Review: Spinning Silver

by - 2:36 PM


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
| ISBN: 978-0399180989 | Pages: 480 |
Publication Date: July 10, 2018 | Source: Library
| Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars |
★★★★☆ 

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. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar. 
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love. 
Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.

(yes I am fully aware this review is long overdue...I apologize...again)

I was over the moon when I heard that Naomi Novik was writing a sequel to Uprooted which I fell in love with years ago. I was prepared for another dark and twisted retelling that would chill me to the bone and paint a horrific picture in my mind - basically I was prepared for anything to be thrown at me...or so I thought.

“But I had not known that I was strong enough to do any of those things until they were over and I had done them. I had to do the work first, not knowing.”

Spinning Silver takes the same wonderful storytelling that is in its predecessor with a lot less of blood and gore and a lot more cold. The best way for me to describe this is to view Uprooted as an all consuming darkness (in terms of its ominous presence) whereas Spinning Silver is like a blizzard - the effect is completely different.

To be honest, after finishing this novel, I was deeply conflicted which occurred after Uprooted as well, but this one was much more rooted in a sense that I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I can trace this back completely to my pre-expectations that essentially set me up for disappointment, but that was something that was quite conflicting to figure through.

“But the world I wanted wasn't the world I lived in, and if I would do nothing until I could repair every terrible thing at once, I would do nothing forever.” 

On the story level, Spinning Silver is a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a touch of imperial Russian court structure. I loved the premise, everything from the cold unwelcoming environment of the Staryks to the rich and vulturous world of court. I've been on something of a Russian influenced ____ kick lately so this one fit right into my interests.

The thing that didn't sit so well with me were the characters. I'll be honest, I don't remember much of the characters from Uprooted but I remember how I left the story feeling like I had gained some new fictional friends through reading their experience. With Spinning Silver I felt detached the whole way through. That's not to say I didn't admire them, Wanda and Miryem and Irina are both incredibly inspiring in their individual strengths - I just had trouble finding that connection. It was pretty cool to see how secondary characters had a decisive role in the plot so that there was a lot of variety in situations.

“That is all we can do for each other in the world, to keep the wolf away.” 

Okay, to get to the point, my biggest issue with this book is Miryem and the Staryk king. I kind of predicted that it would something akin to a hate to love relationship. But I didn't see much development...it sort of went from hate to begruding respect to normal respect. I'm not denying that they make a good pair but this aspect was definitely something that felt disappointing in how we didn't get to see their relationship grow - especially since they are such a power couple together.

So to summarize this all over the place spiel - I enjoyed this book. I definitely want to go back and reread it now that I have a better grasp of what to expect. The writing is simply beautiful and it has all the makings of a fantastic story. I just went into it with some incorrect preconceptions which made the story harder to digest but after contemplating through, I still came to the conclusion that this story was quite brilliantly done.

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