Spinning Silver

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Uprooted is one of my all time favourite books so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out she was writing another story in a similar vein but this time inspired by Rumpelstiltskin instead of Beauty and the Beast. I had incredibly high expectations for Spinning Silver but if anything it was even better than I'd hoped it would be.

The story is told from multiple points of view but the three main characters are Miryem, Wanda and Irina young girls with very different stories that all tie together in some way. Miryem is the daughter of a moneylender but although her father is happy to lend people money he finds it very hard to get people to pay him back. Life is tough for their family, food is scarce while people who have borrowed money from them seem to have more than enough to go around so Miryem decides to take matters into her own hands and take over the payment collections. It turns out she has quite a head for business and when she gets a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold she catches the attention of the Staryk King her life gets more difficult than ever.

Wanda is from a poor family, her mother died in childbirth and her father is a drunk but she does her best to look after her younger brothers and keep things going. She's horrified when she hears her father planning on selling her into marriage so when she's forced to work for Miryem to pay of her father's debts instead she's thrilled to delay an unwanted marriage. Especially when she realises that earning a wage may enable her to create a much better life for herself and her brothers.

Irina is the daughter of a duke so she has led a sheltered and privileged life but things change when her father comes up with a plan to marry her off to the tsar. When Irina catches the eye of a demon she realises she is in mortal danger and if she doesn't come up with a way to thwart him then the entire kingdom is in peril.

Spinning Silver is a fantastic tale and a perfect read for the winter months when you're wrapped up warm inside in front of a fire. Just like Uprooted it feels like an old fashioned fairytale, one that people could have been telling for centuries, but at the same time it's a new and fantastic take on the idea of Rumplestiltskin. One of the things I loved most was how strong all three main characters were, they're living in a time when women had very little in the way of rights but they all manage to take control of their own destiny and choose a future for themselves. There are so many layers to this story and Naomi Novik very cleverly takes each separate storyline and weaves them together into something magical. It's hard to decide which of these two books I loved the most but one thing for sure is that they've both earned a spot on my favourites shelf. I'm really, really hoping that the author will write more of these fairytale style books in the future because the first two have been absolutely fantastic.
Was this review helpful?
*I received this ARC via netGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Oof this was a hefty book, it kind of just kept going. I loved the Eastern European fairytale setting and the magical aspects of this were really interesting, however all the different POV's were a bit overwhelming and meant things became very cluttered, and I found myself going oh here we go, another one, whenever a new POV was introduced. I really wanted to like this more than I did but somehow I just didn't love this and wished it were shorter also.
Was this review helpful?
This should have been an easy win. I loved Uprooted and Spinning Silver revolves around the stories of three strong women; Miryem the determined money-lender’s daughter who takes on her father’s clients AND the ethereal Staryk, Irina the plain daughter of a Duke betrothed to the beautiful but ruthless and inhuman Tsar, and Wanda, the abused daughter of Miryem’s debtor. Add to this the mixture of fairy-tale (Rumpelstiltskin with more than a hint of the Snow Queen) and fantasy-Slavic setting and I was unbelievably excited. So why did it fall flat for me?

For one thing the 480-ish pages felt endless. The pace dragged for large sections and this increased as it went along, the writing and plotting seemed to bloat and unravel so that I found my interest waning as the story lost momentum. And then, after all of the build-up, the finale was wrapped up with undue haste.

Adding to bloated feel was the plethora of viewpoints. Not only Miryem, Irinia and Wanda (obviously all essential) but also various other more peripheral characters. While this occasionally gave new insight it mostly served to slow the plot even more, removing the reader from the centre of the action (and there are three to keep up with!) and sacrificed any tension that might have been building.

My lasting impressions, however, was my irritation at the ending. The final conflict was brilliantly constructed, drawing together many of the threads laid earlier in the story. The co-operation between our three heroines, each with their own motivations, was excellent. What followed, i.e. the resolution of the relationships between Miryem and the Staryk King and Irinia and the Mirnatius, much less so. The happy endings for the two couples fell flat because there was so little emotional development for them to stand on. I had a little more sympathy for Mirnatius, after all Irinia had fought and rid him of his demon. If a woman can fall in love with her rescuer (so often in fantasy) I suppose it’s viable for the man to do the same. The real problem was Miryem. She’s such a complex character and I loved that there was real darkness in her, a ruthlessness that she overcomes, but not without a struggle. For her to leap from grudging respect for the Staryk King to love in just a few pages was so out-of-character that I hated it. A hint that their rapprochement might ONE DAY grow into affection would have been enough, and more than enough.

In the end I was frustrated by the idea that a stronger, shorter, better story was buried beneath unnecessary bloat and tainted by clichés and the haunting feeling that Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy does similar things, but much better.
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
I cannot review this book as despite asking many times for the download to be fixed, I have never actually received this one.
Was this review helpful?
For some reason this file will not open on my kindle and I will be crying about it forever! Any help would be appreciated!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?