Spinning Silver has been on my shelves for so long! I think I bought it, way back in 2017, and it just sat there…looking pretty in its UK cover entirety until recently when I saw that the audiobook was available to borrow on Borrowbox. As a result, I read majority of this on audio and then read my actual physical copy for the last 50 or so pages, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father is not a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has left his family on the edge of poverty – until Miryem intercedes. Hardening her heart, she sets out to retrieve what is owed, and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. But when an ill-advised boast brings her to the attention of the cold creatures who haunt the wood, nothing will be the same again. For words have power, and the fate of a kingdom will be forever altered by the challenge she is issued.
Channeling the heart of the original fairy tale, Naomi Novik deftly interweaves six distinct narrative voices – each learning valuable lessons about sacrifice, power and love – into a rich, multi-layered fantasy.
I went into this book pretty blind but from the instant, I started listening to this book, I was immersed in a winter scene and throughout the entire book, Novak’s writing was so impeccable and unique in the way things were described that I could imagine them perfectly. I loved the winter ambience (especially since I was melting in 30-degree weather for most of it in Melbourne) and I loved that all the main characters were strong women working over different obstacles in their own ways with determination and perseverance.
This book felt so feminist because each character had their own past histories, privileges, upbringings and showed immense character growth and strength throughout. If this doesn’t make sense, in this book we meet Miryem but she is only one of three main characters and one of multiple other point of views that we read from. Forced into a life where she becomes the debt collector of the family, she’s the first strong woman we meet as she connects with two other girls (Wanda & Irina) that will form part of the overarching plot. Their fates are essentially intertwined as they all work together to defeat the antagonists. I really enjoyed the world building, the Russian setting – it was a truly written fairytale and I had no idea that this was a take on the Rumpelstiltskin story because, by the end of it, I thought this turned out to be a Russian Hades & Persephone retelling.
“My mother had enough magic to give me three blessings before she died,” I said, and he instinctively bent in to hear it. “The first was wit; the second beauty, and the third—that fools should recognize neither.”
― Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver
The writing was lush, each character was so well fleshed-out and although the change in perspectives was difficult to discern in the audiobook (the narrator didn’t do an amazing job at creating differentiating voices for each character but that could’ve just been me), it really added to the overall experience. However, while this was a really enjoyable read – it did lose a star because sometimes it did feel like it was too long, that it had dragged and some parts of the world-building or back story explanations weren’t introduced very smoothly. I found myself very confused at some parts and having to go back to gain further context. Otherwise, this was a pretty great first read for me from Novak. It’s not the kind of book I’d read for a fast-moving plot but for the characters and the slow burn journey. If you’re a fan of authors like Maggie Stiefvater and Laini Taylor, I think you’d really enjoy this one!
Have you read this – and if so what did you think? Naomi’s latest book A Deadly Education got a lot of hype too but I’m not sure if I want to pick it up or not…
Until next time,