Title: Spinning Silver
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: July 9th, 2018 (Del Rey Books)
Synopsis: Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.
When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.
Miryem’s father is the town’s moneylender, but he’s not very good at it, repeated failing to collect on debts, leaving his family in a very poor financial condition. Determined to do something about it, Miryem takes over collection duties with immediate results, and gains a reputation for turning silver into gold, soon hiring Wanda a peasant girl to help. Her success however, draws the attention of the king of the Staryk, who sets her an impossible challenge. Meanwhile, the plain daughter of a local duke, suddenly becomes attractive to everyone around her due to the jewellery made of fairy silver that Miryem sold her, and is married off to the tsar. But Tsar Mirnatius has a dark secret of his own that threatens both mortals and Staryk alike.
Spinning Silver is a very loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Where in the original story, Rumpelstiltskin is seen as the villain, it was interesting to see the roles reversed in this one. The world-building was absolutely stunning. The setting of the wintery forests and the villages was so atmospheric and well-written, it was easy to imagine myself in those places as I read. While the concept of turning silver to gold sets the background for the story, this book is more about the stories of three women who are faced with tough choices leading to their paths crossing in the most unexpected of ways. This is not a quick read at all, and trying to get through it fast will just be confusing, but it is, I think, worth the effort and time.
Miryem, Wanda and Irina were all excellent characters, and I particularly enjoyed Irina’s arc because it was such a transformation from the wallflower we were initially introduced to. Even though each of them came from situations that were in one way or the other less than ideal, they all grew into such strong personalities in an effort to defend those dear to them, forming a very unlikely alliance.
However, there were points when I felt that this story was unnecessarily complicated. The multiple POV switches within chapters are very confusing, especially given that they often double back on events that have already happened, and there is no indication which POV we’re switching to. Another thing is that I didn’t really feel these many perspectives were needed – for example, Irina’s nurse didn’t add much to the story that could not have been gleaned from other viewpoints.
Overall, this was an entertaining read even if it had some downsides. I really enjoyed Novik’s recent book, A Deadly Education, but with how convoluted Spinning Silver was, I have my doubts about Uprooted which I had planned to read next. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in unique retellings.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!