Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver

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...

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Title:Spinning Silver
Author:Naomi Novik
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Spinning Silver Reviews

  • Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more

    I’m. Just. SO. Happy.

    This is completely different from UPROOTED. Kind of. It’s still a fairytale-like story, but it’s wholly unrelated to the Dragon and Agnieszka. There are no awesome tree people. There’s no wooden Kasia or royal orphans or upstart wizards.

    There

    awesome some-other-kind-of-people who may or may not be wintery in origin. And a not-so-awesome demon. And not one, not two, but THREE new heroines, all hampered by expectations, all saying, EFF that, RAWRRR.

    Full RTC.

  • Melanie

    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

    but I’d say it’s more of an empowering tale of three girls, all on three different paths, all promised to three differe

    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

    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.

    - a girl who has had to be strong, because it’s the only life she has ever known. Wanda has spent her short life taking care of her brothers and trying to please a father who is impossible to please. But that all changes once she is the only way to pay back his debts.

    - a girl who has been born into royalty but has never known love from her blood family. Irina is still determined to save her people, by any means necessary.

    - a girl who will do whatever it takes to save her family. Miryem is strong, and relentless, and one of the very best characters I’ve ever read in my entire life. And she becomes one of the most feared moneylenders in her village, and she discovers that she awfully good at turning silver to gold. But she is not the only one that notices.

    who continues to look after her children.

    who has unconditionally loved her child from the start.

    who wants nothing more than her child safe and happy.

    because even in 2018 some men want to believe that they know what’s best for a woman, no matter the cost.

    because some people are born into a world without a chance, regardless of money, power, and privilege.

    because protecting the thing you love is sometimes something you’re willing to do anything for.

    And these three girls, with their mothers, forced into their three marriages, all come together and create something so beautiful that I don’t even have words to express it. I will say that Miryem is for sure the main character. I will also say that we get to see a lot more points of view than these three girls and their betrothals. And the story is something that is so whimsical, so feminist, and nothing short of an honor to read.

    for hard scenes to read about loss of a parent, siblings, and death of children, for extreme parental physical abuse, brief mention of animal deaths, mention of past rape, sexual assault, alcoholism, torture, violence, murder, and use of the word Jew (not negatively, but it still didn’t feel good to read at times).

    But one thing I did want to touch upon is how much Judaism plays such an integral role in this story. Miryem and her entire family are Jewish, and from the first to last page this plays a pivotal role in the story. I am not Jewish, but I still loved this inclusion so very much. Also, I’m adding “go to a Jewish wedding” onto my bucket list immediately. To my Jewish friends: please, invite me to your weddings.

    is such a love letter to found families everywhere, too. You guys know I love reading about found families, but all three girls in this book are the epitome of found families. Unconditional love is truly the strongest force in this universe, and not only does this book showcase that, it also celebrates that.

    Overall, this just felt like a story that was single-handedly created for me. From the Staryks, to the Winter King, to the traveling between places, to the so very strong female cast, to the magic, to every single word on every single page. I swear, opening this book felt like magic and I never wanted to shut it. And I know I am being rather vague with my synopsis, but I truly believe that this book is probably best to go in not knowing much, and to just experience this otherworldly story firsthand. Without a doubt, this will make my “best of 2018” list and will forever have a place on my favorites of all-time shelf. Thank you so much, Naomi Novik, for a story I will cherish forever. And that last line will take my breath away every reread. Perfection.

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  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    All the stars!! Seriously, go read this book right now! Review first posted on

    :

    It’s not often that I end a novel in awe of characters, the world-building, and the depth and complexity of the themes, while still being absolutely delighted with the storytelling. In

    , Naomi Novik does all that and more. It’s my favorite fantasy novel of 2018 so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s still in that top position at the end of this year.

    In medieval Lithvas (ac

    All the stars!! Seriously, go read this book right now! Review first posted on

    :

    It’s not often that I end a novel in awe of characters, the world-building, and the depth and complexity of the themes, while still being absolutely delighted with the storytelling. In

    , Naomi Novik does all that and more. It’s my favorite fantasy novel of 2018 so far, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s still in that top position at the end of this year.

    In medieval Lithvas (according to Novik, a fantasy version of Lithuania with a little Russia and Poland blended in), Miryem Mandelstam is the daughter of a Jewish moneylender in a small town. Panov Mandelstam is a gentle, kindhearted man: too kind to be a successful moneylender, in fact, since he’s constitutionally unable to demand repayment of the money he’s lent out, leaving him and his wife and daughter destitute. When her mother falls ill, Miryam has had enough. A bit of winter has found its way into her heart, and that combined with her stubbornness (and her threats to involve her wealthy grandfather and the law if the villagers don’t repay her what they owe) makes her a success at her new job as village moneylender.

    Miryem takes on a strong village girl, Wanda, as a household servant, letting her work off her father’s debt. Miryam doesn’t realize it, but Wanda is actually grateful for the chance to avoid her abusive father, and to stealthily put away the extra money that Miryam pays her. Miryam’s parents are alarmed at the increased iciness in her heart, but she has no intention of handing the moneylending job back to her ineffective father. Miryam rather defiantly tells her mother that she shouldn’t be sorry that her daughter has the ability to change silver into gold.

    However, there’s a magical road that appears and disappears in Lithvas during the winter, controlled by the fae-like Staryk, and other ears have heard Miryam’s boast to her mother during her journey back to their village. Soon she finds herself entangled in the Staryk king’s demands to change his silver into gold. Miryam comes up with a brilliant plan, but meeting the Staryk king’s demands may be almost as bad as failure.

    (I get a Thranduil vibe from the Staryk king, except ... needs more ice)

    begins with these allusions to the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, but Novik is weaving far more into her story than this one tale. Miryam’s plan involves the ambitious duke of Vysnia and his daughter Irina, who is thought too plain to attract the handsome young tsar of Lithvas, Mirnatius. The Staryk silver may tip the balance for Irina, but she soon finds that gaining Mirnatius’s attention is a highly dangerous thing indeed. Irina’s story quickly becomes as compelling as Miryam’s, as she needs to use all her wits and some gifts of her heritage to escape with her life and soul intact.

    Novik’s unique moneylender twist on the story of Rumpelstiltskin is highly creative. Eastern European folklore is woven in as well. The (literally) icy Staryk king and his winter kingdom called to mind Morozko, the Russian frost-king, and I had an appreciative shudder of recognition when a certain fiery demon is named.

    (hat tip to Marvel for the Surtur image)

    Novik takes her story far beyond a retelling or recasting of old tales, though. I particularly enjoyed the fascinating concepts dealing with cold Staryk silver and the warm gold from the “sunlit world.” It played into the plot in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.

    The sensitive, meaningful way in which the Jewish faith and culture were incorporated into

    was lovely. Antisemitism is addressed, but doesn’t weigh down the story. The focus is more on personal connections, like the love between Irina and her old nurse, the understanding and respect that Miryam gains for the Staryk people, and the family bonds that develop between the Mandelstams and Wanda and her brothers.

    Without tipping over into unrealistic anachronism, we also see women characters who are empowered by the actions they take to save themselves, as well as others they care about, in spite of the fact that each of them ― against their desires ― is promised, given, or simply taken in marriage. It’s a fairly subtle connection between our three main characters.

    is an enchanting fantasy, woven of fire and ice, sunlit gold and Staryk silver, icy faerie winter and Lithvas spring. Naomi Novik has crafted a truly wondrous novel.

    The author of

    strikes again, with what appears to be a take-off on Rumpelstiltskin. Can't wait for July!!

    ETA: I'm dying here. I didn't get the ARC (the publicist was unmoved by my sad email) and my local library, which I thought would jump right on this one, still doesn't have it in their catalog. I HAVE BROKEN DOWN AND BOUGHT THE DANG BOOK. In hardback, no less. Stay posted!

  • Helena ✰ FC

     

    This was a buddy read with my elvish friend,

    ! ;) I’m so glad that we decided to read this together! <3

    I was a bit scared going into this because I loved

    so bloody much. And how on Earth could Naomi Novik possibly improve upon that

    , which included wizards, royals, tree people, and all sorts of o

     

    This was a buddy read with my elvish friend,

    ! ;) I’m so glad that we decided to read this together! <3

    I was a bit scared going into this because I loved

    so bloody much. And how on Earth could Naomi Novik possibly improve upon that

    , which included wizards, royals, tree people, and all sorts of other fun characters? Well, somehow, unbeknownst to me, Novik managed to do just that! Now

    is a faery tale retelling. Naomi Novik might have just shoved Rosamund Hodge to the side as my favourite author, in regards to retellings!!!

    Now before I get into this novel, as someone who was raised as inter-faith (half-Anglican, half-Jewish), I absolutely

    the

    in this novel!!! Do you know how rare it is, aside from World War Two or Holocaust novels? With the exception of Simon Lewis from

    , I can’t even remember the last time that I came across a Jewish minor-character in a series, much less having it be a fundamental part of the story!!! From Shabbat to weddings to prayers, I loved the inclusion of Jewish culture!

    However, having said that, I would like to point out that there is quite a bit of

    in this novel, as well…So, fair warning, if that’s something that you don’t want to read about.

    is an exquisite and

    told from the perspectives of not one, not two, but

    , in addition to a few others along the way. But not to worry, each perspective has a very distinctive voice, and I found it very easy to differentiate between them. I also found that the

    of this novel definitely added to its charm, as you begin to anticipate the various storylines finally coming together.

    is a young Jewish woman whose father is a rather poor moneylender. He is far too generous, by not demanding borrowers to repay their debts, which is not conducive to putting food on the table. Thus, she takes up his occupation in order to save her family from cold and starvation. She is very smart and shrewd, and is more than happy to strike a good bargain!

    is a beautiful girl who comes from an abusive family because her father is a gambling drunkard, who does not contribute to the household at all. He treats his children more like hired help than young adolescents. She eventually finds a positon in Miryem’s household, in order to pay off her father’s debts. She also has two younger brothers, Sergey and Stepon, to feed and support, as well. She is a very strong and responsible older sister.

    is the unattractive daughter of a Duke. Since her mother was a descendant of the Staryk (elf/fae-type creature) and because her dowry was magical, Staryk silver, she was able to be married off to the reluctant tsar, Mirnatius. She was very caring towards others and thought quite carefully when making very difficult decisions. She is a rather wonderful tsarina, who inspired loyalty in others.

    As was the case with

    (a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling), this is not a strict

    either. In fact, I found references to various other faery tales and mythologies, which was very exciting, considering that my knowledge of

    is virtually non-existent. It takes place in a setting comparable to Lithuania, with an unexplained magic system, as is the case with most faery tales. Explaining everything would ruin the spell that this novel shall cast on you! ;)

    However, if I were being honest, my absolute favourite part of this novel was the

    . There was

    put on a familial bond. It was so lovely to read about because oftentimes, I’ve found that as stories progress, family members tend to mysteriously disappear or are never actually involved. Neither of which occurs here.

    I absolutely loved

    and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys faery tale retellings, especially ones such as

    and

    . Naomi Novik is such an

    , with such a

    that I would hate for you to miss it! …Although for the life of me, I can’t understand why it was released in July! :D

  • Em (RunawayWithDreamthieves)

    I'm officially giving up personhood to become the ghost of a tormented poet in love with melancholy who sits on patches of moss in the moors and recites bad poetry about how amazing this book is!

    —the kind of love that is peculiar to inhabiting the perspective of young women with agency and the relationships they form when relying on each other. I honestly feel like I should have experienced this book in some beautiful rose garden under the stars on the biggest bed with si

    I'm officially giving up personhood to become the ghost of a tormented poet in love with melancholy who sits on patches of moss in the moors and recites bad poetry about how amazing this book is!

    —the kind of love that is peculiar to inhabiting the perspective of young women with agency and the relationships they form when relying on each other. I honestly feel like I should have experienced this book in some beautiful rose garden under the stars on the biggest bed with silk sheets, laughing maniacally as I burn letters from ex-lovers and eat green tea ice cream with a tiny spoon. That’s how much 

    it was.

    is a brilliant subversive take on the fairytale of

    cobbled together with elements of Eastern European folklore and uniquely entwining glistening strands of magic, myth and mystery. Deftly woven into the fabric of this story are the lives of three young women:

    and

    whose fates seem sealed to a stifled existence and a loveless marriage, and

    to likely the same, but with a good deal more damage from her father done to her along the way. Their lives become intertwined by fate, their weariness of the men who tried to force their heart somewhere it didn’t belong and of thinking themselves odd because it didn’t fit there, and their desire to settle into something perfect, without jagged corners to catch themselves on.

    —daughter of a Jewish moneylender—whose anger and hurt at the gentile townspeople’s mistreatment of her family fused into something cold and unflinching and sharpened into an acumen for quick, high-yield investments. This draws the avaricious attention of the ice-hearted king of the Staryk who promises to make her his queen if she succeeds in turning his Staryk silver into gold three times over and turn her into ice if she fails. Once Miryem is brought to the Staryk’s world, her ability to spin silver into gold manifests itself in the form of actual intrinsic magic and while she’s trapped filling the Staryk's treasure-chests with the gold they yearned for with so much greed, Miryem must also find a way to break the sorcerous winter before her own world fades away forever.

    is the daughter of a duke who sought to sand down her edges and mold her into his own desires, pouring out money by the bucketful to her dowry so she would be wife to whoever made him the best offer. She finds herself marrying the tsar himself—the too-pretty son of a condemned witch whose crown was bought by demon-borrowed magic, an evil thing of smoke and hunger that Irina must find a way to not only outwit every day just to live, but also to save her people from its rule.

    whose house was a place so direly poor that they ran out of food before they ran out of winter, and drained to the dregs then put down empty by a father who drunk away their borrowed coin until Miryem stood in their half-frozen doorway laying claim to what’s owed to her family. Finding none, she arranges for Wanda to work as a housekeeper for a four-year stint until she pays off the debt. Wanda finds in the company of Miryem’s family a warm and loving haven, away from her violent father and his flaring temper, and quickly becomes a vital member of the family.

    The stories of these three young women gradually begin to converge and languidly unfold into a gripping and beautifully rendered tale that resonated to my core.

    I relished every page of this book from first to last. I was hooked, rapturous, wandering through the haze like I have been transported into a fantastical dream. The setting is an enchanting blend of beauty and danger, rendered in languorous and sensuous language. Split between Miryem, Wanda, Irina and then again among other narrators, the leisurely plot flows smoothly and elegantly, weaving all separate threads together with a sure hand, doling out twists and eventually building to a satisfying conclusion.

    Twining themes of agency and the duality of human nature, this book succeeds in creating refreshingly human and real protagonists and anti-heroes. These characters are both strong and deeply flawed, and they—even more strikingly—embrace those qualities in themselves and each other. I love how Miryem, Wanda and Irina were expected to be pallid and weak, pitiful things incapable of avenging themselves or anyone and only managing to pick up the tatters and mend them into wearable lives, but their unending anger at a world who refused to be exactly, enduringly the way they wanted it to be prompted them be

    .

    I also love how we settle very early into a thwarted hatred for the "villains"—the tsar and the Staryk king—only for it to be reshaped and sculpted into the closest thing to empathy and affection there is.

    I just love how our perception of the characters ebb and flow over the course of the story, as the book provocatively illustrates the multidimensionality of someone considered to be a monster. Everything simple and solid in the characters' lives is made fluid and nuanced by the introduction of their true motives and feelings. And I think anyone would have found it difficult to be clued in to all the secret halls and trapdoors their souls held, and what each one hid and guarded, and not however grudgingly be moved by it.

    Because this is their story, too, all that had been hidden under flames and rivers of gold. And we’ve seen their journeys begin and end and begin again and we witnessed both the birth and culmination of their adventure, and so, by the time we close the book, the boundaries that barred their way have become thresholds made to be crossed, and we’ve walked with all these characters across each one, glancing back, but always moving forward.

    This is genuinely one of the best and most engrossing books I've read this year and one you definitely do not want to miss!

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  • Bookdragon Sean

    I’m a critic but I found nothing to critique here. And for me that says a lot. I often find it hard just to sit back and enjoy a story without pulling it apart and dissecting all the elements of the book. It’s just want happens when you’re and English student. You consider the characters, the themes and everything the writin

    I’m a critic but I found nothing to critique here. And for me that says a lot. I often find it hard just to sit back and enjoy a story without pulling it apart and dissecting all the elements of the book. It’s just want happens when you’re and English student. You consider the characters, the themes and everything the writing is trying to convey. With this, however, I was taken away by the majestic nature of the fairy-tale plot. It all just fitted together so perfectly and slid into an ending that left me feeling warm inside.

    The novel is an amalgamation of fairy tales, all distinctively eastern European in feel, though they are fleshed out and twisted into something resembling a complex and compelling story that is not limited by the standard tropes fairy tales demand. This is not a novel about love; it is one about survival in a cut-throat world where the rich and powerful exploit the poor, weak and helpless. The peasants starve in the winter as their lands are raided by the mystical Staryk whilst their Tsar hordes the entire kingdom’s wealth and basks in his own splendour. He does little to help his own people.

    As such, people have to learn to survive and defend themselves in an unjust world. There are no heroes, only people who are willing to be brave in the face of tyranny. And tyranny can come in many forms, and often those who are supposed to love and protect us become the worse of the lot. Daughters learn to overthrow their fathers and make their own paths in the world. Miryem learns to turn silver into gold by taking up her father’s money lending business, and eventually what appears to be a natural aptitude for business develops into a fully-fledged magical ability that captures the attention of an Ice King.

    From here the plot only improves. There are a multitude of characters and point of views though they are all linked and brought together into such a powerful ending. As Miryem is taken back to the Staryk kingdom, the Tsar daemon of rage and fire seeks to melt the lands of always winter. Two conflicting powers come crashing together, as the veil is lifted revealing the truth of a character shrouded in misunderstanding and ice. Just because a people operate in a different way, it does not make them inherently evil.

    is so much better than

    because it is consistent; it sticks with the same themes and develops them until the very end of the story rather than shifting into a radical new plot line half-way through the story. As such the magic begins on the very first page and stays until the very last-

  • Emily May

    There is just something about Novik's fairy tales. Something

    . I didn't like

    quite as much as my beloved

    - and I'll explain why a bit later - but it still kept me captivated from start to finish.

    is a loose retelling of

    . I say "loose" because you will recognise certain elements from the original - turning things into go

    There is just something about Novik's fairy tales. Something

    . I didn't like

    quite as much as my beloved

    - and I'll explain why a bit later - but it still kept me captivated from start to finish.

    is a loose retelling of

    . I say "loose" because you will recognise certain elements from the original - turning things into gold, the importance of names, etc. - but this is really a completely different story with different characters and many new plot lines. There's also not just one Rumpelstiltskin character, as several characters embody different aspects of the traditional imp.

    I love that it's a very pastoral fairy tale with forests and country magic. The setting of the book gives it a lot of its atmosphere, and it works very well. There are parts that follow the characters through quiet daily farming activities, but there is

    .

    Miryem is the daughter of the town's moneylender, but she takes over her father's job when he repeatedly fails to collect their debts. Turns out she has a talent for it and she soon finds herself turning more and more silver into gold. Unfortunately, this attracts the attention of one of the Staryk - fearsome creatures who desire gold above all else.

    I found it really interesting that Novik explored the idea of a Jewish moneylender as Rumpelstiltskin. The traditional story is one where Rumpelstiltskin aids a woman in spinning straw into gold and she refuses to hold up her side of the bargain. Interestingly, it is Rumpelstiltskin who is viewed as the greedy villain. Antisemitic interpretations of the story shed a completely new light on it. Though it was unlikely the intention of the original, as the folktale predates any record of antisemitismm by about 2000 years and predates the idea of the Jewish moneylender by even more, many believe that more modern Rumpelstiltskins were deliberately made to represent Jews.

    Novik, who is herself of Lithuanian-Jewish descent, uses this to challenge the Jewish moneylender stereotype and explore the antisemitism surrounding it. It's clever, and I loved it.

    In some ways, it is a smarter book than

    , and yet I didn't like it quite as much because parts of this were definitely convoluted. What I've explained above is just a tiny portion of the plot. There are other supporting subplots involving a noblewoman marrying a tsar possessed by a fire demon, and a poor farm girl and her brother running away from a crime. Then there's the whole tale of the ice king and answering three questions every night.

    I counted no less than

    - honestly, I may have missed someone - and you have to learn the symbol/image for each character, as that is the only way you'll know whose point-of-view the book has moved to.

    Though I appreciate books with multiple layers and complex plots, I think shedding some parts of this would have only benefited it. Some chapters lean away from complex and interesting, and toward dense and confusing.

    That being said, I still recommend it if you enjoyed Novik's

    . It's a fascinating, exciting fairy tale with a whole lot of atmosphere and charm. And creepy secret worlds on the other side of mirrors(!). I hope Novik writes more of these books soon.

    CW: Domestic abuse (physical; non-sexual); antisemitism.

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  • Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    No one freak out, but I just thoroughly enjoyed a fantasy book 😍 this was so immersive and well written and I liked it a heckin’ ton!

  • Hamad

    I was so excited for this book because I wanted to read a book by Naomi for so long now. Uprooted is one of the oldest books in my TBR. I didn't know the tale of Rumpelstiltskin so I read it before this out in preparation for this. Then I saw that this was a big book and I didn't know how the author is going to retell such a short story in all those pages.

    I started this and was a bit confused by the continuous change in POV, I wish that it was written in 3rd Person because it would have

    I was so excited for this book because I wanted to read a book by Naomi for so long now. Uprooted is one of the oldest books in my TBR. I didn't know the tale of Rumpelstiltskin so I read it before this out in preparation for this. Then I saw that this was a big book and I didn't know how the author is going to retell such a short story in all those pages.

    I started this and was a bit confused by the continuous change in POV, I wish that it was written in 3rd Person because it would have been better. The story started kind of interesting but it was so slow. This is a loose retelling but I could see what she was trying to achieve. And the retelling of the original series almost finished at the point I DNF at. So I don't know what the rest of the book is about.

    I lost interest in the story and so went to the reviews to see if others had the same opinions as me but No, I was the only one! I found some 3 and 3.5 stars reviews but no 2 stars, no DNFs so I decided to read a bit more but nothing much happened.

    I am going to give this another chance after I read Uprooted, although I usually don't give 2nd chances. If uprooted is good then I know I wasn't in the mood or sth like that but if I didn't like Uprooted then maybe Naomi's style just isn't for me!

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