Cover Image: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver

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Another gorgeous fairy tale from Naomi Novik. The worldbuilding is unique, the 3 protagonists were complex, and this might be my favorite Novik novel yet.
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Spinning Silver
By
Naomi Novik




What it's all about...

Three young women who don’t seem to have a connection end up with a powerful connection that will unite them forever.  This is not an ordinary retelling of Rumpelstiltskin  but rather a story of cold chilling power, demons, and three young women who are willing to fight for others.  Irina, Wanda and Miryem...one noble, one an underdog and one a money lender.  All have special talents.  When they come together...their force is a mighty one.

Why I wanted to read it...

I love this author’s work...plain and simple.  It’s incredible.

What made me truly enjoy this book...

I loved each girl’s story...I even loved the Staryk...the sort of ice creatures that ruled.  I loved the adventure.  I loved the world that everyone lived in and I loved the ending.  

Why you should read it, too...

Readers who want a harsh yet beautiful fantasy...well...those readers will love this book! 

I received  an advance reader’s copy of this  book from the publisher through NetGalley, Edelweiss and Amazon.  It was my choice to read it and review it.
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I really wanted to love this book but sadly I didn´t. The story itself is good, but it's told too slowly and over too many pages. I didn't like the writing style either, there are too many characters who all tell their story in a first person point of view, which leaves a messy impression of the story.
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Spinning Silver is reminiscent of titles like The Bear and the Nightingale. It takes fairytale and myth and weaves it together into a new tale that seems both classic and timely.
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Such an easy choice for five-stars.  However, I am so blown away by the book, I'm struggling a little to write about it with clarity.  

Spinning Silver is SUCH a delight of a book.  I couldn’t stop reading it when I was supposed to go to sleep or to eat lunch.  I don’t know who my favorite character was, I love them all, Miryam, Wanda, and Irina. 

It is such a relentlessly feminist story in the best sense.  Novik never undercuts the power of her women, even while making their lives difficult, but neither are they in easy situations nor do they always have a quick solution to their troubles.

When people say that stories about women require specific kinds of violence against women because “it’s normal," Novik offers a strong push back, showing that women need not always live as objects of sexual violence.

It's a worthy companion to Uprooted and Novik is going high on my "must-read" list.
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I almost did not finish this book but I still gave it a chance and still finished it. I was hoping that the story would turn out better for me, but unfortunately, it didn't.

I was so disappointed with this book because 1) I had high hopes for it because I've been hearing so many great things about Naomi Novik, 2) it was marketed like the Game of Thrones, and 3) IT STARTED OUT REALLY OKAY but...

Maybe this book is just really not for me. I only liked the beginning and the ending. I was struggling through the whole middle part.
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While this is not my favorite style of writing, I found the story and characters compelling. I would recommend this to young fantasy readers.
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Spinning Silver weaves a tale of magic, resilience, love, leadership, and family through the eyes of myriad interconnected people struggling to survive a harsh winter made worse by the Staryk, a people made of ice and snow. Among them are Miryem, a young Jewish woman rescuing her father's moneylending business from ruin; Irina, a duke's daughter thrust into the spotlight as a result of her Staryk ancestry; and Wanda, hardworking daughter of an abusive father fighting to protect herself and her brothers. Naomi Novik does an amazing job of bringing these characters and their feelings to life in a story inspired by Rumpelstiltskin and other Polish folk tales. Spinning Silver grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go!
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Novik's skills as a storyteller are simply outstanding! I read this novel through an ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Review and feedback will be sent to publisher (privately) -- I this title was included in a feature post for July.
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Courage sparkles!

A gripping story that seems to combine Rumpelstiltskin with overtones of several other traditional tales and comes up with something completely different.
The lands of Lithvasn are under perpetual winter, frozen in place by the Staryk, a deadly race that remind me of high elves, far above humanity in their scale of being.
A young Jewish girl, Miryem, daughter of a moneylender, takes it upon herself to regain debts owed the family. Debts that have left the family close to starvation. In doing this she shows a solid business head and the family fortunes are turned around. She turns dross into gold. And this is exactly why she attracts the attention of the Staryk King, who seems to be a cross between an arrogant Elf Lord and the male equivalent of the wicked Ice Queen.
Another young woman from the same village is hired by Mirym to work off her father's debts. This is a turning point for Wanda. Her father is physically abusive and this new position enables Wanda to not only secret away some money, but she learns the magic of reading and numbers. And has at least one meal a day.
Meanwhile at the nearby city of Vysnia where Miryem's grandparents live, the Duke's plain daughter, Irina, captures the interest of the Tsar. Staryk silver that Mireym has had made into jewelry plays no small part. The Tsar it seems is possessed by a demon. Of course all three women's lives become entangled, magic, devastating continual cold and the demon's insatiably loom large. Death by winter or demonic assault seem the only choices. Continual surprises kept me focused. Just as events look like being resolved, another pathway opens up, another layer is added.
I loved Novik's steady building of tension and creative turns in the story. I loved the way all three families intertwine. We are privy to their stories and the consequences of actions and choices in all three families.  Just when I could see what was happening, an unpredictable turn would be taken.
At times I was left feeling sorry for the Staryk King, and then the Tsar who's possessed by a fire demon. The resolution had me glued to the final word.
A fascinating read!

A NetGalley ARC
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I really enjoyed Uprooted so was looking forward to Spinning Silver. I liked the characters, and how many strong female characters there were, but I felt the book was overly long; it dragged quite a bit in places. I also was not invested in the romance of the characters at all, and was surprised by the ending. I think this book needed some additional editing on the plot. There were also times when each character's voice sounded exactly the same, and plenty of instances where I didn't need an additional chapter of perspective from yet another character.
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Who doesn't love a fairy tale? And one retold, and masterfully, even better. Novik shows again that she is a skilled storyweaver in this re-imagining of Rumpelstiltskin is fantastic.

There are six main voices--always a gamble, but expertly handled--that bring us the tale. We have some strong female characters (who are not unnaturally so, but who are flawed and fragile and who must sacrifice for their strength, which is truthful), some lovely side characters (who really do play a big part, they just don't get POV time), and a beautifully crafted world that rings of Russia and Eastern Europe. It's hard to tell at times which character is which, but that's because this is a re-imagined fairy tale that builds and improves. From the moneylender's daughter, to the tsar, to the hired help, this novel crosses into all levels of society and draws them into discussion of what it is to be human.

I look forward to re-reading this one many time in the future.
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Like Uprooted, Novik has taken inspiration from folklore and created a new fully-formed world, richly created with satisfying detail and dynamic characters that you quickly become invested in. She spins a spell with lyrical writing that transports the reader for a satisfying stand-alone book that has all the depth and drama of a multiple book series.
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As soon as I heard there was going to be a new Naomi Novik fairytale retelling, I was incredibly excited. Uprooted is on my favorite books of all time shelf and I had high expectations. Spinning Silver more than met those expectations, much to my pleasure. This has absolutely gorgeous writing and an amazing cast of characters. The women in this are all amazing - Irina and Miryem in particular are some of my new favorite characters. The men are generally terrible, but in a good way (except some are genuinely terrible and I hated them). I will absolutely be picking up anything Naomi Novik writes, especially if it's another retelling. She writes them so beautifully they're like their own fairytales.
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I received a free e-book from PRH International in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are my own.

Wow, this is going to be hard to put into words...

After I was a bit confused in the beginning of this book because some vital elements were not properly explained, I quickly fell in love with it - almost until the end.

But let's start at the beginning:

The writing is beautiful, the world dark, but so interesting and intriguing, the characters fierce, loyal and intelligent.

We start out by meeting Miryem, who stayed my favorite character throughout the book. She's taking over for her gentle father in collecting the money people owe them (he's a moneylender) and provides for her family. With her knack for business Miryem soon is a rich woman and is known to turn silver into gold with her clever deals.
This rumor leads to the (rather grumpy) Fae lord who keeps Miryem's village in everlasting winter testing her ability to turn his silver into gold as well. She'll either die or (oh joy) get to be his wife depending on the outcome of his test.

We also follow the storyline of Wanda, a poor farmer's daughter who becomes a servant for Miryem's family and the one of Irina, a highborn girl who is married to the tsar, who in turn is possessed by an evil fire demon she has to outsmart.

The stroylines interweave and it all feels like one giant mash-up of old and new fairytales set in a wintry kingdom. It's wonderfully written and at some point you can see a giant finale looming at a certain event all the storylines head to.

Now here's the difficult part: While I absolutely adored the first two parts of the book, the last third disappointed me so much that I lost interest in the complete book and just wanted to be done with it. I'm still not sure how that happened, but I have two theories:
First off as soon as that event, that everything had been building up to, starts, the storyline switches to Wanda's young brother and instead of living and feeling the events through the eyes of our heroines, we get a childish and annoyingly superficial description of what is going on until it is all done.
Also what could have served as a great and satisfying finale is NOT the end of the book at all. Lots of drama is added and there's so much yet to come, but it all feels unnecessary, because the showdown has already happened or at least was supposed to happen.

Ah well, after all that drama, I really liked how the book wrapped up and I loved that it's a standalone. We have too few of those.

I decided on 4 stars, because a huge part of the book entranced me and I enjoyed it so much, even when the feeling couldn't hold up until the end of the book.
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Spinning Silver is Naomi Novik’s second book that retells and elevates classic folklore and fairy tale elements, spinning and weaving them into something deeper, richer, and original. Spinning Silver isn’t a sequel to 2015’s Uprooted, but it could take place in a neighboring kingdom. It begins as a riff on the Rumpelstiltskin tale but ends as a story of clever, confident women, their bonds to friends and family, bargains, and debts. I read and reread fairy tales when I was younger. Even today, when I travel, I like to come back with a new collection. Once again, Naomi Novik has created a new tale that stands alongside those classics.

Miryem Mandelstam is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. When her father proves unable to collect on his loans, her family is reduced to poverty. While her fellow villagers take advantage of her father and live comfortably during the harsh winters, Miryem goes hungry, and her sick mother is bedridden. Miryem’s anger freezes and hardens her heart. She goes door to door to collect what her family is owed. She will not hear excuses or accept delay. She will not leave until she has been paid in coin, medicine for her mother, goods that can be quickly sold at a profit in market, or even the housekeeping services of Wanda, whose father drank away the money he borrowed when he wasn’t beating Wanda and her brothers.

Miryem is determined and stubborn and an excellent moneylender. She boasts that she can turn silver into gold, accidentally drawing the attention of the Staryk king. The Staryk are a powerful, dangerous race that exist in a parallel frozen world, and when the king opens a road between worlds, the Staryk raid, destroying homes, killing defenders, and stealing gold. The Staryk king demands Miryem turn his silver into gold three times. If she fails, he will kill her. If she succeeds, he will make her his queen. Although Miryem wants neither of these outcomes, with the help of her cousin’s fiancé, she turns the silver into three pieces of magical jewelry, which she sells to Irinia who then marries the tsar.

When Miryem is taken to the Staryk land, she is forced to transmute warehouses of silver into gold and bring about a perpetual winter for her home. When Irinia learns that the tsar is sworn to a demon whose hunger will never be sated even if it consumed an entire kingdom, she builds a trap while protecting her subjects. And when Wanda’s father arranges her marriage against her will, she must find her freedom while also protecting her brothers. The women must work harder and smarter to find a way out of their impossible situations.

I mentioned above that Spinning Silver is inspired by Rumpelstiltskin. The elements are there if you look for them: a boast, a greedy lord, the power of names, the magic of the number three. But Miryem isn’t the helpless girl, locked up in a tower and traded by her father to the king. She is confident, capable, and clever, able to quickly identify the rules of the system and make the most of them. Similarly, Irinia and Wanda are observant, quick learners, and refuse to back down from the cruelty of the powerful men in their lives.

These are women of agency. They know how fragile their respective positions are, but they fight to protect the people with whom their share a bond. And watching them discover their strengths is one of the best parts of the book. Even some of the men in this story get satisfying character arcs: men who at first appear weak, cruel, or greedy grow and change over the course of the story. As much as I liked the worldbuilding on display in Spinning Silver, it’s the characters that will stick with me. And while some might complain that there are too many points of view, I think the mix of narrators allows Novik to pull a few tricks of her own as the storylines come together in a climactic showdown.

There’s a quote by G. K. Chesterton that goes, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” Naomi Novik is an expert in dragons. She wrote nine books in the Temeraire series that brought dragons into the Napoleonic Wars, and she wrote Uprooted, the story of the Dragon in the tower, taking young women from a village. But with Spinning Silver, she does Chesterton one better: She tells children that sometimes it’s not the warrior who can swing the biggest sword or rides the most powerful horse that slays the dragon. Sometimes it’s the woman with the keenest intellect, the fiercest determination, and the deepest love for others.
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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is an enchanting fairytale inspired story loosely based on Rumplestiltskin. Set in a world beset by Winter's own lord of the fairies when a dangerous bargain leads three heroines on separate quests in order to free their realm from an everlasting Winter and the Staryk's cold rule.

Dark magic, dangerous bargains, and gorgeous folklore fill the pages of SPINNING SILVER making it a wonderful addition to the fairytale enthusiasts library.

Uprooted remains one of my favorite retellings and Spinning Silver follows close behind. Novik excels in creating a world touched with historical details where the enchantment of magic lies right alongside it. Pastoral life mingles with the frosty world of the magical Staryk. 

What I love about this story is its strong themes of sistership, family, and empowerment. When I originally picked up the story, I thought it was about one heroine, but with Novik, we get three wonderfully rounded heroines. 

Miryem, Wanda, and Irinushka are linked to each other in a powerful way in a tale that weaves together strands of silver and gold, of frost and fire, and of bargains made and bargains met. Each walks a different path and I found all their stories captivating. 

Novik also writes beautiful details of Miryem's Jewish family roots and traditions, bringing together a story rich in lore which plays an integral part in the intermingling plot threads—perfect for readers wanting an authentic and diversified voice in literature.

My one complaint is the many viewpoints beyond Miryem, Wanda, and Irina seem to convolute the already complicated plot threads. 

In the End
For fairytale and folklore enthusiast, SPINNING SILVER has so many great elements that readers look for. A world that feels real with bits and pieces of fairytale lore usually found in the classics and a strong message to take away from it.

Highly Recommended

For readers of Novik's work and those who enjoy literature rich in folklore and fairytale elements. Strong themes of female empowerment, Jewish traditions, and strength of family make this a keeper.
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I was a huge fan of Uprooted so I was thrilled to receive this book to review, but sadly I think my expectations were a little too high.  I think the story suffered from too many first person POVs as well as a world that wasn't built up quite well enough.  I would have liked to know more about the winter world as opposed to the sunlit world and more about the Staryk and their people.  The first part of the story felt like a completely different book and I didn't think it was explained well enough how Miryem went from just being able to fiscally make gold from silver to magically turning it with just a touch and the second part of the book simply dragged.  Fans of fairy-tale retellings and strong female protagonists may find this an enjoyable read, though..  Thank you to Netgalley and Del Rey for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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[i]ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review[/i] 

I have to start this out by saying that I was looking forward to this book so very much. I loved Uprooted and devoured that one in a day. Spinning Silver didn't live up in comparison. Instead of finishing it the moment I downloaded the book it took me many times of picking it up and setting it back down to finish. I feel like this is due to the fact of how many narrators are in the book. In the beginning, there are two to follow. After a while a third is added and then, not too long later, three more are added. Towards the end, there is even another thrown in for good measure. If you are counting with me this is five in total. None of them are named when they are first thrown into the mix. instead, the reader is left wondering who exactly is speaking until it is finally made clear. 

I really wish that was my only fault with it. Sadly, the ending left a bitter taste in my mouth. The romance seemed so rushed and tacked on to the end. It felt more like an afterthought than something that was slowly being built up to. There is the addition that it is left open how two of the characters end up. Do they get a happily ever after? It seems like they might but we don't know because their story arc is just left hanging. 

Due to the fact that I finished the book and enjoyed a few of the narrators this book gets two stars. I would have loved to recommend everyone to read this book, but instead, it is going on my shelf of books that could have been great but didn't quite succeed.
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