Book Review: “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik

The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard.

Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Length: 466 pages

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

Release Date: July 10, 2018


With the Nebula Award-winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. She will face an impossible challenge and, along with two unlikely allies, uncover a secret that threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike.

My Review

Star Rating: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars

And at the end of the day she would pour a lake of pennies onto the floor and roll them into paper to turn them into silver.

I really enjoyed this book. I had hoped that it would be so, but I’m usually not into slower paced novels. But I did like it. A lot.

The Characters

The characters were the real stars of this book. Yes, there’s a plot too, and a very compelling one; and the setting is very interesting. But the characters were what carried Spinning Silver.

There are several character POVs here, all of which are in first person, but there are three that stick out to the most. Miryem, the main protagonist, as well as Wanda, and Irina. They all have their own crucial part to play in the narrative, and I loved seeing their individual B Plots intersect and build on one another, weaving together the much bigger A Plot.

I realize that I just made it seem like this is a pretty complicated story, but trust me, it actually isn’t really. It’s actually a relatively simple main plot. The characters and setting are just so well-realized that it seems a bit more complex than it actually is.

“There are men who are wolves inside, and want to eat up other people to fill their bellies. That was what was in your house with you, all your life. But here you are with your brothers, and you are not eaten up, and there is not a wolf inside you. You have fed each other, and you have kept the wolf away. That is all we can do for each other in the world, to keep the wolf away.”

Getting back to before my little tangent: the characters. As I said, out of the three girls’ POVs, Miryem is definitely what I’d consider to be the main character. She seems cold-hearted without context, and she definitely has hardened her heart some. But that’s a result of years of frustration, mistreatment and prejudice by her village, and near-starvation. In reality, she’s one of the kinder characters in the novel.

Wanda was also a very interesting point of view, because of all the ways her family-life (and just life in general) differs from Miryem’s. The same can absolutely be said for Irina. All three young women lived very different lifestyles growing up, due to their differing statuses, and it molded them into the characters that we read about.

I also liked seeing how all three of their lives and stories ended up colliding. Novik carefully wove an incredible story wherein the threads of the plot are cleverly woven into each of the characters in the book. Even the ones that don’t have many point-of-view sections, or any whatsoever. (I especially 100% stan Stepon. And anybody who doesn’t stan that adorable child is wrong.) Novik made sure that none of the characters were unnecessary or extraneous. Everyone felt like they had their own roles to play.

The Romance

He let go both my hands and stepped back and in a deep graceful courtesy went down on one knee before me and bowed his head, and said, “Lady, though you choose a home in the sunlit world, you are a Staryk queen indeed.”

And I absolutely have to talk about the romance. Or lack thereof. It’s complicated, okay? It’s not really apparent at first – okay, for anyone who’s familiar with romance tropes, it totally is. What I actually mean is, it didn’t feel like a slow-burn, or really romantic at all, until rather close to the end. But the love interests were very interesting and complex, and it’s very obvious from the get-go that there’s sot more going on under the surface for the boys than it seems. I’m not going to spoil anything though.

I also appreciated how unnatural the Staryk (the ice fairies) appeared to behave compared to the humans. Their dialogue seemed so archaic compared that between the humans, and the way they were described to move, and carry the cold with them. Not to mention the magical environmental changes that would happen every time the Staryk king would show up. But yeah, after ACOTAR, this was refreshing to read.

Stuff I Didn’t Like As Much

But yeah, before I wrap up this review, I guess I should mention any criticisms I had with Spinning Silver. Hmm… Well, I guess the writing style slowed down the read for me. And it made the book difficult to come back to, every time I went back to read a chunk of it.

But that’s kind of a me thing, only. Those who enjoy slower paced books with wordier prose will probably love this. But that’s kind of my only gripe with the novel.

Final Thoughts

So yeah, I really liked Spinning Silver and I definitely recommend it to fantasy lovers, and those who enjoy fairytale retellings. (Cuz this is also a Rumplestilskin retelling. Forgot to mention that. Whoops.) (I also adore how unique it and Gilded are from one another, despite how both are retellings of Rumplestilskin.)

I also didn’t really have a chance to mention it above, but the ending was my favorite thing about this novel. It was just so good. I can’t say anything about it, because that would spoil absolutely everything, but I will say that the character development really shines through, and all of the little plot threads appear to be neatly tied up. But yeah, this is an absolutely fantastic book, with great prose, and a really wonderful wintery read.

Thanks for reading, and gave an awesome day/night! Tune in next time for more bookish things!

~ Mar ~

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