Review: The Spear Cuts Through Water

Title: The Spear Cuts Through Water (August 30, 2022)
Author: Simon Jimenez
Pages: 544


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.

★★★★★
✪ SPECULATIVE SHELF STARRED BOOK

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Top 10 Books of 2021

10. Elder Race

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The concept alone (and the gorgeous cover) drew me to this novella, but the plot gets turned on its head almost immediately with a delicious bait and switch…a good reminder of what an interesting writer Tchaikovsky has become.

FULL REVIEW


9. The Fall of Babel

The Books of Babel #4
by Josiah Bancroft

Bancroft’s prose continues to possess a unique flavor with dashes of charm, wit, biting humor, and heart that are unmatched by others in the genre…all of the elements coalesced into something wondrous and satisfying in the end…The Books of Babel is one of the greatest fantasy series I’ve ever read.

FULL REVIEW


8. The Bone Ship’s Wake

The Tide Child #3
by R.J. Barker

This final book is just the cherry on top of a thrilling and bloody pirate sundae. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a magnificent seafaring adventure trilogy.

FULL REVIEW


7. Notes from the Burning Age

by Claire North

This is a book of loss and devastation, what remains, and what grows from the ashes of a broken world. North brings this plausible dystopian world to life with stark imagery and elegant prose…I had not read any of North’s work prior to this novel, but I’ve come away impressed and excited to see what she writes next.

FULL REVIEW


6. A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Monk & Robot #1
by Becky Chambers

Chambers storytelling style is straightforward and without frills, but the overall result is quite affecting. I’m eager for future adventures with Dex and Mosscap and learning more about the world of Panga.

FULL REVIEW


5. The Councillor

by E. J. Beaton

What an outstanding debut novel. Lysande is a gem of a main character in a high fantasy world that feels familiar yet fresh. Beaton weaves an intricate plot packed to the brim with tantalizing ingredients – underground secret societies, complex political maneuvering, passionate romance, dastardly treachery, and forbidden magic.

FULL REVIEW

Our interview with E.J. Beaton


4. Brothers of the Wind

The Osten Ard Saga
by Tad Williams

This was a wonderful novella that I struggled to put down…This will be more rewarding for those with preexisting knowledge of Osten Ard, but I think this works really well as a standalone story, too. For me, this is one of my favorite books of the year.

FULL REVIEW


3. We Have Always Been Here

by Lena Nguyen

A gripping sci-fi thriller that twisted in unexpected directions and kept me hooked all the way to the end. There’s a real palpable tension and delirium infused into Nguyen’s writing that enhances what could have been a straightforward thriller into something much deeper, sharper, and stranger. I’m excited to see what Nguyen writes next, as this was an excellent debut.

FULL REVIEW

Our interview with Lena Nguyen


2. Idols Fall

Iconoclasts #3
by Mike Shel

This is a masterful conclusion to an outstanding series. Shel is a truly gifted storyteller and he’s woven a trilogy-capping book that is dark, twisty, funny, wholly satisfying, and bloody brilliant…major emphasis on the “bloody.” There’s so much fantasy goodness packed into the pages here: demonic possession, talking swords, beasts from hell, false gods, geopolitical conflict, cults, and of course, a dangerous expedition into an ancient cursed ruin. 

FULL REVIEW


1. Jade Legacy

The Green Bone Saga #3
by Fonda Lee

Engrossing, unpredictable, and heart-wrenching through to the final page – Jade Legacy is a worthy capstone to an incredible trilogy. I can confidently say that Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is a modern fantasy classic and I feel lucky to have come across such a special series.

FULL REVIEW


Top 10 Books of 2020

10. The Empire of Gold

by S.A. Chakraborty

…brings this expansive trilogy to a rousing conclusion…Chakraborty’s writing continues to impress and it flows beautifully once again in this book. …this trilogy is such an impressive achievement. FULL REVIEW


9. Riot Baby

by Tochi Onyebuchi

…visceral, staggering, and powerful…a satisfying read that packs quite a bit of fire into its limited page count. FULL REVIEW


8. Nophek Gloss

by Essa Hansen

Exciting, Inventive, and packed with imaginative ideas – Hansen’s debut space opera is the coolest novel I’ve read in some time. It’s hard science fiction at its finest. FULL REVIEW


7. The Obsidian Tower

by Melissa Caruso

…I had a really fun time with this book. Each page crackles with magic. Caruso’s writing flows well and moves the narrative forward at a swift pace with a steady stream of action and court intrigue throughout.  FULL REVIEW


6. Call of the Bone Ships

by RJ Barker

Barker absolutely stuck the landing with this second book of the Tide Child trilogy...Every moment spent voyaging through Barker’s Scattered Archipelago is incredibly satisfying. I highly recommend this series. FULL REVIEW


5. Piranesi

by Susanna Clarke

It was a real delight to be lost in the labyrinthian walls of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi…this is a cracking good read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a brief escape to a more hopeful world. FULL REVIEW


4. Greenwood

by Michael Christie

Add this title to the growing trend of excellent books about trees that have sprouted up in recent years….Christie’s prose is beautifully composed and his descriptions of nature are stunning. I’d recommend this to any lover of nature or fan of epic family sagas.  FULL REVIEW


3. The House in the Cerulean Sea

by TJ Klune

TJ Klune has written something truly wonderful here – a positively delightful book that warms the heart and soul. Each page brims with life and joy and it gives me hope for a better world. I’m not sure what else you can ask for from a book. FULL REVIEW


2. The Vanished Birds

by Simon Jimenez

This is an exceptional debut novel. Simon Jimenez is clearly a skilled storyteller and is an exciting new voice in science fiction. His prose is beautiful and in The Vanished Birds he seamlessly weaves multiple threads into a tightly-plotted tour de force…[It’s] a profound and deeply human story told on an epic scale across millennia. I loved it. FULL REVIEW


1. Black Sun

by Rebecca Roanhorse

This is pitch perfect epic fantasy. Everything works so well together — propulsive pacing, exceptional characters, excellent world-building, and a fascinating mix of cultures, politics, religion, and lore…one of the best books of 2020. FULL REVIEW


Review: Piranesi

PiranesiTitle: Piranesi (2020)
Author: Susanna Clarke
Pages: 272


It was a real delight to be lost in the labyrinthian walls of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. Clarke’s dizzying descriptions of endless hallways, vestibules, and staircases was disorienting but also mesmerizing.

Piranesi, our kindhearted and peculiar main character, is a wonderful window into this world. There are many mysteries that surround him and the maze he finds himself in. Clarke answers more of these riddles than felt necessary, but ultimately, this is a cracking good read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a brief escape to a more hopeful world.

★★★★¼ out of 5

Review: Greenwood

GreenwoodTitle: Greenwood (2020)
Author: Michael Christie
Pages: 528


Stretching from the near future to the distant past…and then back again, Greenwood tells a beautiful multi-generational story of love, loss, and the meaning of family in all shapes and forms. 

Add this title to the growing trend of excellent books about trees that have sprouted up in recent years. Author Michael Christie shines a light on humanity’s relationship with trees through the eyes of each main character. Some fight for the preservation and protection of trees at all costs, some craft beautiful art from their component parts, and some heavily exploit them in the name of capitalism. Ultimately, Greenwood speculates a future “Great Withering” of Earth’s trees as rapid climate changes leave our towering friends vulnerable and dying.
Greenwood Ring Structure
Christie cleverly uses the cross-section of a tree trunk to organize the nested storytelling structure. Each subsequent section feels tangentially related to the section before it, but as the connections between events and characters become more clear, the full picture emerges, especially in the back half of the book, where we revisit each era once again. I slowly worked my way through this novel and found myself fully immersed in each individual character and story. Christie’s prose is beautifully composed and his descriptions of nature are stunning. I’d recommend this to any lover of nature or fan of epic family sagas.

★★★★½ out of 5

 

Review: Sea of Rust

32617610Title: Sea of Rust (2017)
Author: C. Robert Cargill
Pages: 416

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Brittle, a lone Caregiver robot, scavenges for functioning parts in the desolate Sea of Rust. Along her journey she encounters factions of robots that have differing visions of how the post-human world should be. It’s marketed as something akin to The Martian, but it feels much more like a quirkier story out of The Terminator universe.

This was an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The story jumps between pre- and post-robot uprising and I found myself more invested in the chapters that described the history of the world before the apocalypse versus the present day narrative. Every aspect of this “what-if” world is well thought out and nicely conveyed to the reader.

For a story about metal automatons and artificial intelligence, Sea of Rust employs a surprising amount of emotional heft. Brittle’s tale is one of angst, loss, and survival. I couldn’t help drawing parallels to The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis, a favorite of mine that dives even deeper into the psyche of robotkind and explores what it really means to have free will. Sea of Rust is not at that level, but it is a serviceable and enjoyable ride nonetheless.

★★★¼ out of 5

Review: American War

American WarTitle: American War (2017)
Author: Omar El Akkad
Pages: 352

Omar El Akkad’s debut novel is an inventive and timely story that uses the framework of what we understand about the United States today and extrapolates a possible horrifying future. A collection of states in the Deep South has attempted secession due to their refusal to cease using fossil fuels. Sarat Chestnut is young girl growing up in a refugee camp within these Free Southern States, while deadly conflict between the Blue (North) and Red (South) explodes all around her. American War explores the future consequences of many of today’s hot-button political issues: drone warfare, torture, climate change, nativism, the American political divide, and several others.

The worldbuilding El Akkad employs is extremely effective. Many things about this dystopian future are clearly communicated to the reader (a redrawn map of the United States, primary source documents) and the rest is interwoven in a subtle way that requires a small mental step to fully appreciate — a character references a Category 6 storm that passes through (oh, there are now storms bigger than a Category 5?) or discussions of the fighting craze “Yuffsy” (an evolved version of the pseudo-sound-alike “UFC”).

Sarat’s unrelenting personal narrative wasn’t quite as compelling to me as the overall world that she inhabited, but this was still a really impressive debut; it just never quite got over the hump to go from “good” to “great.” I would welcome another book set in this world, but I’d happily read anything else El Akkad comes out with next.

★★★½ out of 5