Resident Reviewer: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

*This is a spoiler free review.

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.

(Summary taken from Goodreads)

I am grateful to The American Book Center for this copy in exchange for my honest review. I will put my hand up and admit that it’s been many years since I last read any fantasy book. I went into this book feeling excited, nervous and even a little bit skeptical.

Spinning Silver is loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. There are some parts of the story that you can easily relate to the original story, but it mostly has its own storyline. I was prepared to read a few chapters before really getting into the story, but I was wrong and started to care for the characters right from the start.

The story begins with a moneylender who is too kind to demand his money back from the people he has loaned it to. When home life starts to fall apart, living in poverty with a sick mother, his daughter decides to take matters into her own hands and take over her father’s business.

If it makes any sense at all, reading this is like peeling an onion. The more you read, the more stories will unfold. While these storylines are very beautifully written, they are somewhat complex and somewhere in the middle I started to get a little lost. Mainly because of the addition of the characters: I don’t have any problem with multiple point-of-views, in fact, I do prefer it in a big story like this, but I found myself glazing over and getting confused as I read some of their narrative voices.

Some of the characters were amazing and to watch them grow as the story proceeds was something that I have absolutely enjoyed. The girls and the portrayal of their growth to have such strong personalities are very inspiring. My favourite character is Miryem, the moneylender’s daughter, whom you are introduced to at the start. She’s so fearless and her will to take charge is exciting to read about. Her ability to turn silver into gold is helping her family live a comfortable life, comes without consequences. Unfortunately, it attracts the mysterious and frightening Staryk to her doorstep.

Naomi Novik has done a respectful job with the Jewish representation. The way Miryem carries herself in the world where she has faced difficulties is commendable. You get to read how her clever mind works and how she prevails even in dangerous situations.

Another character that I really like is Wanda. If you thought that Miryem has a tough life, wait till you read about Wanda, whose abusive father is one of the people who has borrowed money from Miryem’s father. Her harsh life at home did not stop her from being an incredibly strong and tenacious person. Her motivation for working hard is not only for herself but for her brothers and you’ll be impressed to read what will she do for them.

However, there are some characters that fell flat for me and, personally, I don’t think they brought enough substance to the story to justify their POVs. Narrative voices often swapped mid-chapter, which made keeping up a bit of a challenge. This made me care less about some of these characters, but I was very pleased to see how all of the characters came together in the end. And trust me, things did start to pick up towards the end; I was no longer lost.

Although I had my ups and downs over the course of reading this book, I am happy and glad to have read it. The atmosphere of this book was indeed quite an experience. The feeling of the cold, harsh winter, the Staryks, the girl power, the love story and the magical world that you don’t want to leave, this book was a fun read.

I gave it 3.5/5 stars.

Review by Marina Johan: Blog | Twitter | Instagram

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SPINNING SILVER is now available in both the US hardcover and the UK paperback editions.