ARC Review: SPEAR by Nicola Griffith (2022)

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: April 19th, 2022
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Bookstore | Libro.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Read a physical ARC from the publisher
Trigger/Content warning: death of a parent, fantasy violence, misogyny, discussions of infertility

Peretur grew up in a cave with her mom, Elen, without a name until she sees a band of knights and decides to go to Cair Leon where her destiny lies. There’s the lady of the lake, the sword in the stone, and the holy grail, remixed together in a swoony tale that fully honors its origins.

Romantic in a way only medieval romance can be, I really loved this exploration of the quest, the relationship between the chosen one and her mystical mother, and, ultimately, how much this story loves the women found within its pages.

On a prose level, this book has so many highlights. Griffith has such a command of long sentences with flowing clauses. This novella read like a dream, though with nice blips of reality and realism that root it firmly in an older time. There’s an attention to deal with chivalry in particular that makes for some great character moments and world-building.

The depiction of gender makes it clear that pretending to be a knight is mostly about personal safety for Peretur, but throughout the narrative, it’s clear that Griffith respects all the women in her story, from Gwynefar to Peretur to Nimue to Elen. I especially loved the relationship between Peretur and Nimue. There is mutual respect, vulnerability, and beautiful, repeated imagery around the cleanness of the lake in the context of consent around magic and sexuality. Corruption in this narrative has a lot to do with how magic is used and disrespected, rather than invented societal rules around sexuality and politeness. Myrddin sucks, and if you like narratives that punish men for their shitty decisions, you are in for a treat as well.

Overall, beautifully written with compelling characters and a neat story woven in its pages, with some incredible sentence work that I’ll definitely be revisiting.

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