Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
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.
I was very excited to read this book and I can write poems about Naomi Novik’s beautiful writing after this book! I have been reading a lot of fantasy books, mainly because it’s the only genre that doesn’t seem repetitive, predictable and …limiting. Anything is possible in fantasy and this book…this book has some amazing elements. It reads like a fairytale…only that it’s fitting only for adults. The book battles many sensitive themes. It touches violence and murder but it does it in a way that is subtle.
But first things first.. I will admit that it takes time getting used to the writing style. It is not flawless and it certainly will put off some readers but if you keep reading it gets engaging because it really reads like a magical tale about witches, fairy kings and demons. The plot is loosely based in Rumpelstinltskin.
Let’s meet the characters.
Miryem, the moneylender’s daughter.
Irina, the duke’s daughter.
Wanda, the farm girl.
The Staryk King, who remains nameless throughout the book. (Such a fantastic idea!)
And the Tsar.
We have many other characters, of course. So what’s the book really about?
Because that’s what the story’s really about: getting out of paying your debts.
This is what this story is about. You want romance and cliches? This is not the book for you. There are plenty of fantasy books with romance.
If you want a book about schemes, hardship, family, loyalty and beautiful but mean fairy kings…then this is for you.
Not that the book lacks the romance element…it just doesn’t use it as a mean to an end. The love comes but it is justly done and it doesn’t take away from the story. My romantic heart cried over this but I realized that the book didn’t need it.
What you can expect? Beautiful imaginery, detailed descriptions of the fairy realm, realistic heroes and ugliness in a non perfect world. Miryem is daughter to the soft moneylender of her small hometown. She grows the spine to do what her father cannot…until someone finds out that she can indeed spin silver into gold. She is that good with money. And so, she attracts the one being that everyone around her fears; the Staryk King. And he makes her a bargain she cannot get out of.
Miryem is a real tough heroine and she can stand up against the fairy lord of ice and snow.
‘I am not your subject or your servant, and if you want a cowering mouse for a wife, go find someone else who can turn silver to gold for you.’
Another character that surprised me was Irina. The plain girl that manages to grasp the deadliest of husbands. The two girls are both trapped and they must overcome their mortality in order to survive and even win against their formidable partners.
‘So the fairy silver brought you a monster of fire for a husband, and me a monster of ice. We should out them in a room together and let them make us both widows.’
The book is filled with antiheroes but still, I found them very captivating. I had a particularly soft spot for the Staryk King, the king of winter. I found him so complex and multidimensional that I am simply sad that his character wasn’t used more or in more depth!
Overall, this was a book that challenged my patience and it needed my undivided attention but in the end I loved it. Like I said, it’s not flawless but Mrs. Novik’s world is so lush that you cannot help but be tempted and charmed by it. I recommend it but it’s not an easy read. You have been warned.
Now, when can I expect Naomi Novik’s next book? Hmm?