The Spear Cuts Through Water
There is an internet made of giant tortoises.
And the text is haunted by the voices of the dead.
Well, perhaps not. You see, the bulk of the story is told as a play in The Inverted Theatre, which exists only as a reflection in water. The interjections by the dead may simply be comments from members of the chorus chosen briefly to represent one or another deceased character. Then again, as The Inverted Theatre is very much a supernatural location, maybe all the players are actually ghosts playing themselves.
If this sounds like no fantasy novel you have ever read before, then I will agree with you.
The Spear Cuts Through Water is told to a young man whose family has fled the Old Country for a new land overseas, where strange things like cars and televisions exist. He is our focus because he is the one member of the family who is captivated by the tales that his grandmother tells of the Old Country. Simon Jimenez uses the word “lola” for “grandmother. It is a Philippine term, which perhaps tells us a little bit about the culture from which this story comes, though it is clear from the map that the Old Country is nothing like the real-world Philippines.
The Old Country is ruled by an Emperor who styles himself as the Sun. His wife, the Empress, is actually the Moon. She has been wife to seven Emperors before him, since she was captured and dragged down to serve the whims of an ambitious warlord. The Spear Cuts Through Water is the story of her escape, her revenge, and the disaster this brings upon the country her husbands ruled.
This book is not as political as The Vanished Birds, but it does have a few things to say about the immigrant experience, and of course quite a bit about the horrors of mediaeval societies ruled by the fantastically wealthy. But mainly I think this is a book about men. It is a book about the desire of men to continue their line through sons, about the cruelty that men inflict through Patriarchy, and about the way in which expectations of macho behavior affect both those born into power, and those who have no chance of achieving it.
Interestingly it is not a book about men being violent in war. One of the few roles for women in the book is as a warrior, as capable with a sword or spear as any man.
It is also a book about the love that men can have for each other, and how it is expressed, which is something I very much do not understand. It is a good love story though, and I’m now pointing my gay male friends at this book because the publishers sure aren’t going to.
When I reviewed The Vanished Birds I said that, in Jimenez, we had a new male author to get excited about. That didn’t happen. The book was shortlisted for a few things, but won no awards. I suspect that if Jimenez had been white the story would have been very different. Although of course a white man would not have written such a good book about colonialism. Anyway, here’s another Jimenez book that I think you should be getting excited about. Why not give it a try?
It has a fabulous map.
Title: The Spear Cuts Through Water
By: Simon Jimenez
Publisher: Random House
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