Review: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

us-spinningsilverGenre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

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. 

OH MY GOD, you guys. My mind is so just completely blown by this book! Naomi Novik is a freaking genius. I love how her books are so unpredictable. The middle is about something completely different from the beginning, and by the end it’s about something else entirely. I never have any idea what direction the story is going to go!

Frankly, I’m not even sure what to say about this book. It’s just… wow.

Spinning Silver follows three female protagonists: Miryem, a Jewish moneylender; Wanda, a poor farm girl, badly abused by her father; and Irina, the daughter of a duke. At the beginning of the novel all three women are down on their luck and subject to the whims of their fathers. But through the course of the book they come to understand their own cleverness and intelligence, and learn to take control of their own destinies.

It’s a love story. Not necessarily romantic love. Love for country. Love for family. Love for your neighbor. The found-family story line in particular was so heart-warming, and I think it will really speak to people raised by someone other than their birth parents. There’s not enough of that in literature.

This book is also about prejudice and other-ness. It’s about learning what it’s like to be different from those around you, and how to accept those people. It was very eye-opening for me, especially the scenes where Wanda finds herself the odd one out in a Jewish community. Like Wanda, I’ve never really been in the minority. Hearing her explain it to the first time, as something she couldn’t possibly have fathomed before, was transformative.

The fantasy! Good Lord! Novik has built such a unique world. It feels similar to the world of Uprooted, but is completely different.

Spinning Silver takes place in a country that is sort of a smaller version of medieval Russia, but there’s parallel worlds, of sorts. In this particular story the winter world grazes up against our own, but there are tantalizing hints of still more worlds. I am dying to know more about them! The winter world was unlike anything I’d ever read before, and it took until the very last page before I really understood it. I love that it took the time to unravel.

The magic, as well, isn’t really ever quite explained, which I found fascinating. I was especially intrigued by the way Novik played with the idea of what magic really is. It seems that magic is simply anything you don’t understand. Like how Wanda thinks the numbers Miryem writes in her book are magic, or her Jewish ceremonies a spell. Obviously that isn’t magic, but she doesn’t understand it. The winter kingdom is the same way. Is it really magic, or simply rules we don’t know yet?

Unlike Uprooted, which I understand was a completely new story, Spinning Silver is inspired by several fairy tales. Most notably Rumpelstiltskin. I loved the Rumpelstiltskin elements. I adored how the original story was apparent, but it wasn’t really the same story at all. Instead pieces of the fairy tale were sprinkled throughout the story. Every time a new little piece showed up I fangirled just a little.

I will say that this book moves a little slower than some. I was turning pages quickly, but it was by no means a break-neck story line. It meandered, and I ate it up. But I know some people don’t like that.

The only thing I didn’t like about Spinning Silver was that it was told from too many point-of-views. Don’t get me wrong, it was masterfully done. Each voice was completely unique, and even though they were all in first person I never had any trouble telling who was talking. I loved the multi-POV at first, when it was only the three protagonists. But the longer the book went on the more people we heard from, and it wasn’t really necessary. It was fun, for example, reading the Tsar’s snarky POV, but it didn’t really contribute anything to the story.

Which brings me to, THE END! I adore Naomi Novik, I’ve loved her since before I ever read Uprooted, but her books aren’t typically what I would call heart-melting. They don’t give me all the feels. The ending of this book DID. It really leaves you hanging, not really resolving anything, but giving you a brief glimpse of the resolution. Normally that might make me frustrated, but it was so gorgeous. I am in love with this ending! But I also want to go write like, 7 fan fictions to really flesh it out.

I can not recommend this book highly enough. Go read it!

9 thoughts on “Review: Spinning Silver

  1. You have me so excited for this! I have my copy here (admittedly I plan to read it before Uprooted because Rumplestiltskin haha). Another friend who favors my tastes is also enjoying this. I am very curious about the magic system now though! I love this idea of it being all that you do not understand. Wonderful review 💙

    Liked by 1 person

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