Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik // VBC ReviewSpinning Silver
Naomi Novik
Published: July 10, 2018 (Del Rey)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. Where her grandfather is successful at moneylending, her father not so much. So Miryem takes it upon herself to collect the debt owed to her family, much to the chagrin of the debtors who flaunt their loaned wealth while Miryem’s family starves. However, Miryem’s tenacity draws the attention of the fey-like Staryk who ask Miryem to turn silver into gold, three times. After the third time, Miryem is unwittingly whisked away to the perpetually winter land of the Staryk to be their Queen.

Meanwhile, Wanda and her brother, on the run after a terrible accident at home, happen upon a seemingly deserted cottage in a snow-covered forest. Having nothing to go back to at home, and knowing they’d probably be hanged if they did, they decide to hide out in this seemingly deserted cottage in the woods that seems to anticipate and provide all their needs.

Then there’s Irina whose father, looking to elevate his status and power, marries her off to Tsar Mirnatius. Now Tsarina, Irina discovers her husband is hiding a scorcher of a secret. A secret that could mean Irina’s death.

While Spinning Silver is not a sequel to Novik’s Uprooted, I think it’s safe to say that if you enjoyed that book, you’ll enjoy this one as well as they share many of the same themes.

One of those similar themes I found was perception. How we initially perceive a person’s or people’s motivations. Or how we judge someone based on where they come from, or their family. There are two sides to every story. Not everyone can necessarily be painted as just good or just evil. Miryem is shunned in town due to the fact that she’s actually collecting on people’s debts, but from her side the money is what is owed to her family.

Building further on perception, the way in which magic is represented as both a figurative and a literal aspect of the story was very interesting. How Wanda considers being able to read, write, and do her numbers magic, and how the Staryk are drawn to Miryem’s ability to collect silver money (enough that she can change it into gold), then it flips when she crosses the border between realms to where she can literally change silver into gold.

What I loved most about Spinning Silver was the way Naomi Novik spun (see what I did there!) all these intersecting stories together into one cohesive whole. How these three, strong, different women move seamlessly through each other’s stories while also playing the hero in their own. Also, I loved seeing that they weren’t pitted against each other despite each one ultimately having a different end goal. Too many times, in life and in fiction, I feel like we see the competition between women instead of the support, and it was nice to see that while sometimes one would make a decision that negatively affected another–not out of spite, mind you–there wasn’t any revenge and/or retaliation. They each understood the name of the game, so to speak, and tried to do their best in their respective situations, placing no blame for what the others had to do to succeed.

However, Naomi Novik goes beyond just our three female leads as point-of-view characters. This, if nothing else, made me feel like the story was too jam-packed and brought down a lot of the momentum of the narrative. While I thought she did a good job of making each voice distinctive, I would have liked it better if there weren’t so many.

While I felt like I overall enjoyed Uprooted more than Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik never fails to draw me into her stories with wonderful writing and interestingly unique worlds.

Sexual content: references to sex

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