Spear by Nicola Griffith – ARC Review!

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.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t the Arthurian retelling I was quite expecting. The story focuses on the girl, we don’t know her name for a large chunk of the book, who grows up wild in a cave with her mother, but she has visions of a faraway lake, visions that make her restless, make her long for something more, long to be something more. When she hears the name Artos, she knows he is her destiny and so she sets off, leaves her mother for the first time in her life and armed with only a name, Peretur, a broken spear, mended armour and a horse she sweet talked into carrying her, the girl sets off to Caer Leon. Her journey will be perilous, she will learn many things about herself she had never known before and through all of this she will find her fate, her love, and the lake she spent her childhood dreaming of.

As I said above, if you’re expecting a straight on Arthurian retelling, you might be a little disappointed. Artos, as he is named in this book, only appears in the last 50% or so of the story and isn’t quite the strong and brave King we know from the legend. Instead he is a man whose mind is not wholly his own, thanks to the interference of Mryddyn and the famous sword her carries. Thankfully though, Artos’ court make up for his lacking, and were by far some of my favourite characters. I loved how the author wove in parts of the original story to her characters backstories, whilst also managing to make them wholly her own. Llanza, or Lance was certainly a favourite of mine and I loved, no matter how brief, how the author explored the relationship between himself, Artos and Gewnhwyfar. It was a take I had never read before, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Spear is a bit of a slow starter, and it took me a while to full grasp where the story was going, but once I did I was hooked. Griffith magically mixes the Arthurian lore with the history of the time. She fully admits that any Arthurian retelling is basically fanfic with it’s own spin on the tale which is a brilliant and truthful way of looking at it, and with Spear Griffiths makes it queer, poetic and exciting. Griffiths writing style help bring her version of the story to life. It’s beautifully written and even the fight scenes, and there are some truly epic ones, are told in such a poetic way as to hide their true brutality. It reads like a fable, and has stories within stories, which I love.

It’s safe to say I thoroughly enjoyed this Novella. It reads almost like an epic poem of old, there are no good stopping points, instead the author makes you feel like you should devour it in one big bite, and devour it I did. This is my first book by the author, but I can guarantee it will not be my last.


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9 replies »

  1. What a lovely review !!! Very very thoughtful… I found this novella to be quite a unique experience as well.. what an atmospheric story and such fun characters..


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