Hi everyone! I hope your week is off to a great start. Now that it’s getting colder, it’s the perfect time to read stories set in frozen landscapes, don’t you think? That’s why today I want to talk about Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik.
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. But her father is too soft and nobody ever pays their debts to the family. Until Miryem steps in. She starts collecting what is owned, and when her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver, she brings it back full of gold. But this reputation of being able to turn silver into gold draws the attention of the cold creatures that haunt the wood. Their king wants to exploit Miryem’s abilities for reasons she cannot understand.
So many POVs
A few months ago, I read Uprooted by Naomi Novik and I loved it! So I was incredibly excited about Spinning Silver. But I didn’t like it as much as Uprooted, unfortunately. While that book had just one POV, this book kept switching between characters. There was a total of 6 perspectives and that might be a bit too much.
Novik used these perspectives to weave together an intricate tapestry of plot lines. But there were so many plot lines that it was hard to keep track of everything. There was Miryem’s plot with the Staryk king (which is arguably the main story line), but also lady Irina’s marriage to the tsar, and Wanda and her brothers suffering at the hands of their abusive father. This might not seem like a lot, but there is a lot going on around these story lines.
I did love the “main” story line. It was intriguing with lots of twists and turns. And I just wasn’t sure where it was going. Which is great, because all too often you just know what’s going to happen.
Spinning Silver is a very loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with plenty of fantasy elements (the Staryk, a fire demon, a magical cottage in the woods). But it’s set in medieval Poland, and Miryem and her family are Jews. This added an interesting angle, because it showed the prejudice of other people towards them.
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I found I could only read about 60 pages per sitting. Partly because of the many plot lines, but also because of the writing. It was very descriptive and – like Uprooted – kept dialogue to an absolute minimum. I’m talking about maybe 1 or 2 lines of conversation per page. After reading Uprooted I knew I could expect this, so it didn’t bother me. But yeah, it impacted my reading speed. So just be aware of that!
All in all, Spinning Silver is a wonderful tale with lots of twists, against a fascinating backdrop. But the abundance of perspectives and plot lines – and the lack of dialogue – made it a slow read. And if you’re not reading many pages a day in a book jumping between 6 perspectives, it gets hard to keep track of everything. So this book gets 4 stars from me!
Del Rey Books
July 10, 2018
A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale from the bestselling author of Uprooted, called "a very enjoyable fantasy with the air of a modern classic" by The New York Times Book Review. Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father is not a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has left his family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem intercedes. Hardening her heart, she sets out to retrieve what is owed, and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. But when an ill-advised boast brings her to the attention of the cold creatures who haunt the wood, nothing will be the same again. For words have power, and the fate of a kingdom will be forever altered by the challenge she is issued. Channeling the heart of the classic fairy tale, Novik deftly interweaves six distinct narrative voices--each learning valuable lessons about sacrifice, power and love--into a rich, multilayered fantasy that readers will want to return to again and again.