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:

  • Amazing
  • Beautiful
  • Breathtaking
  • Brilliant
  • Canon/Classic
  • Captivating
  • Compelling
  • Concise
  • Dazzling
  • Delightful
  • Dreamy/Dreamlike
  • Effortless
  • Epic
  • Flowing/Fluid
  • Fresh
  • Genderqueer/Genderfluid
  • Gorgeous
  • Humane
  • Inclusive
  • Intense
  • Lovely
  • Lyrical/Poetic
  • Magical
  • Masterpiece/Masterful
  • Mesmerising/Hypnotic
  • New
  • Original
  • Polyamorous
  • Rich
  • Sensual/Sensuous
  • Spectacular
  • Spellbinding/Enchanting
  • Stunning
  • Subversive
  • Vivid
  • Wonderful

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!


The Rules

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

The Deadline

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…

The Prize

Actually not one, not two, but three (3) prizes!

  1. A signed and personalised hardcover of Spear (one of my own Author Copies, so you’ll know it’s a first edition, first printing)
  2. A delicious, specially-designed enamel pin
  3. And the digital audiobook, narrated by me

There might be other things I can come up, but that’s it for now.

First clue:

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.”

  1. 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.)