Spinning Silver

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

I haven’t read Uprooted by Naomi Novik so I totally read Spinning Silver on the back of other people’s hype, and I’m so so glad I did. It’s a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, with elements from other fairytales drawn in, making it a spectacular read.

This will be a spoiler free review, and you can read Spinning Silver without having read Uprooted! Trust me, you want to read this book. I couldn’t stop reading it until the end.


 

I haven’t read anything like Spinning Silver, honestly, and it blew me away. Not just the story but the writing style, it was delicious. Naomi Novik is truly a genius! I’ll be honest, I’m not overly familiar with the Rumpelstiltskin story, other than what’s in Once Upon a Time… so I can’t really comment on how she retold the fairy tale. However you can really feel various aspects of fairy tales brought into the narrative and they all wove together seamlessly. It keeps you reading right until the end.

So this story is told from different character’s POV. It was amazing how their narratives were woven together and they spun closer and closer together as the story went on. I didn’t think all of them were of equal value, however, but all just as enjoyable.

The ‘lead’ in the story is Miryem, who is the daughter of a terrible money lender. Through her we meet Wanda, who has lead such a hard life. We then meet Iriyna, the daughter of the duke. Though she lives a rich life, she equally suffers hardships and faces challenges. I won’t go into more detail as I really don’t want to ruin it for you!

Underpinning all their narratives is the Staryk. They are a fantastical race who live in an alternate land and seem to be made of ice. They are magic and are ruled by the Ice King. I really loved hearing about them, though I could have done with hearing more! They are so fascinating, and though they seem to be the bad guys at time, it really makes you think about how there are really two sides to all stories.

Despite the multiple POVs it doesn’t get confusing, it’s done so well.
 
Miryem. I loved how she took on the role of the bread winner in her family, despite even her parents’ disapproval. It made my heart warm that despite the fact that everyone had this idea that a woman shouldn’t be ‘cold’, she continued to do the hard work her father couldn’t. Her development was so interesting, she went through a number of moral twists and turns before the end of the story. Her struggles, both physical and mental were believable and I felt them with her.

Other supporting characters I really enjoyed were Iriyna and Wanda. Both Iriyna and Miryem were strong women who don’t put up with the shit that’s dealt to them, especially shit from men. It’s really heartening to see such strong women in a novel. Wanda too, though in a different way. I don’t want to say too much about her story so I don’t spoil.

The Staryk King was super interesting, there was way more to him than meets the eye.

This book really had so many important characters, like the Tsar, who is also going through some things which adds another layer to the story entirely. Again, I won’t say too much
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I really wanted to love this book. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. 
It's a smart re-telling of the famous Rumpelstiltskin. It started really strong with a dual perspective story telling between two strong female protagonists. It's enriched with magic, very enchanting atmosphere setting, cruelty, survival, and more.  I really liked the two characters, Miryem and Wanda being very different from each other and their intercepting lives. The first 30% of the book was captivating with the description of the harsh wilderness, the food, the story of survival. I really enjoyed it.
Afterwards, we're introduced to another female character, Irina. By that time, the story started to fall flat, there wasn't a 'wow' factor coming from the character development or the story. Some chapters and conversations felt forced, like it wouldn't matter if it was there or not. To my surprise, as we moved on, more and more characters got involved.
It's not only there were too many characters telling different parts of the story, it was also the execution. These characters were brought without and introduction, or were not developed afterwards. The chapters were short that I couldn't get attached to them and care for them. At some point, I didn't know who was telling the story in that chapter, as Novik didn't give a sign. So, you'd read a few paragraphs without knowing who's talking. This change in POV is symbolised by the Spinning Silver icon, but it really did nothing other than creating confusion and extra brain work for the reader.
Novik had all the ingredients of a magical book, but mixed them up in a way that didn't deliver the satisfactory result. Spinning Silver had a very good start, but fell short of my expectation as Novik focused on creating too many POVs in expense of the plot. Inevitably, the end was rushed as well.
Still, I gave the book 3 stars, because it started strong. I also admire her imagination and ability to write in an enchanting way. The atmosphere setting was excellent. It's just a real pity it went wrong after a point.
Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher Atom for granting an ARC for an honest review.
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As the wintry landscape on the cover suggests, this is a beautifully written, enchanting and magical story with some nods to the classic fairytale Rumpelstiltskin. I have to admit though that while I did find the writing beautiful and the world the author created incredibly vivid there was something about the story that left me feeling a little bit cold. 

That's not to say the story isn't good, because it is. This was my first book by Novik and I was expecting it to be yet another retelling with a slightly more adult spin but it's so much more. Rumpelstiltskin is obviously the inspiration behind it but Novik has taken the idea and expanded it into something truly her own. There is so much depth and detail it's very easy to become completely immersed in the world she creates. It's a little slow to get going as a lot of time is spent introducing the various characters and their place in the world but once I got into it I was completely captivated. 

This is a story that makes you question everything. There's nothing black and white about the events and the characters face some difficult decisions and moral dilemmas. No one is entirely good and even those who would be considered the "heroes" don't always do the right thing. I actually loved how complex the characters were. This may be a fantasy set in a foreign land but they felt very real and their actions entirely convincing.

The story is told from multiple points of view, something I wasn't so keen on, but primarily from the view of three young women, Miryem, daughter of the local money lender, Irina daughter of a Lord who's scheming for power and Wanda, who ends up working for Miryem. I thought all three were wonderful characters and I loved how well it portrayed the limited role of women in this world and how each of them rises out of the role they're pushed into despite their perceived weakness. 

I loved how strong they all were in their own way but if I was naming a favorite it would have to be Miryem. She makes a lot of mistakes (bragging about turning silver into gold, which lands her in a lot of trouble, for example) but most of it comes from a good place, or at least a place of justifiable anger at the treatment of her family by the town. I love how she isn't afraid to be hated if it means saving her family. I also have to admire how brave and clever she is, she thinks and schemes her way out of whatever trouble she lands herself in. This cunning and pride does however make her a little difficult to warm to. Similarly Wanda's and Irina's meekness and lack of self assurance, while completely understandable, also made them more frustrating than relateable.

As far as the other characters go I did find them intriguing but I'm not sure there was anyone I really cared about. The Staryk king, who kidnaps Miryem, was fascinating but a little too cold, aloof and mysterious to really care about and Mirnatius, the new Tsar who is possessed by a fire demon, did draw a lot of my sympathy (the chapters from his pov were actually some of my favorites) but there's not quite enough of him. There were a few pov's I felt were unnecessary and it caused the story to drag a bit but I did love the various themes the author worked in and how you could never tell where it would go next.

The ending when it comes does seem a little rushed and I thought there were elements which were a little unresolved particularly around Irina but if the author wanted to revisit the world and complete the tale I wouldn't have any complaints.

Overall I would say this is beautifully written and captivating but lacked a little of the emotion I look for when reading. If you love retellings, incredible world building and don't mind a slow pace and complex characters I would really recommend you pick this up.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.
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Where do you even start with reviews for a book you loved so much?

If you know the answer to this please tell me beause this is one of the reasons you wont always see reviews of the books I adore.

Naomi Noviks writing style is fantastic. She had me hooked from page one, just like with Uprooted.

I wanted to know more about each of the characters. I wanted to understand their lives, their choices. I wanted to see the story through to the end with them and for each of them to have a happy ending they deserved.

Miryem and Wanda’s point of views were my favourites which is lucky because they were two of the three main characters.

We did also get to read p.o.v from a few other characters – I really enjoyed Steppon’s because she got an uneducated childs voice down so perfectly. He was so innocent and curious.

Talking about multiple point of views actually leads me to my only complaint of the book!

There was an indication that a point of view change was taking place but never who to and this often left me confused for a sentence or two until I had decoded who was speaking.

Not too bad for our regulars but when someone new had a p.o.v? Oh wow that threw me.

I think this could’ve easilly been avoided in the design of the book but ‘eh I’ll live.

Miryem is the jewish daughter of a money lender who is so bad at his job that they often go starving and cold. She decides she has had enough and takes it upon herself to sort their lives out and changes silver to gold.

Wanda the daughter of one of the families who owe money to Miryem but they’re so much poorer that she is hired to help Miryems mother around the house to help pay off their debt.

It would be incredibly rude of me to not acknowledge Irina too. She really grows into her role of Tsarina, she plots and plans to take down two evils in her life.

They all come from nothing or very little and by the end learn a lot of the world and with help from each other get to somewhere they’re happier and more content with.

This isn’t to say that they dont go through some terrible experiences because they really do.

Some of them being The Staryk King and a fire demon.

The Staryk King is on a path of destruction for humans, of wealth for his Staryk kingdom. And its the never ending Winter he’s creating that causes a lot of tension between the rich and poor.

The fire demon wants nothing more than to eat everyone he wants too. Nothing can stop him. Or can it?

They’re part of the reason the girls have to be brave and cunning.

The multiple narratives and exploring the Staryk kingdom were really something else. They made this book for me. Getting to see this story unfold from many perspectives really helped to understand how much their town (?) needed these girls to step up and be the best and smartest versions of themselves that they can be.

I almost wish the book spent more time with the Staryk’s because their nature and culture were really interesting to learn about.

Is this review and my thoughts all over the place? Yes possibly.

Am I thoroughly in love with Novik’s work and recommend this to everyone? Also yes.

I do think I preferred Uprooted out of the two… But hey Novik remains a must buy for me!
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I cannot review this book as despite asking many times for the download to be fixed, I have never actually received this one.
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For some reason this file will not open on my kindle and I will be crying about it forever! Any help would be appreciated!
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Spinning Silver is the second Naomi Novik book I’ve read. I started Uprooted sometime last year but, despite the fact I did enjoy it, I put it down around 50% and kind of just didn’t pick it back up. Spinning Silver was a much better fit for me.

At the root of the story is Miryem: a Jewish, moneylenders daughter. Unfortunately Miryem‘s father isn’t very good at his job, and as much as the town distrusts and disrespects him they also simply don’t pay back their debts. Miryem, during a hard winter, decides pick up the slack and eventually catches the attention of someone she shouldn’t. There are multiple POVs gradually introduced throughout the novel, with two other main characters being protagonists in their own right on a level with Miryem. Wanda, who’s working of her abusive father’s debt’s and Irina, who marries the Tsar only to find out he’s gone secrets of his own.

The three girls fates are interconnected and Novak weaves in lots of different elements: a historical-fantasy version of Lithuania (with Russia and Poland mixed in a little), Miryem’s Jewish faith, the winter fae, Slavic folklore and just a touch of Rumpelstiltskin.

Many of the reviews already available have described better than I can how beautiful Novik’s prose and world-building are — and both are completely stunning — so I’m not going to linger over that. I will say that the settings and societies (at different levels for different characters) are deep and immersive. Spinning Silver is wonderfully evocative, and you can completely and utterly imagine yourself experiencing every single scene.

However, my favourite part of Spinning Silver was the characters. And, as strong as the ensemble is, Miryem, Wanda and Irina are definitely the stars. What I loved most was that, at various point in the story, each one of them is allowed to be a pretty unlikeable character. Miryem has no qualms about chasing her neighbour’s debt no matter what they think of it, Wanda at one point wonders whether or not she should save her brother because technically he’s never done anything for her, and Irina is willing to make very difficult decisions for the good of her people. Ultimately they’re all heroes, but I loved this complexity the characters were given. To have characters making pragmatic choices, taking morally-grey standpoints and sometimes being unlikeable to the reader — while not painting them as the villain — is something I love and few author’s can pull off. Especially for female characters. So few women are allowed to be pragmatic and unlikable without being evil or the bad guy.

I loved seeing how these three clever, conflicted and complicated women grew and interacted with one another. This sort of realistic and romanticized female character is something I’m always looking for in stories, and Spinning Silver delivered with a vengeance.
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Glittering fantasy rooted in the real. 4/5 stars.

I jumped at the chance to read Spinning Silver after being impressed by Novik’s last novel: Uprooted. Everything I enjoyed about that book is present in her latest offering, and with Spinning Silver I think she’s improved on many of the strengths of her previous story.

Spinning Silver is an imaginative take on the Rumpelstiltskin story we all know, but while readers will recognise elements from the traditional tale, this is an original and expansive story which marries the most fantastical tropes (demons and magic mirrors to name two) with issues that are sadly all too realistic (including domestic abuse and antisemitism).

Novik takes the fairy tale and right from the off she uses it in ingenious ways to relate the story of three young women and their families. Her narrative is told from various viewpoints, but we see events mostly from the perspective of the three main female characters who are all brave and resourceful. This was my favourite thing about the book: all these women find their gender puts them at a disadvantage, but none of them wait to be rescued and instead use their courage, intelligence and willlingness to work hard to get the best outcome for themselves and those they care about. These characters form a solid, believable core around which all the magical elements are just window dressing.

Although that’s not to dismiss the world Novik creates, which is enchanting in its textures and details whether she is leading us through the country, city or icy other world of the Staryk.

My only criticism is that about two-thirds through I felt the story had grown over-complicated with too many viewpoint characters and subplots which caused the plot to drag slightly. However, this was a small price to pay for getting to spend time with great characters you really root for and enjoying the pleasing twists and turns of the story.

Overall: fans of Uprooted and readers who like fantasy tales to have engaging characters with their feet firmly planted in the real will enjoy Spinning Silver.
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Due to errors from the publisher, I was unable to download this book. Therefore, the review is based on the hardcover copy and not the ARC.
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Advertised as a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, this takes quite some imagination to get the reader to that particular fairy tale. I’m assuming that the Staryk King is along the lines of the Rumpelstiltskin character, except he isn’t some wizened dwarf. In fact, more than one of the characters carries some of Rumpelstiltskin’s traits. 
Miryem, the Jewish Moneylenders daughter (who is actually far better at it than her father), has a reputation for turning silver in to gold, and this reaches the ears of the Staryk King, who demands that she change his silver in to gold. Which she does three times; the consequences of which aren’t quite what she expects. 
Novik writes good female characters, without any doubt. Miryem, whotakes over her father’s moneylending business and saves her family; Irena, the daughter of a Duke, who marries the demon possessed Tsar; and Wanda, the daughter of a destitute, drunk farmer, who by luck comes to pay off her father’s debts by working for Miryem. 
These women’s lives converge to create a bewitching story of real human concerns: poverty, helplessness, strength found when needed, and how important it is to pay your debts! 
I do hope Novik writes more books like this. I’ll buy them!!
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to read and review this wonderful book.
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This is a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. I was on the fence about requesting this book as while I didn’t hate Naomi Novik’s book Uprooted I also didn’t love it but I’m so glad I gave her another change as this book is amazing.

This story follows several different points of view but the main three are of Miryem, Wanda and Irinushka. Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders and takes over from her father as her mother is ill and her father is not able to collect the debts he is owned and Miryem finds out that she has a knack for turning silver into gold but she is not the only one who has noticed, the king of the Staryks, if Miryem can turn his silver into gold three times then he will make her his Queen if she can’t then he will turn her to ice.  Our second point of view character is Wanda who lives with her father and two brothers on a farm at the edge of Miryem’s village however, Wanda’s father owns a debt to Miryem’s and so Miryem takes Wanda into her employment in order to pay back the debt and this changes Wanda’s life in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Our third main point of view is Irinushka who marries the Tsar of Litvas however, he is not what he seems and she must do anything in her power to save her people from his insatiable hunger.

I loved all of these characters as they are so strong and will do anything to protect those that they love even if it means playing the part of the villain in other people’s stories. Miryem and her family are also Jewish and I really enjoyed reading that added representation.

Naomi Novik is a brilliant storyteller and does an amazing job of weaving these girls stories together to create a magical and whimsical story that will leave you wanting more.
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The central fairy tale that this book references is Rumpelstiltskin and turning straw into gold. It also nods towards other folk tales like the Russian folk tale about a Frost King and has echoes of the Snow Queen too.


The story is woven together from different strands, but each woman is strong and resourceful. Miryem first attracts the Staryk King through her ability to “make” gold, when she takes over the money lending business from her father. Irina is destined to marry a member of nobility but is not passive in this. Wanda has an abusive father but is responsible for 2 younger brothers.

The novel then weaves together these strands and adds a few more narrative viewpoints.

Miryem’s stay in the Staryk Kingdom was probably my favourite part of the story. The Staryk servants whom she befriends reminded me of the Sendings in the Abhorsen’s House in Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series. The setting of the ice mountain also reminded me of the Clayr from the same series. The importance of naming in fairy tales appears in these sections of the story.

Irina encounters the diametric opposite in her relationship with the Tsar who has a hidden secret.
Wanda faces more “everyday” troubles but is also a pivot within the narrative. I think it is no accident that the 3 lead characters are from different layers of society. They are all aware of how precarious human existence is in such an environment. Also having the 3 characters allows the reader to “compare and contrast” the 3 women. They are all resourceful and loyal.

However, the more linear structure of Uprooted had me more absorbed. There were times when the plotting wasn’t fast paced enough for me. Maybe I was comparing it too much to Katherine Arden’s trilogy which has a number of similar themes and motifs.

In summary it is skilfully written sparkling fantasy.
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ARC courtesy of NetGalley. I expect I will also buy a copy of my own once it comes out in paperback.

A thoughtful, kind, and compulsively readable novel that puts women's and girls's first and makes them heroines of their own stories, and that shows how these intersect, and how even when specific women's interests may seem contrary, ultimately they are stronger together.

The novel deconstructs the story of Rumpelstiltskin to dig into the meanings underneath. It puts us in the first-person narrations of a host of characters, involved on different levels of the tale, and living their lives in different strata of society, showing how oppressive it is for women of different classes and how destructive said oppression can be. It's a very thoughtful, deliberate story, which knows precisely what it wants to tell us, and does not shy away from more unpleasant aspects of the world it shows. It is also beautifully (and I mean, beautifully) written. The story flows, the language sparkles, the characters leap off the page. I loved how specific the culture was, and how material and real the world felt thanks to acknowledging this specificity and putting it on the page.

As a person who enjoyed the romance in Uprooted, I found the romantic plots here compelling and interesting, and shippable, but your mileage may vary.

My only complaint is that the world still felt a little straighter than necessary, and that the ending felt a little rushed - after the long and complex build-up, I would have loved a more developed section at the end, to show us the world characters have achieved and their own place in it.
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Naomi Novik has once again created a beautiful fantasy book that draws you in to her world and doesn't let you go.  It left me desperate to know more about the intriguing characters she introduced me too.
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This review is spoiler-free.

Uprooted is a book that I absolutely love and am very thankful for.  It’s the book that broke the worst reading slump of my life, which had been carrying on for months. I love it so much, despite its (romance) problems, and I constantly recommend it.  You can probably imagine my excitement when I heard about her next novel, Spinning Silver.  After months of pining, my copy arrived in the post and I was so thrilled to get reading.

Spinning Silver is loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, which is something you don’t see very often as it’s not the sexiest of fairy tales.  However, that made the book feel like such a fresh and unique retelling at a time in which retellings are incredibly common. It is a novel-length fairy tale much like Uprooted, however it is a much more complex story.  There are six point of view characters, something that really could have failed but ended up working out very well. I loved the way the different threads of the story came together to form a bigger picture — I really enjoyed getting so many different sides to the same situation.  Although the pacing is a little slow at times, I thought she did a particularly good job with such a complicated structure.  It’s quite a long novel, however I didn’t really think anything could be trimmed out.

This is such a character driven book, which is no surprise with six POV characters.  The unsurprising standout for me was Miryem, who is the main character of the book. While Agnieszka in Uprooted felt like a very generic fantasy heroine, Miryem really stands out and is so memorable.  She’s a sharp and capable woman who is completely undervalued by everyone she meets.  From her loving family to the townsfolk, no one quite views Miryem with the respect and understanding she deserves.  To complicate matters, she lives in a time and place in which Jewish people are shunned, and the undertones of anti-Semitism run through the book.  She’s often described as cold and calculating by her parents and the townsfolk who are her clients.  I’m actually not sure if Novik means for us to believe Miryem is actually a cold and harsh woman. To me, she just felt like a modern woman born in the wrong time — there’s so much to admire about her.  She’s easily one of my new favourite characters in fantasy.

Irina and Wanda were other favourite POV characters in this book.  They both possess a similar inner strength to Miryem and stand out as well-written and interesting characters.  The women in Spinning Silver are all fantastic — they embody the quieter side of the ‘strong female character’ trope and were just so well written.  Similar to Uprooted, I thought the male characters, such as the Staryk king and the Tsar, were considerably weaker than their female counterparts — it felt like Novik just didn’t have the same interest in writing and developing them as she did in the women.  In fact, I thought that the weakest of the point of view characters was Stepon, Wanda’s youngest brother. It’s hard to be a standout POV character when you’re an eight-year-old boy and the others are adult women though, so I give him a little bit of a pass.  However I found myself reading through his sections quickly to get back to our heroines.  When readers think back on this book, the women will be the ones they remember and the men will fade into the background.

Spinning Silver is a brilliant, wintery fairy tale that is a perfect escape.  As much as I love Uprooted, I do think that Spinning Silver is the better book — it is complex and compelling and has so many wonderful characters.  I’d highly recommend this to Novik’s established fans, as well as readers who loved Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy.  If you liked the Russian folklore vibes and strong, interesting heroine from The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, you’ll probably love this book too.
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I'd heard many good things about Uprooted, which is why when I saw Spinning Silver up for grabs on NetGalley, I hit the request button. As writers mostly get better with each book they put out, I was hoping this book would exceed my expectations. It was also getting some hype from other reviewers who had early copies, so I was excited to dive in!

It fulfilled all of my expectations and then some more. It was initially a bit tough to get into and this wasn't a case where I fell in love with it from Page 1. The characters of Miryem and Wanda grew on me slowly. The different perspectives were very interesting to read and made the story richer. My favourite was Miryem and although I liked Irina at the beginning, I wasn't a fan of her at the end. The plot has so many different threads, which kept me engaged and guessing as to how the narratives would weave together. This was my favourite part of the book and I was very satisfied with the ending. A little bit more about what happened to Irina would have been nice to know though.

I also really liked the magic system. It was a whimsical story from the start, but I loved discovering more about the world as it progressed. The various kinds of magic and how they affected the world of mortals was fascinating and quite original for me. I also liked that it showcased different cultures and revealed the customs and beliefs of each in a very natural way rather than as an info dump. What really stole my heart was how amazing the female characters were in the story. I liked how they took the opportunities that came their way and were also enterprising enough to create their own when they were handed no privileges. I especially liked Miryem's growth, Wanda's steadfast strength and Irina's cunning.

Overall, I had a great time reading this book and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a well-crafted and original fairy tale.
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Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

Spinning Silver is a magical, captivating novel. So captivating, in fact, that the only reason I did not finish it in one sitting was because I had to leave home the day after. Still, its story and characters managed to stay with me and drag me back to its pages constantly. 

Spinning Silver is a very loose re-telling of the tale of Rumpelstiltskin. Many elements from the original story are incorporated into the novel, but different characters embody different aspects of the character and tale. We see silver turning into gold, we see bargains made, and we see names so important that they dare not be uttered. Novik has kept all the elements that made Rumpelstiltskin a captivating and beloved story and gave them a new spin and twist, making them entirely her own.

Perhaps the most important thing Novik incorporated into her novel was that of the Jewish moneylender stereotype. It is a stereotype often seen not just in history but in historical fiction and folklore as well, and seeing a tale as old as time from an antisemitic perspective and interpretation felt like a breath of fresh air to the ever-growing genre of fairytale re-tellings. Novik clearly sets herself apart from her fellow authors.

Above all, it's a very clever book. It uses its setting and magical elements very well to create a mythical, supernatural atmosphere, an eerie aura. In that sense, it reminded me of The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden , as most well-executed fantasy novels tend to do. The setting is very cleverly used to fit the narrative and is properly exploited and explored throughout the novel through the multiple points of view. That's another thing that makes this book unique: the plethora of perspectives that allows for every voice to be heard and aids the readers into forming a well-rounded and informed opinion. Sometimes we see two main characters having opposite views or opinions and the multiple perspectives let the readers fully see both sides instead of guessing one or the other's motives and thoughts, thus allowing them to form their own opinion.
I do, however, have a small complaint. See, Novik's world is so intricate, her characters so unique, complicated, and three-dimensional, that I felt like the ending did not do them justice. To be completely honest, I could not see this story ending with a bang. I saw it more as a study of the characters, their thoughts, and their village, than an actual story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I felt like the story did not need a 'wrap up' as the characters beautifully grew into themselves along the way; and a big, impressive ending just did not fit the story for me. But, that's entirely a matter of personal preference.
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Wow. A feat of beauty and adventure and dark atmosphere. I loved every second of this, from the setting to the characters and the playful retelling.
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A fairy tale adaptation you say? Set in a magical cousin of \Russia? Yes of course I'd love to read this, why haven't you given it to me yet?! Spinning Silver promises a lot of good things in its blurb, but I'm happy to say that what it actually has to offer is a lot better than what is promised. Novik spins a magical web, slowly ensnaring the reader until they realise they're in too deep to get out. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The main reason I picked up Spinning Silver is because the blurb calls it 'fairy tale-inspired'. I love new, modern takes on fairy tales that explore what is at the heart of those tales and why they are still relevant to us now. Spinning Silver does this at the very start, revealing that behind the fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin there is a very different truth. And so Novik sets the reader on an early path to both mistrust what is at the surface and suspect what lies underneath. It makes for a great set up to exploring the lives of her many characters, and especially the three girls at the heart of the novel, Miryem, Irina and Wanda. And this is where I need to take a moment to complain about the blurb above for this novel. The reason I included it in the review is only to be able to complain about it now. After having read the book I feel the blurb does it a major disservice. Not only does it leave out Wanda as a major character, it misses out of providing hints at the genres the book mixes together and gives no suggestion of the richness of the book itself. So as I said in my introduction above, consider the blurb only a pale reflection of the actual book. In this review I'm going to try and avoid covering too much of the plot because I loved the surprises it offered me.

As stated, at the heart of Spinning Silver are Miryem, the daughter of Jewish moneylenders, Irina, the daughter of a duke who had hoped for more, and Wanda, the daughter of a drunk and poor farmer. Part of why I was so annoyed that the blurb gave no hint of all three is because it is by bringing together their diverse stories that Novik really caught my attention. Miryem's family is poor because her father is no good at moneylending, but one day Miryem has had enough of the sly smiles, the withheld money and the comments about their Jewish heritage, and takes over from her father. Fueled by her anger, Miryem quickly makes her family's life more comfortable. Alongside this we are told of Wanda, who lives with her two brothers and father on a barren farm, "protected" only by her mother's tree. Through Miryem Wanda is given a chance at escape, understanding and maybe even the magic of letters. As Miryem's power to "change silver into gold" becomes more well-known, she draws the eyes of a people shrouded in myth and fear, catching up Irina in the turmoil as well. Irina has lived her life in the shadows, almost content at being a disappointment to her father, until he sees a chance to make her tsarina. Her elevation brings with it strength and danger, and, like Miryem and Wanda, she has to find a way to save what she loves and come into her own. Novik takes her three main characters and highlights both the differences and similarities between them. Whether it's their difference in class and ethnicity or their shared stubborn determination and quiet love for their family, Novik's Spinning Silver shows them in a gentle but honest light and I couldn't help but become engrossed in all of them.

Novik's writing is what brings Spinning Silver to life. She translates the sparse but powerful style of fairy tales into a more luscious and rich style, without losing the clarity and honesty. I loved both her descriptions of the grand  landscape and of the small moments between family members that show their love for each other. Spinning Silver moves skilfully between being loud and being quiet, being dramatic and being intimate. It means that I found myself, reading during my lunch break at work, completely lost in her world. I looked up from my Kindle an hour later and had forgotten I was at work. For the rest of the day I had Spinning Silver in my mind and I returned to reading the moment I got home. I was surprised that certain aspects of the novel worked for me. Novik moves a lot between different narrators, and not just her three main female characters. Yet each time there is a new character speaking their narration adds another layer to the story and it didn't feel like too much. In a sense the ending also came too soon and tied up all the loose story lines almost too neatly, but I guess now I'm just really looking for something to complain about. I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for more of Novik's novels.

I adored Spinning Silver. Once I was caught there was simply no escape. Novik weaves a beautiful tale of three interlocking stories, three girls with different paths yet similar desires, all set against a beautiful, Russian fairy tale-esque background. What more could you really ask for?
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. However, my ARC copy would not download onto my kindle, therefore I bought the finished version on release day (mainly because of my love of Naomi Novik’s previous novel Uprooted). This review will be based around that finished copy. 

There’s something about Naomi Novik’s fairy tales that I find irresistible and evocative. She manages to weave these fantastical tales that are steeped in tradition around grounded and very real women full of life and character, while delicately introducing complicated relationships that capture the very heart of the story so well. 

Miryam is the first character we’re introduced to. Described as resourceful, shrewd and emotionless in her pursuit of debts, she’s a glorious example of a character who must look inside herself to discover her talents and save herself and those she loves from destitution. She can sometimes come across as standoffish and cold - but I found this the perfect counterpoint to her Staryk king who is so similar to her in personality, yet she can’t see it. Their relationship, at once complicated and hard, is one of my favourite aspects of the book. It was great to see it develop as the story progressed from sullenness to something that could be described as amiable. 

Irina is Miryem’s counterpoint, the winter to her sun. The daughter of a duke, married to the tsar, she soon realises that there’s more to her husband than meets the eye. She must quickly learn how to be a tsarina and defend her people against a threat much bigger than herself. A threat steeped in fire and hunger. I found her very similar to Miryem in terms of rising to her position as ‘queen’, to discover that she has a natural talent to rule. One that outshines her husband’s. I also enjoyed her relationship with the Tsar, as she struggles with the beast and the man separately. I would have liked to have seen this relationship explored more, as I found it rather complex and politically fraught but I understand the importance of allowing Miryem’s relationships to take centre stage towards the end.

Wanda I found interesting, as she’s everything Miryem could have been if her father was crueller and she wasn’t so shrewd. However, her story peters out halfway through the novel and doesn’t really develop the way it could have. I found she’s rather sacrificed in favour of Irina, and her character becomes less important and more unsubstantial towards the end of the novel. 

The settings and world building also really stand out in the novel, especially the descriptions of the Staryk lands and the harsh winters of the human world. I found myself a little lost amongst the forest trees with the characters on many occasions, willing the harsh Staryk white road into being so I could follow it. I do find it odd that the novel is released in the summer, as this is such a pure winter tale that speaks of harsh frosts and bitter winds. It’s perfect for winter evenings. 

I will admit that at times I found the Staryk culture a little complicated, with the various concepts of debts and promises and how they must be repaid etc. rather convoluted in their explanations. However, as I was experiencing this along with Miryem it didn’t distract from my overall enjoyment of the story. 

I was disappointed that there wasn’t a easier way to distinguish between the many characters who tell the story. The ARC copy apparently had symbols to differentiate between who was telling the story, but the finished book did not. This would have been incredibly helpful, as sometimes I struggled to understand who was telling the story - especially as the tale progressed and more characters were added to the roster, and did dampen my enjoyment somewhat. 

Although this doesn’t quite match Uprooted for me in terms of overall enjoyment, I loved reading this. Naomi Novik is firmly on my ‘must read’ shelf for all future novels and I encourage everyone who loves fairy tales and complex relationships to give this a go.
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