Cover Image: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver

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I loved Uprooted, so I was excited to read Novik's newest fairy tale retelling. It takes me longer to get invested in a book with multiple points of view, and this one has more than most, but once I did it was hard to put down. The multiple plots intersected so cleverly to reach a satisfying conclusion.

I hope this won't be Novik's last fairy tale retelling.
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Fabulous reimagining of Rumplestiltskin.  Naomi Novik's imagination adds dimensions to this well known fairytale.  Just as good as the blockbuster Uprooted, highly recommend!
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Spinning Silver, the newest fairytale from Nebula award-winner Naomi Novik, is a journey. It is a spectacular, sometimes overwhelming tale of many journeys, mostly of women defining their own destinies. 

First, we meet Miryem, the daughter of a moneylender who isn’t very good at moneylending. Instead of accepting her future as a poor woman, she takes a the role of moneylender for herself, cold and successful. Then we meet Wanda, the hardworking daughter of a drunk, abusive father, who sells her daughter’s labor to pay off debts to Miryem’s family. Wanda is quite content with the turn of events; instead of being sold for a few goats to a man in marriage, she can have a freedom of her own helping Miryem balance her books. As fortunes improve for Miryem and Wanda, people begin to take notice. The king of a mythicized far off land of ice and frost has noticed how quickly Miryem seems to turn silver into gold, and wants that talent for his own. He makes a bargain with the her, exchanging silver to be changed into gold for the joking promise of making her queen of his kingdom. 

This is when the story truly begins to take shape, and we meet a final woman forging her own future. In the frantic days between visits from the winter king, Miryem uses the wit that has served her so well to melt the frost-given silver into jewelry and sell it to wealthy duke looking for anything that might serve the purpose of turning his homely daughter into the next tsarina. The fated woman who will end up with this magic jewelry is Irina, and the ploy is successful. Irina, in her cold, frost-bitten jewelry, Miryem, having delivered on her end of the bargain, and Wanda — caught in the middle of these two women and their ambitions — all work to improve their situations and make their own decisions in their own right.

For those looking for another UPROOTED, with its romance and grand sense of dread, will not find that in SPINNING SILVER. Told much in the same way, this fairytale is not one about the monsters in the forest. Instead, it is about the monsters that claim to love us — Irina’s ambitious father selling her daughter’s happiness for the benefit of political capital; the winter king’s willingness to pluck a woman from her comfortable home for the benefit of his kingdom; and the savage, brutish whims of a man that sells his daughter’s life for not much more than a drink. 

SPINNING SILVER is a fairytale, but it is also much closer to reality than another other of Novik’s works. It toys with more complex ideas than UPROOTED tackled — the main character is Jewish, and it is not a minor thing. Where works of war and lore so often draw lines between countries and peoples, Novik clearly places Miryem in the middle of that divide, rightfully blurring the lines for a woman with people but without a homeland to call her own. 

Both the beginning and the end of SPINNING SILVER are stunning, and Novik brings together loose ends beautifully. Just when you think you may have found a forgotten detail, it finds its way back into the narrative. The middle, though, is something that could be struggled through, especially for readers looking for a quick and action-packed fantasy. This novel is the definition of a slow burn, where many exciting things happen, but they happen slowly.

I would recommend, SPINNING SILVER to those that have enjoyed Novik’s other works, as the writing is clever, thoughtful, and biting. The world-building is expert as ever: Novik creates a lush world of mysterious and deadly winters and demon-drawn wet summers. I would also recommend it to anyone that loves a book with stunningly independent and witty female characters — this is a fairytale, but it is also a tale of female empowerment, and working together with your sisters to make a better world — a world with much more room for female choices.
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I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about “Spinning Silver” but it’s been a while since I’ve read an epic fantasy. I wasn’t sure if I’d be up to it so I actively searched for an excerpt, found one, and wow! With just the first line alone, I was completely convinced that I need to read this. And now here I am having just finished the book, utterly amazed with its magic.

The book started with Miryem telling us how they are ostracized because of her family’s moneylending business and how they are driven to poverty because his father is not very good with it. Miryem’s mother got sick and the thought of losing her made Miryem took over her father’s job. She began knocking on the houses of people who took a loan from his father to collect what’s been owed to them. It’s been a hard and long winter for everyone in their small town so most of the time, Miryem took goods and services as payment. Here enters Wanda. Her deadbeat farmer of  a dad owed Miryem’s dad but has no money to settle the loan so he agreed to pay through his daughter’s housekeeping services. Miryem proved to be an ace moneylender, literally turning silver into gold. And with the business growing, she took on Wanda as her apprentice. Later, their lives intersect with that of Irina, the daughter of a duke who thinks that his daughter has no royal marriage prospects because of her plain looks.

With these women, the book showcased strong characters who do not cower even when they realized that the world can be such an unfair place. Miryem harnessed the anger from years of prejudice against her people to be the cold and calculating successful moneylender that she became. Growing up in a castle, Irina knew the power plays surrounding her and when fate had it that she become a pawn, she in turn used her calm and cunning to outsmart them all. The pleb in me can so much relate to Wanda. Among the three of them, she has the least prospects in life but there is this shining moment when she finally found what her inner strength is about and I felt my soul washed and healed from all the happy tears I shed for her. All three of them are not straight up righteous heroines, but their flaws combined with their virtues made their characters stand out more. They have their own set of biases and morally gray choices, but they always try to do right by the people around them.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, other precious characters are given the chance to narrate. Wanda’s younger brother, Stepon, made me cry because who wouldn’t weep for an orphan?  And Irina’s aging personal attendant, Magreta, also made me cry because of her loyalty and motherly love. They provide the insular view of things as the three lead women’s world gets wider, with their alliances forming and ever shifting. Soon our power trio are not only fighting for their survival but for the fate of the humanity itself when a king of an ice kingdom and a tsar hosting a fire demon inside him are thrown into the mix.

I know beforehand that this is a re-imagined Rumpelstiltskin. But even a reader who is familiar with its source would find it hard to foresee how everything’s gonna end up as the plot gets thicker and the stakes get higher. Gah, there is so much to like that I haven't talk about yet: how the book explored the price of power, the complex family dynamics and the subtle romantic subplots. And finally, without spoiling anything, let me just say that the ending is perfectly inevitable. Set in a lush fairy tale world with Jewish and Russian inspirations, "Spinning Silver" is magical.
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***4.5 STARS***

PLOT

I'm not quick to say I have a type when it comes to books or anything for that matter however, this slower paced wintry read seems to fall in line with some of my favorites (think The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden or The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco). Spinning Silver is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, an adult fantasy that takes on real life hard hitting issues (please see Content Warnings above) while weaving a tale about debts owed and the relentless winter that is plaguing the land. A tale about three daughters left to pay the price of bad decisions made by their fathers. Their lives intertwined--Miryem, Wanda, and Irinushka have every odd set against them in a world that would soon rather have them married and birthing children than in a position of power.

CHARACTERS

Told through multiple points of view, we start off with Miryem who loves her father for the good man that he is but recognizes how terrible he is as a money lender. Miryem and her family are struggling in poverty while those in the village that have borrowed from her father continue to prosper whilst not paying their debts. Money lending runs in the family & just like her grandfather Miryem has a knack for collecting from those that owe her. She sets out to settle the books and quickly makes a turnaround of their fate. However, she also manages to capture the attention of the Staryk King aka Lord Winter himself. The Staryk believes Miryem may have the power to transform silver into gold and promises her his hand in marriage if after his 3 visits, she has made into gold all of the silver he brings her. Each load he drops off being impossibly larger than the last because deep down inside, this Staryk King doesn't see Miryem as a worthy Queen. Meanwhile, Miryem's "Cold" approach seems to match the Satryk King quite well IMO 😂

Wanda works for Miryem's family tending to the house-chores and any manual labor. Miryem teaches Wanda her #'s and takes her long when collecting monies owed. In Miryem's home, Wanda learns what love looks like and it isn't the daily beatings she gets at the hands of her alcoholic father. Sort of an adoptive daughter, Wanda finds herself looking after Miryem's parents and plays an important role later on in the story. I really love Wanda's character, she's someone who if shown even a little love to, will honestly go hard for you. We see this play out with her own brothers which made her scenes so heartfelt 

Irinushka daughter of royals, Irinushka's father has already promised her hand to a Tsar as a way to gain political favor. The Tsar has a deep dark secret he's keeping & is the reason for which he has yet married and produced an heir. There's a ton of pressure on Irinushka & instead of succumbing to it, we see an intellectual rise up and make some interesting power plays. Irinushka is a natural at politics 

There are also a slew of supporting characters that come in throughout the story. Many are memorable like Irinushka's Nana of sorts who raised her and only wants to see her happy. We also travel a bit with Wanda's brothers. In the Staryk King's world we meet a different kind of people who at first come off as cold hearted but end up being quite the opposite

WRITING & FINAL THOUGHTS

There are very few books I've come across with the power to transport me from the very first page. Usually it takes some settling in and getting to know the world a bit. Spinning Silver however is already set-up and literally feels like opening the door in the back of the closet that leads you to Narnia.  These make for some of my favorite reads and linger behind even after I've closed the book. At times this book was heavy on the heart with scenes of violence in Wanda's home. Seeing her & her siblings being physically hurt mercilessly and the fear they carried was tough to get through. Paired with the very different home life of Miryem and the love her family has for one another made for a deeper connection to these characters lives. We see a village deeply rooted in antisemitism, Miryem is Jewish and is seen honoring the Sabbath even in the most undesirable circumstances. In the background we have the threat of an endless Winter and we see the effects it takes on the people. I only docked it half a star because we get so many POV's throughout & although it was written in a way so as to not make it overwhelming, it still felt like I could do without some. I found myself wanting to get back to certain fave characters quicker than others but that is not unheard of in a multi-POV story. Overall, I highly reccomend this spell-binding tale over a cup of hot Cocoa or Tea 😉
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I wasn’t sure what I would think about this one going in, but I had heard great things about Uprooted and it is definitely moving up in my list now. The story of Rumplestiltskin is not my favorite, so I’m glad this was a very loose interpretation. I really liked the world-building and character development throughout the book and found myself really enjoying all of the characters and storylines, which is rare in a book with multiple viewpoints. I would highly recommend this title and will be purchasing for my high school library.
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A new book from Naomi Novik is always a cause for celebration. Like all her previous novels, this one did not disappoint.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The writing was so lyrical and the story was intriguing and interesting. I kept wanting to know what was going to happen. I have already talked about how much I liked this book on several of my YouTube videos and on more than one YouTube livestream. This author really knows how to tell a story and gives you a sense that you're really there experiencing what's going on.
I give it a 4.5/5 and really recommend it to everyone.
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This retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted is a beautifully spun  story of family, freedom, and promises made and kept. Once again, Novik’s world-building is first rate, she creates a new kingdom with magical ice warriors, a fire demon, and not one, not two, but three young, strong heroines determined to fight for their lives, their rights, and their people. The novel uses first person narration that passes from character to character as the story develops, showing how each one’s decisions affects others and how two kingdoms ultimately can be changed…but also what that will cost. This is an amazing new fantasy novel and one that I predict will be another bestseller and award winner. Highly recommended for fans of Uprooted, Seraphina, and The Bear and the Nightingale.
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Novik works her magic spell on this expansive retelling of the classic fairy tale Rumpelstiltsken. Set in a land reminiscent of medieval Russia or Poland, the story revolves around Miryem, a Jewish village girl, who takes over the moneylending business from her inept father, making such a success of her task that she seems to make silver into gold. But her stellar reputation attracts the unwanted notice of the Staryk king, the ruler of a sort of elven people who wield powers of winter, He demands that she spin silver into gold for him, gold being most desirable to the Staryk. Miryem has no choice but to comply for her own safety and that of her family, leading to unforeseen complications and consequences.

Novik tells her story from the perspectives of several characters, the most important being Miryem, Wanda, a poor village girl who becomes a servant to Miryem's family, and Irina, a duke's daughter who marries a tsar possessed by a fire demon. Novik weaves together plots and subplots, never losing sight of the brave, strong, resourceful women at the core of the tale. The world created by Novik feels as real as our own. Fantasy devotees and Novik's fans will not be disappointed by this richly reimagined fairy tale. #SpinningSilver #Netgalley
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The only thing better than a good fairy tale is a good fairy tale with a strong cast of heroines. Naomi Novik has turned Rumplestiltskin on its ear by introducing us to Miryem, a Jewish money lender who breaks tradition by taking over her father's business and creating a reputation for herself: she can turn silver into gold. 

Spinning Silver is filled with complex characters, unpredictable twists and turns and magic. Naomi Novik's story held me in enchantment the very beginning. She weaves a magic spell over the reader and then makes you want to stay in the book forever. Easily one of the best books I've read this year, I will be recommending this to everyone I know.
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I thought the range of narrators got a little unwieldy towards the end; it was difficult to keep the characters and their perspectives straight. Still, an engaging world and surprisingly complex story.
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Miryem is the daughter of a moneylender who never collects his debts. When her mother becomes sick, her father wastes away and winter rages ever harder, Miryem hardens her heart and starts collecting her mother's dowry from the condescending townsfolk. She's good at it, so good that the villagers whisper she can turn silver into gold...

Wanda is a poor farmer's daughter, doing everything she can to save herself from her father's drunken abuse. She doesn't give a damn about her surviving brothers, because what have they ever done for her, but when the new moneylender comes to collect Wanda's father's debts, Wanda is sent to work as a housekeeper for the moneylender's parents. Suddenly, there's hope for a future away from her father, but the ice demons are lingering around the door...

Irina is the plain daughter of a duke, shuffled into the highest room in the palace with only her nanny to care for her. But the tsar wants a wife, and her father has ambitions...

I'm...not even sure what I read. Right when I thought I had it figured out, it twisted and then twisted again. Parts were confusing as hell, other parts were beautiful and lyrical and delicious, and occasionally I wanted to smack one or other of the heroines over the head with a shovel and the hug them tight and never let go. 

I felt like the tone was more similar to The Bear and the Nightingale than Uprooted, which seriously had me questioning which book I was reading several times and probably led to a lot of my confusion of what was happening since I kept combining the two into my mind.

There are three different heroines, plus two different points of view, plus two monsters, all with their own agendas, worries and motivations. Sometimes those dovetail, and other times they didn't—and it was deliciously twisty and magical and terrifying all at once.

At the end, it was a story about finding your family and your future, and realizing that you are bigger and better than what society intends for you. And it's also a love story. 

Highly recommended for fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale trilogy.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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Desert Isle Keeper
Spinning Silver
Naomi Novik

   
Buy This Book
Spinning Silver is a lush, richly imagined, gloriously magical fantasy novel that takes its inspiration from Russian and Jewish folklore. A story full of adventure, wit, dangerous fey and clever queens, it is everything, EVERYTHING that a fairy tale for adults should be.

Irina is the plain daughter of the first wife of an upstart duke. Her father earned his title rather than being born into it and while men deeply respect him and his accomplishments, theirs is not the noblest blood. She expects a simple marriage, to a man of moderate importance. She gets far more than she bargained for. When her grand marriage to the most important man in the land turns into a fight for survival, she meets a most unexpected ally.

When Miryem Mandelstam’s mother becomes ill, Miryem’s patience with her father’s sloth comes to an end. As the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, she should be living in modest wealth but instead, the money her father lends out never makes it back. While they go hungry, other men dower their daughters with Mandelstam coin. But no more. She goes door to door, collecting what is due. Before much time has passed there is food on the table, they have a floor made of wood rather than straw, her mother has a warm fur to sleep under and they have Wanda whose father, unable to pay, has the girl working off his debt as their maid.

When Miryem’s grandfather congratulates her on her ability to “turn silver to gold”, he is referring to her hard work reaping profits. When her mother, on the sleigh ride home, whines about the fact that Miryem has had to be tenacious in order to change the family fortunes, Miryem justifies herself by repeating the compliment. When Miryem’s next deal involves selling two dresses for gold coins that she had bought for silver, her father says, “My daughter really can turn silver to gold”. And thus, her fate is sealed.

“A power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true; the proving makes it so.”

So Staryk magic believes. These men of ice, the lords of winter, love gold and have long raided and killed in the mortal realm to claim it. Their king, who caught the compliments made to Miryem on the wind, issues her an ultimatum:

“Thrice you shall turn silver to gold for me or be changed to ice yourself. And then, if you manage it, I will make you my queen.”

To fulfill his demands, Miryem launches a quest that pulls her into the darkest realms of magic, where she will battle a demon of fire, a king made of ice, and fight for the survival of humanity.

The characters in this novel are amazingly, vibrantly drawn. I loved the way the author is able to capture the reality of an era in which women could be expected to be treated as little more than chattel, and yet create three clever, talented young ladies who work within and around the confines of their environment to excel.  Miryem does not resign herself to slow death through starvation and cold but develops an icy resolve that enables her to change her family’s lot in life. She utilizes that same resolve to survive when she is taken to the Staryk kingdom, a an unwilling ‘bride’. Quiet, calm Irina becomes a force to be reckoned with when she finds that Tsar Mirnatius is a far worse monster than she could ever have expected. Wanda slowly, painstakingly builds a new life for herself and her brothers against incredible odds. These ladies are so smart and resilient; I loved that the author has them use their nimble minds to outwit their assailants. They are good, kind people as fables tell us to be, but their goodness and kindness has an ingenuity and farsightedness to it that makes it more than just passively accepting one’s lot with good cheer. When they see evil, they act against it. When they see need, they allocate resources to deal with it. When they are in danger, they fight for survival. They don’t wait on luck or fairy godmothers but twist that concept so that they become their own source of salvation. Their moral purity is their ability to think beyond themselves and their own need and deal with the bigger picture.

I also loved the author’s exploration of the bigotry of the times. Miryem, as a young Jewish woman, knows that plenty of people despise her for no reason other than her birth and latch on to any excuse for their hatred. The story shows repeatedly how it was, in fact, their Russian neighbors who stole and cheated, not the money lenders. I spent a great deal of time in fear for Miryem and her family and friends; they lived in such danger, between the horrible ant-Semitism and the heartless, fey Staryk, their lives seemed endlessly in mortal peril.

The Staryk are another element handled absolutely brilliantly. In many fairy tale retellings, the monsters are defanged, changing them from dangerous, cruel enemies into misunderstood victims. Not so here. While wrong has been dealt on both sides, the fey are not shown as misunderstood. They treat humans with contempt, having no respect for mortal lives which end so quickly when theirs last so long. They take what they want or need and give no thought to those who suffer as a consequence. They snatch women from their homes and families, and those are the lucky ones. They rape others. Yet the author also does a fabulous job of turning them into individuals for whom we can have some empathy as she shows, that like us, they can be redeemed, can learn to care and can have good in them along with the bad. Miryem is instrumental in showing them how being open hearted makes us better neighbors to those around us.

I loved the HEA storylines here. Both women come to be appreciated for their worth; not looks – both are rather plain – but their actual value as clever, caring people. Fantastically done is the depiction of married life. Neither Irina nor Miryem nor their partners looked for romance, but they did seek love. They wanted people who placed worth in them, who saw beyond the surface and were interested in building genuine partnerships. Sex is a right and privilege of marriage, but desire comes in far behind other attributes. Very true to the times.

The writing is beautiful, lyrical, incandescent. It reads like a fairy story and but one with real depth, carefully crafted and heartrendingly poignant and lovely.

I’ve re-read portions of this tale a dozen times already, it was that good. I finished it, restarted it, visited various parts over and over. Spinning Silver is that rarest of all things, a brilliant, creative idea perfectly executed. Filled with enchantment, thrillingly, chillingly scary and ultimately, having good triumph over evil, this book is wonderful, and not to be missed.
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Spinning Silver is breathtaking, magical journey that follows three very different women who end helping one another to overcome great odds against them. This is a fantastic follow-up to Novik's Uprooted and is sure to be a hit.

Spinning Silver would be the perfect book for a cozy winter read--it's practically the opposite of your typical 'summer read'--but I understand that winter is not the prime time for book releases. Fortunately, however, no matter when you actually do read it, it's still going to be a wonderful, breathtaking story. Also, for those wondering if they need to read Uprooted before Spinning Silver: the two novels are not connected and do not need to be read in any order; they share the same general magical atmosphere and it feels like a similar world, but the two are not connected and are not in the same universe.

This book is bewitching, both in terms of its appeal and captivating manner and also in terms of the plot and events of the story itself. There is something so miraculously engaging about Novik's writing that just completely pulls you in and holds you tight until the story is over--and even then it's hard to let go of this world and the characters. I've always been interested in the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, so I was pleased to see how Novik took elements from that story and incorporated them into a variety of different and even surprising aspects of Spinning Silver. She has created an incredibly clever, subtle, and carefully-plotted story that is not one I will forget, and one that I am sure to revisit.

There are a lot of different threads going on in this story at the same time and it's easy to find yourself a bit lost at times if you aren't paying close enough attention. This book is also definitely on the slower side and is very much about the journey and the slow changes in the characters and how they take small but important steps in attempts to improve their lives while also improving the lives of them around me. There are still plenty of interesting events and plot developments in addition to the slower aspects, but this book is not based on a fast-paced storyline and is one to be savoured rather than plowed through. 

There are a few different POVs that we follow in this book, but the main ones are that of Miryem, Wanda, and Irina. Each perspective is identified by a specific symbol at the start of each chapter, which I personally thought was a rather clever way of delineating who would be the speaker for each chapter, as it wasn't an overt name thrown in your face, but instead a symbolic image that guided you into each narration. It took me a minute to remember a few of the different symbols, but once you catch on it is not difficult to keep up. 

Miryem seems to also be the binding force among these three young women, and she is a character that I came to greatly admire. She has not grown up in much comfort, but she has always had the love of her family. She is someone that sees a problem with something, such as people taking advantage of her father's kindness, and decides to get things done in order to make both her and her family's lives better. It doesn't matter if people do not like what she has to do, what matters to her is fairness and making sure her family is provided for. I loved Novik's decision to make Miryem and her family Jewish--Novik herself being of Lithuanian-Jewish descent--and how she incorporated that entire aspect. I do not have personal experience, but I felt it was very well written and it seems to be getting positive praise from those who are Jewish or of Jewish descent as well.

Wanda, unlike Miryem, does not receive much in the way of love or positive attention from her father, who is abusive to both her and her two brothers. She is an incredibly strong person, though her strength was born out of a necessity to take care of her family and to survive the harsh life she has grown up with. However, her fate slowly begins to change in extremely unexpected and occasionally fortuitous ways as the story goes on, and we begin to learn more about Wanda and how far she will go for her and her brother's survival and to ultimately live out better lives. 

Irina, unlike both Miryem and Wanda, was born into royalty and a fairly privileged life, but her privilege ends at material wealth and goods, as her family is not overly warm or loving towards her. Irina is the character that probably most surprised me. When we are first introduced to Irina, she is pretty much told what to do in her life, and as she grows throughout the novel and is thrust into new and unforeseen situations, we get to see her fully come to life and take charge of her own strengths in life. 

All three of these women's' storylines eventually merge in different ways and at different times, and I loved the way that Novik brought everything together. The magical elements were so strong and brought so much intrigue to the story that I couldn't pull myself away from it. I was also enormously pleased with the ending of this book, and I cannot think of a better way Novik could have ended it, as it is more on the bittersweet side, which is something that I felt matched perfectly with the story. 

I know I've already mentioned Novik's writing style, but I just want to touch again on how compelling it truly was. She writes in a rather simple and uncomplicated style, which leads one to initially wonder how she could write something quite so captivating and beautiful, but it is the simplicity that makes this book so wonderful. The true depth and beauty is found within the narration, and it is so delightful to discover.
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Uprooted was such a wonderful book that I wondered whether Naomi Novik would be able to match it when I found out she was doing a second fairy tale retelling. The answer is, no, she doesn’t, but she set herself a high bar, and this novel is still very, very good.

Spinning Silver takes Rumpelstiltskin as its jumping off point and infuses the fairy tale with a Slavic setting and myths. The story is told by six different voices (switches between them are denoted by a picture at the head of each new section). There are three primary narrators: Miryem, the daughter of a poor Jewish moneylender (he’s too tenderhearted to be good at it); Wanda, a peasant girl with an abusive father; and Irina, the plain and neglected daughter of a duke. When Miryem takes over from her father and starts to collect what is owed to her family, she comes to the attention of the king of the Staryk, a fey folk associated with winter. The Staryk crave gold, and Miryem’s canny business practices can transform the Staryk’s magical silver into gold. The Staryk’s interference in Miryem’s life then becomes the catalyst from which all the rest of the story’s adventures flow.

Part of the reason the book is less successful than Uprooted is that it takes a while for those adventures to get started. The first third of the book sets the stage for the more exciting parts of the story, which occur after Miryem, Wanda, and Irina are all forced from their homes by various circumstances. I found that first third to be a bit of a struggle to get through, because the pacing is so slow. However, my patience was rewarded, because the rest of the book was a captivating read.

The central theme of the novel is transformation, and not just the transformation of silver to gold, but the transformation of the lives of the characters and ultimately, their world. Miryem, Wanda, and Irina, as well as the other narrators, are all in some way powerless, whether because of their family situation, social standing, religion, or magic. That holds true even when they might be supposed to be powerful; Irina is the daughter of a duke, but as a woman, she holds little influence. The heart of the story is really about the characters finding a way to overcome their limitations, so that even the least among them has a role to play in transforming their lives and the land in which they live.

The story ends the way all the best tales do--the good are rewarded, the evil punished, and love flourishes, even in seemingly stony hearts. Really, what more can a reader ask for in a fairy tale?

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
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A fresh retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, Naomi Novik creates a magical and sometimes frightening world with strong female characters who must rise above their situations to take control of their destinies. I really enjoyed the story and characters in this tale. I was captivated from the start by the struggle to survive in  a world being slowly frozen by a very proud king from another land. I must admit that once again, I was captivated by the beautiful cover as I was with her previous novel, Uprooted.
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This was a great book with a slow beginning, but as it was the second I read by Naomi Novik, this time I wasn't particularly worried as I was when I read Uprooted, and I was right, The plot slowly begins to unravel and it gets better and better, such a powerful women were involved that it was a pleasure to read about their brilliant mind instead that reading about their long legs and boobs ;) It is a must read!

Questo é stato un bel libro con un inizio lento, ma siccome era giá il secondo libro che leggevo della Novik un po' me lo aspettavo ed ero molto meno preoccupata della volta che stavo leggendo Uprooted e non ce la facevo ad andare avanti fino a quando non sono riuscita a smettere di leggerlo, ed é stato così anche stavolta. La trama si dipana lentamente fino a diventare piena di donne meravigliose e tostissime, che era un piacere leggere delle loro menti brillanti invece che delle loro tette e culi. Da non perdere!

THANKS NETGALLEY FOR THE PREVIEW!
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3.5 of 5 stars

I know I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t love this book. Oh, I enjoyed it well enough, because it’s Naomi Novik and her prose is always excellent, and Spinning Silver was beautifully written. However, I’ve also had enough experience with work (especially with the Temeraire series) to know her books can be very hit or miss. Believe me, I was thrilled when she started writing fairy-tale-inspired fantasy novels, and I absolutely adored Uprooted, but I just wasn’t as taken with this one as I expected to be.

The story of Spinning Silver contains several POVs, but the closest we have to a main protagonist is Miryem, the daughter of a very bad moneylender. Everyone knows her father will let late payments slide, and is too timid to chase down what is owed. As a result, Miryem’s family lives in poverty while her father’s borrowers flourish, until one day, our protagonist has had enough, and she sets out into the village to knock on the door of everyone with outstanding payments. And as it turns out, Miryem makes a rather formidable moneylender. Very quickly, she turns a pouch of silver pennies that her father loaned her into a big bag full of gold.

But even more quickly, rumors of a girl who can change silver to gold began to spread far and wide, eventually reaching the ears of the Staryk, cold-hearted beings of folklore who desire gold and riches above anything else. Miryem catches the attention of their wintry ruler, who orders her to transform his vast stores of silver into gold, and in return he will make her his queen.

First, I’ll go into what I loved about the book: the atmosphere and folksy fairy tale vibes that bring to mind the dark, mysterious charms of a Brothers Grimm story. If the plot of Spinning Silver reminded you a bit of Rumpelstiltskin, that’s because the novel is loosely inspired by that tale, though you’ll also likely catch snippets and elements from a lot of different fairy tales while reading. One of the most impressive things the author has done here is the way she incorporates these stories and their themes into a new narrative, focusing on relatable and genuine characters while still preserving a lot of the original wonder and magic. This has always been Naomi Novik’s forte whether she’s writing about dragons in the Napoleonic Wars or a persistent moneylender’s daughter from a rural village. Whenever she reimagines a world, she does it in a way that’s rooted in history and folkloric tradition, but the end result is always complex and creative enough to make it stand out from the rest.

And now, for the things I didn’t like so much. Unfortunately for me, the second half of this book was kind of a slog. Part of the problem was Spinning Silver wasn’t just a story about Miryem, and over time, more characters are introduced to the mix. I didn’t mind it at first; Wanda for one was a wonderful new addition, and I loved the strength she showed even through hard, trying times. Then there was Irina, a girl born into the royal court, but while she may be rich in possessions, she is poor in love. Despite her upbringing though, she is selfless and caring, only wanting to do right by her people. Later on, however, we also have a few other minor POVs join their voices, and that’s where things started to get a little messy. First of all, I didn’t feel that all these perspectives were really necessary, as overall they didn’t add as much as I would have liked. Second, whereas I found myself completely rapt by the intro and first half of the novel, the rest of it felt convoluted and a bit bloated. Also, the book was probably longer than it had to be, which, admittedly, was an issue with Uprooted as well. The difference there was that I was able to push through some of the slower and more meandering parts, but here I found it was a struggle to even stay focused. It’s a shame because I loved the first half of the book, but the momentum and interest I found there did not extend all the way through to the end (though to be fair, things did pick up again just in time for the conclusion).

Like I said, I enjoyed Spinning Silver, but I also don’t think it’s a standout for the genre, especially when fairy tale retellings and stories grounded in folklore are all the rage at the moment, with so many recent book releases that feel thematically and narratively similar. It’s also not my favorite book by Novik, and incidentally, I preferred Uprooted a lot more. Truly, I wish I had loved this one just as much, but I simply couldn’t get over some of my frustrations with the slower, more tedious, and convoluted parts. Still a very good read, however, and I encourage you to pick this one up if you are a fan of the author or imaginative retellings.
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It will come as literally no surprise to any of you who saw my <a href="http://www.thebookrat.com/2018/06/favorite-books-of-2018-so-far-book-chat.html" target="_blank">Favorite Books of 2018 (so far)</a>&nbsp;video, but <span style="font-size: large;">this review is about to be a rave</span>.
So.

<strong>Spinning Silver</strong> is just… it’s so beautifully complex. It builds on itself in ever-expanding layers in such a strong, smart way. If it had started out with as many pov characters as it has (and it has more than I was expecting), it could have easily been overwhelming or confusing. Instead, each character is added in as needed, at interesting times and in interesting ways, expanding the story and playing their part, without bogging it down. My one note would be that a couple of the characters' voices (the two main, actually) do sound pretty similar, and that's mostly in the fact that they both sound very reserved and cold*. But in some ways, I think they both <em>are</em> very reserved and cold, and each have their reasons for it; the important thing is that, as they grow and change, their voices do a little bit, too. 

The story – a retelling of Rumplestiltskin -- works really well <em>as</em> a fairy tale retelling; one of the better, actually, imo, because it feels so rich and fully-realized. But it is so much more than that, and works so well as a story on its own, independent of the fairy tale. It doesn't rest on the laurels of the tale, but it also doesn't dismiss the fairy tale, or use it as a bare framework only in name, as so many “retellings” do. It very much IS Rumplestiltskin, and it very much IS its own thing. Of course, because I loved it, and loved the main characters, people are going to call it slow. I already know. I already know! But I loved these characters and found it really brilliantly paced. There is a sense of time passing, so that it moves quickly when it needs to, but doesn't feel rushed or glossed-over, and I feel like that exact thing — the sense of time being a real thing that people have to live with and go through — is something that's ignored or even intentionally abused in books nowadays. The trend is all for flash-fast and uber "readable," leaving a lot of books feeling rootless and easy to forget, which is patently not true of <b>Spinning Silver</b>.

I don't recall this from <b>Uprooted</b>&nbsp;[<a href="http://www.thebookrat.com/2017/01/best-of-2016.html" target="_blank">review</a>], though maybe it's a known strength of Novik's, but in <b>Spinning Silver, </b>at least, Naomi Novik does gray <i>SO well</i>. There are levels to villainy, to victimhood, to strength, to family. It deals with racism and abuse very well, both in the framework of the story, and as a general, non-didactic approach, again adding more layers to the delicious, elaborate cake that is this book. Everything is so, so complex. I know I've already said that, but it bears repeating -- there's a lot to sink your teeth into here, and I feel like further readings would just uncover more and more. And I <i>do</i>&nbsp;want to reread this. I want to reread it and I will reread it. Absolutely beautiful.



* And yes, of course, this made me love them even more. Reserved, cold characters are <a href="http://www.thebookrat.com/search/label/cold%20fish" target="_blank">Misty catnip</a>!
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