Spear by Nicola Griffith: Arthurian Fiction with a Twist

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” by Nicola Griffith is both subversive and brilliant, with queer characters, exciting adventure, and glorious magic with real consequences. I love Arthurian fiction and this is a wonderful retelling of the myth told from the point of view of Peretur, more commonly known as Percival. This version, however, is a woman. That change not only adds more mystery, more depth, and more magic but creates a whole new version of the legend. It is fresh and original but more importantly, the story itself is so well written, it was like jumping into a lake of warm water, embracing and enveloping. 

The story is told from Peretur’s point of view and as she sets off on her adventures, you crawl under her skin with her and see the world from her eyes, both her triumphs but also her losses. I was swept along in her wake as she fights and loves in this beautiful, glorious novel. The character is so engaging and complex that it is a delight to read this book. The world itself is authentic, based in history and previous legends. The author clearly knows her subject matter, taking a known story but adding an original spin. She also includes a presentation of some of her research at the end of the book. This book caught me up in the story so quickly and never let me go, keeping me up at night devouring the characters and the story, which includes queer and disabled characters, something we rarely see in Arthurian fantasy. 

If you are looking for something new and original, and you like Arthurian fiction,  I highly recommend this book by Nicola Griffith. It is sublime, a work of art, and a compelling story. I loved every minute of the ride and am placing this amongst my favorites.

Rating: 5 out of 5 spears 

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