I am super thrifty when it comes to book buying… and most other things. I hate to pay full price and tend to use either Thriftbooks or my Kindle. A long time book on my TBR, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, is almost impossible to find for less than $15.00. While that’s not expensive, I didn’t really want to pay that for an author I had never read anything from before. I got some money for Christmas, though, and decided to stop being cheap and finally buy this book. I am so happy I did because this is a beautiful fantasy story. This review will be spoiler free.
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.
- Rating- ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Spinning Silver is a loose retelling of the “Rumpelstiltskin” fairytale. It has a Slavic, pastoral type setting with snow covered forests and country magic. Novik spends a lot of time describing the simple, but difficult, lives of the people in this secluded village. The setting is atmospheric and really helps to create the fairytale feeling. There’s an excellent mixture of the characters going through their daily, simple lives with the inclusion of magic and “other” not so normal things.
The story alternates perspectives, primarily between the women in the story, with the majority of it being told from Miryem, Wanda and Irina’s points of view. We also occasionally see perspectives from the Tsar, Wanda’s youngest sibling, and Irina’s nursemaid. There are many different characters, but I found it to be quite easy to tell them apart because they’re all so unique.
The primary character is Miryem. I really liked her but I wouldn’t say she’s my favorite; I enjoyed Wanda’s POV the most. Miryem is very serious and while I understand why, it made it hard to care about her on an emotional level. I honestly feel that way about this book in general and that’s why it is a four star read and not a five star. What I did love, however, was the fact that Miryem and her family are Jewish. This isn’t something just mentioned in passing; their beliefs are a central part of the story. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a fantasy that included Judaism and I found that to be very unique.
I was under the impression before starting this book that it had a romantic sub-plot and while it technically does, it’s not a thing until the very end. My favorite genre is historical fantasy with romance and I really don’t think this book fits into that. While I would have liked to see more of those relationships than the small bit at the end, I don’t feel that the story really suffered from the lack of romance. I wanted to mention it, though, because I know that many people prefer fantasy to have that romantic aspect.
Overall, this is a beautifully written story with strong female characters. Miryem, Wanda and Irina all have horrible circumstances to overcome, and they manage to do it by being strong and smart.
This book was the perfect January read with its icy winter setting. If you’re looking for a good fairytale to get lost in, I don’t think you’d regret reading this book. If you’ve read Spinning Silver, or anything else by Naomi Novik, let me know what you think. Thanks for reading and have a great day!