For the first dozen or so years of her life, the girl has no name of her own. Her mother calls her by turns Dawnged (“her gift”) and on other days she is Tâl (“her mother’s payment”). Together, they live in a cave in a forest in a world rife with magic. The girl can speak to the wind, and knows the path the fox takes through the woods and the mood of the cow that gave the milk. The trees tell her of fallen branches that may be used to make fires; the ground tells her where to find fat rabbits for stew. Her world and all that is in it is a marvel and a wonder. And for a time, the girl is happy. But as she grows, tall and strong, fast as a deer and sharp as a wolf, she finds herself wanting more than what her mother can give her. What her mother is willing to give her.
A chance encounter with men opens a new world. A world of axes, cheese, wood houses, and iron weapons. Finding a dead man, she takes his sword and his horse and teaches herself their ways. And when coming across live men whose armor shines, whose faces and voices are fair, they awaken in her a desire. These men are brave and bold. They fight not for money or power, but to do good. Their spirits are clean, their hearts pure, and she longs to be one of them.
Armed with a pair of spears, a sword with a broken tip, and a horse, the girl bids farewell to her mother, to her cave, and her forest, and — with her new name, her own name, Peretur — follows the golden light of destiny to Caer Leon and the court of King Arturus.
Spear is a lyrical, poetic, and mythic story about the Knights of the Round Table, the search for the Grail, and one young woman’s desire to live her own life. Peretur is uncanny in her abilities, but never boastful or malicious. She wouldn’t know how to be. Instead, she’s kind, curious, and with the impatience of the young, she pushes for answers to questions she doesn’t understand. When told no, she doesn’t sulk or fret. Instead, she works at the problem until she finds what she believes to be the answer.
Peretur isn’t always right, but she is always well meaning. As she wears hose and armor, many people mistake Peretur for a boy, and she doesn’t bother to correct them. Peretur could easily be read as genderqueer or nonbinary as her own gender is never an issue for her. She passes for male and lives as a man, but she never refers to herself as he or him. She simply doesn’t see the need to correct other people when their belief is to her advantage. After all, she’s only ever seen men with weapons and in armor. And if their assumption of her gender helps her get what she wants, she’s all for it.
While seeking to become one of the king’s companions, Peretur meets Nimuë, Arturus’ sorceress now that Myrddin has vanished. Nimuë was his apprentice, and it was not an easy life for her. Myrddin wanted to use Nimuë’s magic, lying to her, grooming her, and manipulating her into giving it to him. She has issues with trust, a hesitation in opening herself, and a naturally quiet and watchful personality that goes well with Peretur’s clever, questing mind. The two of them find understanding in one another. Where Nimuë might have expected judgement or questions for her actions, Peretur has none to give. What came before is gone, and they are here in the now.
This book is a lyrical coming-of-age story, as sweet and clean as the streams Peretur drank from as a child. As someone who loved stories about knights in armor, this book was everything I would have wanted to read when I was younger and I’m pleased to have been able to read it, now. It’s wholesome, lovely, and I very strongly recommend this to anyone and everyone who loves knights, maidens fair, magic, and romance.