhinged insanity here that i've missed reading in epic fantasy - the climax is absolutely heart-poundingly wild and the ending is so satisfying and emotional and beautiful, i could barely contain my feelings when i finished. 

however, i can't emphasize enough: this is NOT a book for everyone. it's a heavy, dense story that requires you to be patient and open-minded and is simply not written for mass appeal. the story takes place on multiple layers of a story within a story. the narrative uses all three POVs (first, second and third) often at the same time and it does make for a challenging read. i won't lie, there were times i got frustrated with the narrative and where the plot was going. but ultimately for me, the challenge was worth it and the book rewards your efforts with a truly exceptional reading experience.

simon jimenez is in a league of his own and i can't wait to see what he does next.
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**Thank you for the ARC!! All opinions are completely my own.**

4.75-5 stars. A spell-binding myth of epic proportions. Bewitchingly magical, masterfully woven, and deeply enchanting.

SUMMARY (spoiler-free): We follow two troubled warriors as they guide an ancient god across a crumbling kingdom that is ruled by tyrannical, monstrous royals who wield powers of the gods. On the other side of the ocean, we meet a mysterious narrator who, seemingly guided by Fate, is drawn to the magical Inverted Theater that exists outside the realm of time and space. 

THOUGHTS: I am shell-shocked. I am totally blown away. Like other reviewers have said, this is an incredible masterpiece that is like no other. It is beautiful and it is honest. It is gritty and it is idyllic. It is powerful and gripping in a way that made me feel as though I couldn't breathe, blink, or look away. Its world is so subtly and masterfully crafted that I was just swept away by its strong tides. Its perspectives are skillfully interwoven so as to not disrupt the pacing of the story (and yes, there is INTRIGUING second person point of view, and it only serves to make the story more intimate). It is its own original experience, ebbing and flowing languidly. 

Anyone willing to take a deep dive into the Inverted Theater will be flooded with all types of emotions. You will be deeply rewarded, shocked, horrified, and moved. You will stumble out of the Inverted Theater with your heart feeling like it was utterly plundered in a way you did not know you could feel before. You will leave the Inverted Theater and exit its pages but as far as you go, you will always linger at the Inverted Theater in mind and spirit. 

TLDR; An incredible, masterful fantasy that reads like a beautifully woven legend. Bravo!
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The Vanished Birds is genuinely among my favorite books (full stop), and I swore that the moment I was able, I would read whatever Simon Jimenez put to the page next - and in this case the moment I was granted that opportunity happened to be among the stress of the final days of classes and finals, but true to my word I spent most of my free time (and time that wasn't really free but was bloated with procrastination and obligations I partially ignored) pacing through this epic of a novel, a novel that lends itself well to reading one day at a time - a day in the novel, a day in reality. This is all to say that I was admittedly predisposed to liking this novel, but that also meant that my expectations were exceedingly high.

Needless to say, such expectations were met, and it's hard to know what exactly to say of this novel. Maybe I can talk about it only in abstractions, and talk about how many times chills took over my body as I read, especially as each day ended, and I felt compelled to shut the book (in spirit; I read it as an eARC) and let the ending of a section stand as an ending of its own before continuing on to the vast story that still awaited. Much of what made The Vanished Birds great from a stylistic level is here to some degree, though this is a very different novel, and it emphasizes some elements that were quieter in The Vanished Birds while leaning not so heavily on elements that The Vanished Birds brandished outwardly.

The prose is consistently beautiful and holds weight, the unusual structure plays perfectly into the ebb and flow of the novel - and while the novel is rather long and split up into sections spanning probably almost a hundred pages apiece, I have to say that I wouldn't have expected a novel that is supposedly 550 pages to feel so short. But you can still feel the weight of each of those 550 pages, and like with Jimenez's previous novel, every moment is vital to the very end, building a symphony of emotion in which no one piece can be trivialized or left out.

I can't remember the last time I read a pure fantasy novel, but Simon Jimenez truly is a master of genre. His previous novel transcended the science fiction genre but still paid reverence to it, being a space opera of sorts, simply an emotionally and stylistically heightened one. This does the same for fantasy, and every element of the fantasy world Jimenez has constructed is vividly realized, constructing a vast mythology with worldbuilding not just for the sake of worldbuilding but rather as, again, a piece of a greater whole. The interspersed first-person explorations of the thoughts of various characters, some no more significant than someone passed on the street, are a testament to the living, breathing, empathetic-yet-cruel world this novel takes place in.

I will be thinking of the Inverted Theater for a long time to come.
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This book is a strong contender for my favorite read of 2022, it is definitely my favorite book so far. I will be keeping an eye out for the physical book to get a copy for my shelves and for more by Jimenez as in joyed the writing style s much.
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Simon Jimenez writes so beautifully and unlike anyone else, really. Even so I struggled to get into this because it *is* written so differently. I had to stick with it, which to be honest isn't hard when every sentence, every description, is this great mix of conversational and poetic. The subject may not be clear at first, the plot hazy, the characters painted in soft strokes. Your brain, like mine, might struggle a bit and say, "Just explain it!" But then about 30% in it hits you, everything coalesces, and you're hooked. You can't put it down. Reading this book made me go online and order his first book for a few friends, because I realize now that Simon Jimenez is one of my favorite authors and more people need to read him. 

This is a tale of two warriors, Keema of the Daware tribe and Jun a red peacock. It is a tale of gods, of a merchant's son, of tortoises networked to each other. It is a tale of the ocean, and a theatre full of dancers and actors playing parts. It is a tale of love, of friendship. Of terrors (three) imbued with the magic of gods. 

It will possibly make you cry. It made me gasp, at times, and grin, and highlight passage after passage. One of my favorites is a moment when Jun and Keema fight. I've chopped it up a bit because I don't want to spoil anything. It's just brilliant. All of it. Read this book. 

“If one were to stop these young men and ask them why they sparred with such violence, they would struggle for an answer.... But the truth of the matter was they fought because Jun was grieving and Keema was terrified and Jun was exhilarated and Keema was joyful and Jun was exhausted and Keema was repulsed.
They fought because it was the easiest language they spoke.”
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This cover, is stunning. The writing, is BEAUTIFUL. And the characterization is absolutely wonderful. I can't wait to own a physical copy of this one.
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