Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

About the Book

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.

480 pages (hardcover)
Published on July 10, 2018
Published by Del Rey
Author’s webpage
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This book was a library loan. Yay libraries!

I was really excited for Spinning Silver. I saw it on the shelf at my library, and nabbed it. I read this puppy in about two days flat, which is great considering the pure chaos my life is at the moment. While I did love this book, I didn’t love it as much as some of the other fairytale retellings that are out there right now, or the previous book in this series.

Spinning Silver tells the story of Miryem, the daughter of a very bad moneylender, and the granddaughter of a successful moneylender. Her father basically impoverishes her family with his poor management of money. Her mother gets deathly ill, so Miryem decides to take up the family trade and be the moneylender her father can’t be.

It turns out she has a knack for the trade. She starts lifting her parents out of poverty, and gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. This rumor spreads, until she attracts the attention of the fae-like creatures who live in the permanent winter sort of alternate reality that borders her own. Added to this is the story of the handsome young Tsar, who has some magical things happening with him (I’m reluctant to say more lest I give things away), and a young girl and her two brothers who get sucked into all these goings-on.

Now, the good stuff is that Novik’s prose is always solid. She has a very lyrical, descriptive way of writing that just brings this world to life, and makes the fairytale aspects of it seem so real. I also absolutely loved the details she threw into this story. I enjoyed the religious aspects of it, the fact that issues Jews faced historically were addressed in roundabout, light ways. For example, they were mentioned as being allowed back into a city to live, but they had to live in a certain part of it, behind walls. The fact that Miryem’s religion was an aspect that quietly gave her strength, and determination in trying times. I also enjoyed all the aspects of the moneylending, the development of Wanda, and how all these different plot threads wove together. It was all very well done.

There was some stuff that bothered me, though.

Toward the second half of the book, a handful of perspectives were added, and I, frankly, felt like some of them were unnecessary and had the effect of bloating the book more than it needed to be. This made the second half feel a bit meandering, and I found myself losing interest occasionally. Things picked up toward the ending, but the journey from the middle to that ending wasn’t quite as gripping as the strong start.

There were some perspectives I really enjoyed. Miryem was probably the show stealer. Wanda came in a close second, her quiet strength really made the book interesting, and her sorrowful home life, and the subtle mysteries she lives with added a lot of texture to her narrative. Then there’s Ivana, a noble daughter who has had a rather unlucky life. There were other perspectives, but these were really the strongest, and while the others had strength, none of them really gripped me as much as these.

The ending was rewarding, and I loved how things worked out for all parties involved, each of them getting their just rewards. While I did find that the second part of the book dragged, wasn’t as strong as the first, I still really liked it. There was an enchanting quality to things, a beautiful way the world came to life, and kept becoming more and more real as details and texture were added to the weaving of it. The romance was slow burning, and predictable, but realistic despite that, and that’s probably why I loved it.

So, Spinning Silver was a great book, well worth reading, but the second half wasn’t as strong as the first. I think it was bloated by unnecessary points of view, and the plot meandered a bit before coming together for a strong ending. That’s balanced out by some great writing, fantastic world-building, and no detail overlooked. There are other fairytale-inspired books that I have enjoyed more, but this is still a very strong book.

I really enjoy books that enchant me, and Novik has the ability to do that. Spinning Silver is a worthy installment to a series that is quickly turning into one of my favorites.


4/5 stars


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