Ahoy there me mateys! I highly enjoy this author’s work and for me this was her best book yet! It is magical, completely engrossing, and wonderfully written. One of the things that I find most interesting about this book is that while ye could catch glimpses of fairy tales that have come before, it is completely its own beautiful fairy tale. I am not clever enough to really explain the awesome that is this book but here is me best shot.
The story begins with the perspective of Miryem, a young Jewish girl whose father is a moneylender. One who is not good at getting his money back. So hungry, cold, and angry, Miryem hardens her heart and decides to take over her father’s task of being repaid. She learns that she has skill in bargaining her silver kopeks into gold. This skill brings the attention of the Winter King from the mystical realm of the Staryk. He gives her impossible tasks to perform with death and destruction the price for failure. But Miryem’s coldness and negotiating skills lead to unexpected consequences for both her and the Staryk king who holds this mortal girl in contempt.
Though Miryem is the only narrator in the beginning, the author begins to add additional viewpoints as the story progresses. One is a girl named Wanda who lives with her brothers and abusive alcoholic father. Her father owes money to the moneylender and Wanda is drawn into helping her pay her father’s debt. In doing so, Wanda begins to witness the type of life and family she never before imagined. With hard work and common sense, she begins to plan for a different future.
The third major perspective is Irena, a duke’s daughter by his first wife. Plain and ignored, she goes about life without any real expectation of happiness. But her Staryk blood draws the attention of a fire demon. And unexpectedly she is also thrust into the political spotlight and her father’s plans for a marriage she doesn’t want. In trying to survive the fire demon, Irena realizes that she may be in a position to save a kingdom if she sacrifices herself.
The true delight of this tale is how the story of the three women eventually intertwine. All three are shown to be strong, intelligent, and resourceful. At the same time, they have unique and varied personalities. The author’s ability to give the reader the supposed fairy tale ending and then show what comes afterwards is nothing short of miraculous. As a reader I had no idea how the story was going to evolve. And yet the author also gives the reader some hints while leaving the characters seemingly working in opposition. The twists in the story were deftly done. The writing and world building was lyrical, beautifully crafted, and stunning. The resolution perfect.
In addition to falling in love with all three women, there are other perspectives and characters that are equally drawn with skill. In particular I loved Wanda’s brother Stepon, Miryem’s mother, and the not-so likable tsar. Like with the bear and the nightingale last year, the words fail me. Please let the author’s own words do the talking and fall in love with this story. Arrrrr!
Check out me crew members reviews of this one:
Melanie @ meltotheany’s review – “Spinning Silver is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I loved this story with every fiber of my being. And Naomi Novik is a master at storytelling and interweaving stories together. You all know that this is a very loose reimaging of Rumpelstiltskin but I’d say it’s more of an empowering tale of three girls, all on three different paths, all promised to three different men, while all being looked over by three different mothers. Three is such a constant theme in this book, too, and it really helps reinforce that this story feels like a tangible piece of magic in your hands while reading. This book is nothing short of a masterpiece.”
Robin @ bridgefour’s review – “The Best Thing about this new/old fairytale is that the women in it seemed real. None of them were overly beautiful or fetching, but each had a special quality either with their smarts, ingenuity or just strength of will that made them special. I loved that as we grow to know the characters they become three dimensional and you fall in love with them as other characters in the story discover their worth.”
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
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.
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