I recommend going into this book not knowing much, just read the synopsis and maybe a review or two. It’s best to not know a lot because it is a bit of a confusing book 😄. I think if you try to find out too much it’s possible you won’t want to read it anymore.
Title: Spinning Silver
Author: Naomi Novik
Number of Pages: 466pg
Year Published: 2018
Publisher: Del Rey
Cover Art/Designer: David G. Stevenson (design), Nicholas Delort (illustration), Jo Anne Metsch (book design) – though this information is for the original cover and not the one I read it in.
Genre: Adult ~ Fantasy ~ Retelling ~ Romance
Links: Goodreads || The Storygraph
Copy: Physical – library loan
CW/TW: (Taken from The Storygraph) Child abuse, domestic abuse, antisemitism, violence, alcholism, death, and more
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.
I went into this knowing only that it’s a Rumpelstiltskin retelling. I didn’t know how much of a retelling it would be – close to the original, more like Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time (whom I love). I didn’t even know if Rumpelstiltskin actually appears in the book. I was pleasantly surprised to find it took a simple retelling and elevated it into something much more intricate and wonderful.
I read (in reviews) that the writing was really good so I expected that, but I didn’t realise what absolutely fantastic writing the book has. I hope that this book isn’t an outlier when it comes to her writing. I definitely want to read her other books – Uprooted and the dragon series (I’m always up for a dragon series).
There’s quite a couple of points of views, usually from the three main characters with views by side characters here and there. I did get confused in the beginning but as I read on, I became familiar with their manner of speaking. Still, I would’ve liked labels? Even if I read this every year, or even twice a year, I still would’ve preferred the labels. Maybe if I buy a physical copy I can write the pov names in 😄.
Miriam, Wanda, and Irina are three women who all faced difficult decisions within difficult lives; but they intertwined together and their stories mimicked each other – which I really liked seeing. There was the same theme regarding choices – not being able to make your own, and then choosing to start making your own decisions – throughout all their point of views. I liked seeing them start making their own decisions, taking control of their story, choosing how their story would progress.
Miryem just wanted to do the best for her family. She saw what needed to be done and she just went for it. I loved how strong she was and she just took over her father’s business, and made it flourish. You could possibly say that she is the mostly the main character of the novel, but I don’t really see it that way. Even though a lot of the novel happens around her/because of her actions, she only plays a part or ends up playing a part, and to me, she’s one of three main characters.
I actually didn’t like Wanda when we were first introduced to her. Luckily I quickly grew to love her as she’s a very strong character and I love strong characters. But that’s the point of the novel – is that all three of these women are strong in their own ways. Also Wanda slowly finding a family in Miryem’s family was very sweet to see. I wanted to hug and feed her because she rarely got either of the two.
And then again with Irina’s chapters at first I didn’t really know what to think of her. I think I thought of her as a stereotypical royal character (even though she’s a low royal, in terms of ranking). She’s most certainly not. Irina’s type of strength is the quiet type, not visible all the time, but it’s definitely there if you know where to look.
I absolutely loved how the magic played a role in this book. I originally thought it would be everywhere and you would know what’s magic and what’s not. But that didn’t happen but I quite liked playing ‘what’s magic and what’s not’. I liked doing that! It was fun because it allowed me to think beyond what we would consider ‘traditional’ magic in fantasy. Magic doesn’t always have to be clear-cut, lines, and rules. It can be abstract. It can be achieved by the characters performing magic largely through intent. Magic doesn’t even need to be actual bouts of magic.
I also think that part of the magic in the book is the magic of kindness and respect you have for others (in my opinion, so you don’t have to agree). Like for instance (I don’t really think this is a spoiler because it’s mentioned in the synopsis) – I don’t think Miryem really had to hire Wanda but she did it and that led to other magic. That type of magic created bonds between the characters (taking a while at times). It flowed through the book and lived alongside the other ‘actual’ magic that was seen.
I absolutely loved the Staryks. I loved every time they came onto the page and, yes, sure, they’re meant to be the villains; but I never saw them that way 😂. In my eyes there were other true villains and the Staryk actually helped? They helped the three women meet each other and furthered their storylines. Look, I don’t care if I’m the only one to defend the Staryk, I’ll do it because I think they’re cool.
I think a lot of the world building in fits in with the magic – it’s not like they’re separate things, they’re very much intertwined with each other. I always enjoy it when world building and magic are strongly linked with each other. Miryem’s family is Jewish and I liked seeing the representation. There was this really adorable moment that I’m not going to mention but it was really sweet to see (involving prayer). There’s probably more references that I didn’t pick up but others who know the faith more did so I want to check that out sometime soon.
I could absolutely definitely see this being adapted. I don’t really think a movie as I think a lot of things would be cut out. Potentially a miniseries. Directed by Guillermo del Toro – because he’s my favourite director and he’s really good with fairytale and bringing them to the screen. Also with creating monsters that are human, and not the typical ‘monster’ monsters. Plus with a tv series, even just a mini one, you’d be able to get a lot of details and extra information from the book onto the screen.
I wanted to get this review up… much sooner but uhh that didn’t work out but it’s here, so never mind! This I say of many posts where the post date is later than I wanted them to be 😄 Have you read Spinning Silver or any of Novik’s other books? Are they as good as this one? I’ll probably pick up Uprooted next when I’m bored of having to get through series (like I’m literally just reading series now but also I need to actually finish series this year to make my stats look better 😶