Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

5 Stars

You may think you know the story of Rumpelstiltskin, but you’ve never seen the story like this! Spinning Silver is a wonderful way to beat the summer heat.

Cover from Goodreads

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.

Miryem may be able to turn silver into gold but that’s just about where the resemblance to the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin begins and ends. This is a story about women, power, and what happens when women grab hold of power – in its many forms.

Spinning Silver* is another masterful work from Uprooted author Naomi Novik. It originally began life as a short story, published in The Starlit Wood anthology edited by Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien, the duo behind the Robots vs Fairies anthology I have previously reviewed. I loved that first short story as it was, but am delighted by what it grew into.

Novik weaves together many different perspectives of events as they unfold and gives readers a deep understanding of the perils and perspectives of different powers within. Miryem is cold and hard because she has to be, in order to avoid poverty. Wanda is stoic and strong because she has to be, in order to avoid the beatings of her father. Irina is clever and decisive because otherwise, she is simply a political pawn. These strong women are the backbone upon which Spinning Silver is constructed, and each shows a different kind of strength.

The fact that Miryem and her family are Jewish is a thread woven throughout the story. Safety is a tenuous thing, and how Miryem and her family are treated comes up time and again. But as much as their Jewishness is a source of danger and a social barrier, it is also beautiful and hopeful. Miryem and her family find strength, hope and power in their scripture, prayers and rituals.

Fans of Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower will feel right at home between these pages as well. Novik doesn’t tell the same story, of course, but something with the same feel of snow and magic and wonder.

Spinning Silver is both nostalgic and new and fresh at the same time. Novik kept me guessing throughout and still surprised me at the end. At the same time, it had the feel of falling into a story that I’d read before, familiar and comforting.

The masterpiece that is Spinning Silver is available for purchase on July 10, 2018.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

*This post contains affiliate links. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this book using my affiliate link. 


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