Monday, January 16, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: Spear by Nicola Griffith

Ten years ago, I read a review of Nicola Griffith’s Hild and immediately bought the book. Unfortunately, it has been sitting on my shelf, unread, ever since. (I should have taken it out of the library so I’d have a deadline!) 

Instead of reading Hild, I dove into Nicola Griffith’s new book, Spear. This is a superb literary queer re-imagining of the Arthurian Perceval legend.

The Perceval character, here called Peretur, is a girl who was raised by her mother in a cave in the wilderness. She grows up swift and strong and attuned to the natural world to a magical extent. But as comfortable as she is in her wilderness home, she finds herself more and more pulled to the world beyond the isolating limits of what her mother allows. When she overhears strangers talking of King Artos and the city of Caer Leon, her longing to make her way there, to discover herself, is too strong to deny. She cuts her hair and dons a knight’s armor and sets out.

In true Arthurian epic fashion, Peretur goes questing to earn the right to join King Artos’ fellowship. Her gender is something of a non-issue. She excels at knightly deeds as a matter of course and she is attracted only to women so there is no male love interest to get in her way.

Peretur wants to fight alongside Artos’ knights, but she has a more important destiny. Talk of a Holy Grail has erupted at Artos’ court. Many knights want to undertake the quest, but Peretur alone know where to find the magical vessel — and how dangerous it will be once found.

This novel is beautifully written and artfully constructed. Now, I really have to read Hild.

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