Thursday, April 28, 2022

Spear, by Nicola Griffith

I've seen a lot of hype about Nicola Griffith's new short novel, Spear. It's a take on the Arthurian cycle, highlighting some Celtic (Welsh and Irish) aspects. It tells the story of a young woman, who is evidently magical in some way owing to her (mysterious, for most of the book) parentage. She leaves her mother (a single-parent) and ranges about Wales as a (male) knight-to-be, and thus journeys to the court of Artos in Caer Leon, romancing women there and along the way. The story is well-written (much better than the off-putting blog-style found in most Tordotcom books), and the queer take on the Arthurian court is interesting. However, the book does have some problems--the start-up is too slow, and at times the actions and motivations of the characters don't jibe precisely with the narrative, pulling the reader out of the story to wonder what is happening and why. Sometimes, too, the depiction feels a bit like a Mary Sue novel. It's still pretty good overall, but it could have benefited from another deep critical look at the structure and the expression of character motivations.

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