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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: High fantasy
Hardcover: 466 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: July 10, 2018

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

I am so thrilled Naomi Novik continued this same fairy-tale/mythology retellings that started with Uprooted, which I loved. Despite not being in the same quote series unquote, Spinning Silver is in the same vein without being in the same universe or style. Truly deserves the praise for being one of the best fantasy books of this year (and a recent 2019 YALSA Alex Award winner for the Best Adult Books for Teens!). 

It's not easy to get into as the pace is slow and the descriptions are fairly wordy, but that isn't to say that this is boring. It very much kept my attention through the creative events and threads that run through the stories of these three women: Miryem, Irina, and Wanda. Each time you think something could be wrapped up predictably, you're surprised to find the book has a lot more to go and you find you can't wait to discover where it will go. I thought it could be a mishmash of a few fairytales and legends like Beauty and the Beast, the Ice Queen, Scheherazade and the King, and most notably Rumplestiltskin. The words themselves seem to spin from silver and cold detachment of characters and scenery to gold with rich luster of intricate plot and detail and caring about all of the characters, even some of the "villains." There are some beautiful messages and themes in the story, some which are revealed to concern the Staryk king and Tsar Mirnatius. Others are that of family, loving the orphan, caring for the old and sick, honoring your servants, the dangers of greed...you could pick out a number of them.

While there are fantasy elements of the demon and the Staryk, the setting and character details pull from Russian, Polish, and Jewish culture. It delves into Anti-Semitic feeling with Jewish Miryem's family, who are taxpayers but haven't been paid. Russian Irina is the unbeautiful cloistered daughter of a lord. Polish Wanda is abused by her father and bereft of her mother. The real gem of this story is one of feminism, the power of women. All three women come together to embody a depth of great strength to save their families and their kingdom, whether by wiles and self-control, hard work and determination, or wisdom and courage.

I was very surprised (and pleased) by the ending, and sort of wanted it to keep continuing. Not that it wasn't wrapped up beautifully, but because it was so lovely, I wanted maybe an epilogue. Not your typical love story to highlight on this Valentine's Day, but falling in love with a great Galentine's fantasy is better!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

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