Quite a while before Hild was published I started to notice the astounding number of comparisons to other writers I was getting in blurbs, reviews, and critical discussions. This was not usual for me or my work, so I started keeping track. I totted up the totals, wrote a post, and set up a competition for readers.
Now, just eleven days before Spear hits the shelves, I’m seeing a slightly different trend: use of the same adjectives over and over.1 So for my own amusement I started keeping a spreadsheet of adjectives in trade reviews, blurbs from other writers, and booksellers. (I’m not including reader reviews on platforms like Goodreads—and, after publication, Amazon—because that would get overwhelming pretty fast.) Also, I amalgamated a few things—such as ‘new classic/should be part of the canon’ and ‘spellbinding/enchanting/sorcerous’ and ‘mesmerising/hypnotic’ and ‘genderqueer/fluid’—which mostly mean the same thing (and in fact reviewers often use a mix of these words in a single review). And I left out a few things that are used in almost every mention, words and phrases that are variations on themes like Queer and Queer retelling, or Too short/wanted more, or Gender/Genderbent retelling, or Old-bones-new-story/Makes-it-her-own, and so on.
From that spreadsheet I’ve extracted a list of words that are used 4 times or more:
Note: This list occasionally grows as another adjective crosses the 4-mention cut-off. And the list is alphabetical, not in order of frequency—that’s your job!
Guess the adjective used most frequently to describe Spear and then guess how many times it’s been used. (Edited to add: You can enter once a day between now and the end date.) The finalists will be chosen from those who guess the right word and the winner will be whoever gets closest to the noted frequency on my list. Just in case we have some eagle-eyed geniuses out there, the tie-breaker will be how many of the other Top 5 most-used adjectives you can guess. To enter, drop a comment here on the blog or, if you’re shy, email me directly using the contact form. ANY COMMENTS YOU MAKE ON ANOTHER PLATFORM—TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM—WILL NOT COUNT AS AN ENTRY. Mainly because it’s just too hard to keep track. I’ll be dropping at least one clue a day here—but perhaps also on Instagram or Twitter—and of course there is the constantly-updated list of reviews on the Spear page. But it’s highly curated; I’m not including every review, and in fact only the tiniest snippets of the ones I do include
10 days after Spear is published, so 29 April. I’ll be updating my spreadsheet until then—so who knows what word might swoop in from left field and take the top spot. Not me! But maybe you do…
Actually not one, not two, but three (3) prizes!
- A signed and personalised hardcover of Spear (one of my own Author Copies, so you’ll know it’s a first edition, first printing)
- A delicious, specially-designed enamel pin
- And the digital audiobook, narrated by me
There might be other things I can come up, but that’s it for now.
Image description: Square graphic of a dark blue-tinted background showing the outline of a bubbling, steaming Celtic hanging bowl overlaid by, in white, “Humane, intelligent and deeply beautiful.” and below that, in red/orange, “Alix Harrow, author of A Spindle Splintered.”
- This I have seen before, with the Aud novels, where almost every newspaper review (back in the day when many newspapers still ran book reviews) characterised the books, the prose, or Aud herself as both ‘brutal’ and ‘beautiful.’ I don’t think the books are brutal at all; I think critics were just fascinated by the juxtaposition of Aud’s raw joy in her physical body, her use of violence as just one tool in her set, and the occasional lyricism of the prose. (‘Lyrical’ was another word used often.)
55 thoughts on “Competition: One adjective to rule them all—Clue #1”
Hello! I’d like to enter this competition, I think the word most often used would be “Mesmerising”
I doubt this will be a winner, but ‘subversive’ (or, in verb form, ‘subverts’) is definitely the word that comes nearest the mark for me. That is in no way a bad thing.
Hmm, I’m reading Hild right now. Considering how much she enjoys the still moments, seeing and listening to everything that’s happening out in the nature, I’m going to take a wild stab and say “vivid”. I’m going to guess you used it 24 times. :)
I’m going to say “Beautiful” and I’ll say it’s been used 17 times.
I’m betting on “Stunning” shows up ten times.
epic 27 times :)
Dazzling, 20 times.
I’ll go with spellbinding for 30.
I think “Rich” will get used a lot. I’m gonna go with 15 times.
I will guess “Vivid” , used 8 times. :)
I think “Dazzling” 16 times.
Beautiful, fourteen times. Followed by Stunning, Spectacular, Brilliant, and New.
Btw, I can’t see how many times we can enter. Once? Once a day? You may actually say it but I am so tired I’m not finding it. Looking forward to the book. I loved Hild.
Mesmerising/Hypnotic, 18 times. Runners up: Spellbinding, Dazzling, Beautiful, Rich.
Mael, You can enter once a day—refine your guess as the clues mount up!
I’m going with queer, 40 times or so. Runners up: magic, rich, beautiful, new.
Shar, given that I’ve excluded Queer and Queer Retelling from the list because one or both is used in just about every—if not every—review. And you can enter once a day, refining your guesses as the clues mount…
“Brilliant” would be another word guess of mine, and as for how many times…20 times it’s been used
Epic, 15-20 times
Magic or magical, 10-15 times
Runners up: beautiful, mesmerizing
Got to be Spellbinding for me – 20-24 times.
Spellbinding/Enchanting- 22 times
Beautiful, 33 times.
Intelligent x 20
Beautiful 35 times
(followed by Epic)
Magical, 33 times.
Fresh, 21 times.
I’ll take enchanting, 30 times (followed by rich?)
I am so looking forward for this book ! I would chose “beautiful”, 40 times (followed by “brillant”)
My guess is original 20 times
I’m guessing breathtaking, 20 times. Just got my email to say my preorder is ready for pickup!!
Mesmerizing more than 20 times
Compelling, 18 times!
If I may add in the days I missed, these 3:
Epic X 12
Fresh X 10
Beautiful X 16
Breathtaking, 10 times.
Hmmm, my guess for today would be ‘lyrical/poetic’, simply because based on your books I’ve read so far, all of them I would describe as (at least) that :-)
All best and stay safe!
Whoops, I forgot the amount in my last comment, sooooo ‘lyrical/poetic’ , 50 times.
Subversive, 17 times
My entry for the competition…“Brilliant” 24 times and “Subversive” 17 times.
Poetic X 22
another competition entry…
Magical 34 X
I’m guessing Gorgeous – 17 times! Backups: lyrical, subversive, beautiful
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