Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Posted On 16 July 2018

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SpinningSpinning Silver was a book of surprises.  A story that brings together the faint whisper of other fairytales and a tale that I was fully immersed in for the most part, in fact I’d go so far as to say I was all but convinced that this would be the one. And, in some respects I preferred this to Uprooted.  It’s beautifully written and some of the characters are just wonderful to read.  I think the only thing that prevented this becoming the perfect read was a slightly stilted feeling that I experienced during the second half of the read combined with maybe one too many character povs.  But, for now, yes, this is a beautifully rendered retelling of Rumplestiltskin that gave me chills reading, not just because of the cold and aloof Staryks that inhabit their own icy world, but also because of the shivers you feel when you’re reading a book that seems near perfect.

The story is loosely based on the original fairytale.  In fact I love the way that we begin the journey with the strong voice of Miryem explaining that not everything you hear in your bedside stories really happened in the way depicted.  In fact, she’s here to put the record straight.  Miryem’s father is a moneylender, but a very poor one who doesn’t seem to grasp the concept and very rarely collects the debts he’s owed leaving his family more often than not with a lack of food on the table, fuel to keep them warm and the basic comforts of life.  Miryem becomes tired of seeing her mother suffer and basically, much to her parents shame and consternation, takes over the running of the business and does so not only with ruthless determination but also with a certain flair that demonstrates how well suited she is to the business.  Of course her exploits don’t go unnoticed and soon she finds herself on the receiving end of unwanted attention from the Staryks.   Creatures of myth, the Staryk only ride forth to take gold.  They’re cold and seemingly heartless – I’m not really sure if they’re from the winter court of the fae but that’s what came to mind when reading about them.  Changing silver into gold is much akin to magic in their covetous eyes and so Miryem finds herself being drawn into an unwanted and seemingly impossible bargain.

At the same time we make the acquaintance of Irina.  Born into a noble house, Irina spends her time trying to keep beneath the notice of her father.  Her father is disappointed in Irina.  She isn’t beautiful enough to attract a suitor who is well connected and she seems to have inherited nothing of her mother’s other-worldly characteristics.  But Irina is clever, she uses the invisibility that her feminine demeanour bestows to listen when none would believe her to be interested and so is politically astute and knowledgeable in terms of potential contenders for the crown.  More than that Irina cares about the people who she will ultimately be responsible for and this leads her to take great risks in order to protect them.

As if that wasn’t enough we have a third strong female character in Wanda.  Wanda and her brothers suffer horrible cruelty at the hands of their drunken and abusive father.  Wanda however manages to find herself a position working for Miryem and her parents and her steadfast reliability gradually sees Wanda becoming almost invaluable – to such an extent that her brothers all eventually become entangled with Miryem’s family.

So.  I’m not going further into the plot.  Just read it.

What I really loved about this book.  Well, firstly, the start of the book was positively enchanting and was just like reading a fairytale for adults.  The pacing was spot on, the descriptions were evocative.  The forest, the cold, the fear of the unknown, Miryem’s tale, everything about this was captivating.  And I was suitably enchanted.  I also really enjoyed Irina’s story.  The way she dealt with the people around her, her compassion and strength, again, a very compelling part of the story.  Wanda’s story was, for me, the weaker link in that she felt necessary in some respects to drive the plot forward.  That being said, I still found myself very intrigued as things began to unfold.  Then, there’s the writing.  The descriptions and the dialogue are just so damned good that I can’t even begin.  I loved the frosty kingdom and the people we met there.  I loved the threat from the fire demon and I particularly loved the feeling that other stories were playing a part – particularly strong Hansel and Gretel vibes, even Little Red Riding Hood and maybe a couple more.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt like there were just one too many POVs and not all of them really brought anything to the table – not that I could discern anyway.  I also felt the story slowed down somewhat when the two leading ladies began to formulate their plans.  Something went missing about that point for me, I didn’t feel the tension as much as I felt I should, I was intrigued, but not as gripped and the fundamentals of all of it felt like it left the realms of fairyland and was too ‘real’ somehow’.

To conclude though, I would definitely recommend this to lovers of fairytales retold.  In spite of a few niggles I had a very good time with this and found it quite hypnotic.  It has a great ending – although I would have liked more (just saying) – and I sincerely hope that Naomi Novak takes up the pen again to bring us some more enchanting fairytales told in her own sweet style.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.




13 Responses to “Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”

  1. Tammy

    I’m so glad you loved this, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to it, but after reading your review I’m tempted. I think the fact that I’ve read some less than enthusiastic reviews is making me hesitate.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It wasn’t perfect – which is a shame because it got off to such a great start. I’d probably rate it 4* even though I thought at the beginning it was a dead cert for a 5. But, it was very good. I loved the writing and the start of the book was so good and had such a gorgeous fairytale feel that it made me want to weep with joy. The last third I was more so:so with but still enjoyed, and I thought the ending was a little abrupt.
      Lynn 😀

  2. PerfectlyTolerable

    I’m glad you liked it! Great review. I thought Spinning Silver was just ok, but Uprooted is one of my favorite books so I still hope other people like it!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This book could have been almost perfect for me except for the lagging issue in the last third and the inclusion of one too many povs. I loved Uprooted to but on balance I think Spinning Silver could be my favourite – ask me again in a week and I’m sure to have changed my mind though.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    I LOVED Uprooted and I also really, really love the Rumplestiltskin story so at some stage I need to get hold of this one. Thank you for a superb review that whets my appetite, Lynn:))

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks Sarah – I hope you get to this one soon. I’d like to read your thoughts.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    I really love retold fairytales. I’ve read so many of them over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one of Rumplestiltskin. Really excited for this one too because I loved Uprooted. Great review! Looking forward to getting to this one soon, I hope. 😀 Really keen on there being so many well-written female characters in this one.

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    With not one, not two but *three* central female characters this book sounds very attractive indeed, even though it does not seem immune from a few weaknesses. And a fairy tale retelling might be the perfect book to read between two dark and grim stories, as a way to lift one’s spirits… 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be honest, the first half of this book was perfect, it was simply a little lull and too many povs that stopped the second half being quite as good. Still very easy to read though.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Danya @ Fine Print

    I skimmed your review because I haven’t read this one yet, but the fact that you sort of preferred it to Uprooted is saying something! I’m also loving the sound of all those central female characters. So glad you loved this one, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I had a couple of issues, without which this would have been a perfect read – but even so, very good.
      Lynn 😀

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