Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I received an ARC from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, in exchange for an honest review.

After being thoroughly enchanted by Uprooted a few years ago, I was beyond excited about Novik’s new standalone.

To give you a general idea of my enjoyment of the book, I binged it — and smiled stupidly with tears in my eyes upon reading the last sentence. It was that sort of story, one that left me with an overflowing of emotions and the distinct feeling that I won’t be able to pick up another book for a while.

Silver Spinning is a standalone “retelling” of Rumpelstiltskin. I am using quotes because, while there are elements that echo the original tale, the story feels entirely new. Miryem is the daughter of a poor moneylender, who is too nice for his and his family’s own good. When her mother spends a harsh winter abed, sick, the young woman takes it upon herself to go collect the debts. She’s faced with scorn and contempt, but eventually manages to take over her father’s business with growing success. She is the woman who can change silver coins into gold — a dangerous reputation to have when the Staryk, the fair folk who bring winter and who are always hungry for gold, are roaming. When their king comes knocking at Miryem’s door with an offer she really can’t refuse, she has to spin silver into gold in order to save herself and her family.

The story is told from six first-person points of view. The way Novik structured her book is very much like a juggler who gradually adds new objects to balance in the air. We start with core points of view and extend to new ones as the story evolves. I think it’s probably the first multiple pov book I’ve ever read where I’m enjoying all of them, and not wishing I could skip a chapter to get to a more exciting character. The way their stories are woven together, in coins of gold and jewels of fairy silver, in sacrifice and love…I didn’t want to miss any of it.

Novik scratched that continuous itch I have for female characters who are strong in different ways. They are all savvy, they are quick on their feet, they are good at what they do. In politics, in business, or in practical household matters; their competence makes them overcome more than a few challenges.

Spinning Silver is also incredibly atmospheric and immersive. The descriptions put us right into the settings. The hardships lived in a Slavic-inspired world ravaged by a lingering winter are vividly portrayed, as well as the Staryk’s eerie but beautiful world of ice.

But what really makes the book stand out, in my opinion, is the rollercoaster of emotions it puts us through. It’s heartbreaking at times, heartwarming at others, with flashes of unexpected and brillant humour. The issues characters are facing are heavy and dark; nevermind the dangerous otherworldly creatures: Miryem and her family have to live with their anti-Semitic fellow villagers, who resent them for the debts they have incurred. Their servant, Wanda, has an alcoholic and violent father. But there is a bittersweetness in the story overall, and it’s often more sweet than bitter.

Naomi Novik spun words into storytelling gold. If you have high expectations for this book, I think they’ll be met. Mine were.

Spinning Silver is to be released on July 12th, 2018.

5 comments

  1. Have I already commented before? I’ve read so many reviews on “spinning silver” that I don’t even know anymore? You talk of soothing itches, well that’s what this review did for me. It’s so good to know I can trust novik to deliver her classic, beautifully developed, fluid storytelling, and it’s even better to know the characters are solid. Fantastic analysis of the book. I admire how you’ve translated that to the review, but mostly (and by hell do I mean this) I just want to read this book!

    Liked by 1 person

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