The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.

But that god cannot be contained forever.

With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

Both a sweeping adventure story and an intimate exploration of identity, legacy, and belonging, The Spear Cuts Through Water is an ambitious and profound saga that will transport and transform you—and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

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.


r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Weird Ecology (hard mode)
  • Standalone (hard mode)
  • Cool Weapon
  • Published in 2022
  • Time Fuckery (hard mode)
  • BIPOC Author
  • Biological Family Ties (hard mode)

Publication Date: 30 August 2022
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 544
Word Count: ~172,000
ISBN: 0593156595 
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

2 thoughts on “The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

  1. Awesome review… im actually glad that this works for both Ecology and timey wimey hard more because I’ve been wondering which ones to read for them 😊😊😊

    Like

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