Spear | Review
Rating - ⭐1/2
"The girl knows she has a destiny before she even knows her name. She grows up in the wild, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake come to her on the spring breeze, and when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she knows that her future lies at his court.
And so, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and, with a broken hunting spear and mended armour, rides on a bony gelding to Caer Leon. On her adventures she will meet great knights and steal the hearts of beautiful women. She will fight warriors and sorcerers. And she will find her love, and the lake, and her fate."
Spear is a standalone fantasy novel by Nicola Griffith.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Tor for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
I had a rough time reading this, for so many reasons. The majority of the early reviews are all extremely positive, so I wondered if I was reading the wrong book or something. Turns out, I was shooting myself in the foot because I didn't realize that this was a retelling of Arthurian Legends. Unfortunately for me, I don't mesh well with retellings as I never end up liking them, and this was no different.
I would take my review with a tiny grain of salt as I just couldn't get into this story (at all) but didn't want to put it down, so I wasn't in the best mood or headspace when reading this.
Let's get into the details.
I struggled with the way this was written right from the start and all the way through. There were no chapters in this, not even an opening one, so it just goes right into the story and keeps going until the end. I thought it was a rather abrupt and odd choice to format the story to not have chapters.
The story also started with a first line that made no sense to me. There were a couple of odd statements sprinkled throughout that I found to be oddly worded, such as the use of 'hard enamel blue of her eyes' as a descriptor. Overall, the writing, for me at least, was full of awkward sentences that didn't flow well and sounded like a badly written script or Shakespearean play.
This was written like it is coming from the perspective of a narrator and not the main character. A main character who did not have a name in the beginning and was referred to as 'The Girl', which was a bit annoying to have to read.
I simply didn't think the story was very interesting, which was sad considering the subject matter. The overall plot was a bit bland for me, and either nothing was happening or I was questioning why it was happening. It took a while for anything of substance to happen, which was an issue considering how short the book was. Even when the story started to pick up speed, I still wasn't interested in it.
I also found that the story went on a lot of tangents full of unnecessary descriptions. Considering how short this book is, I would have liked for some more, well, just more than what I got. For example, the opening for the story was a long tangent about what the girl does during the different seasons which wasn't very interesting to read about nor did it help set up the story.
In general, I felt very distant from the story, not necessarily because I don't connect with it (even though I didn't), but because I didn't feel like I was meant to. The way the story was written made me feel like I am not there in the present while it is happening, but am getting a second-hand account of it. It was almost like there was a wall between me and the story that I just couldn't breach.
The characters would have made a lot more sense had I realized early on that the author was using the Welsh names of the Arthurian figures. However, I did not realize that until very far along into the story and, by then, it was too late to change how this impacted the story. Figures like Merlin and Guinevere are indeed in this, but they went by Myrddyn and Gwenhwyfar, so it went right past me.
That aside, this story follows Peretur, also known as Peredur in Arthurian legend. I didn't think she was a very interesting main character to follow as I just didn't care about her or her journey. All of the characters were rather unmemorable which, again, was sad considering who they are.
In all honesty, if I had known this was a retelling then I wouldn't have picked this up.