Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Synopsis:

Will dark magic claim their home?

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge – and if she fails, she’ll die. Yet if she triumphs, it may mean a fate worse than death. And in her desperate efforts to succeed, Miryem unwittingly spins a web which draws in the unhappy daughter of a lord.Irina’s father schemes to wed her to the tsar – he will pay any price to achieve this goal. However, the dashing tsar is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of mortals and winter alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and Irina embark on a quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power and love.

***

Genre: YA Fantasy; Retellings

Page count: 488 (Romanian version); 480 (English paperback)

Year of publication: 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

My first Naomi Novik experience started by mistake – as I used to obsessively visit my favourite second hand bookstores every two weeks for possible new additions, I found Spinning Silver at a great price thanks to the pretty cover that caught my eye.

So I got it.

And after almost a year of sitting prettily on my shelf, I finally got to read it.

I have things to say about it, so let me get to it. First of all, I do believe that this was a good book. The writing was done in a professional manner, Novik clearly being a good story-teller. It had, indeed, all of the factors a classic fairy-tale has.

The atmosphere was cold, sombre, but at the same time filtered through that magical way of speaking a good ol’ story is usually told. There was a sort of story-telling force flying through the words and pages of the book.

Even though this was a retelling (after the Rumpelstiltskin tale), I think it still had a uniqueness of its own.

It has been turned into a cold story of Slavic folk and winter, of working, stone-hearted, cunning women – truly, an interesting, somehow feminist twist to the old Rumpelstiltskin tale.

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I liked the idea of a well-written feminist fairy-tale, I’m always up for something like that. They simply fill me with so many deliciously riot-y feelings and I just tend to get all hyped up.

This book was excellently executed in that regard.

However, even though I understand the phenomenon and I’m familiar with it, literary-wise, I still don’t appreciate the domestic violence some of the characters have been put through, especially women and children. I know, I said that this book had a feminist approach to things and now I’m talking about domestic violence against women, but both affirmations are true.

I know, I said that this book had a feminist approach to things and now I’m talking about domestic violence against women, but both affirmations are true.

In this book, even though the female characters were the ones who mostly run the show, the harshness of their situation in society was still present. They were the victims of brutal beatings from their fathers and husbands and sometimes – and this pains me the most – other characters got to witness this violence and chose to shrug and do nothing about it. And I’m sick of that.

I’ve read enough Romanian literature about the peasant folk to see the Eastern European influence in the story and the social structure and mentality. And I don’t know how, but this book – even though it’s definitely not Romanian literature – had the same sad and miserable vibe as those “masterpieces” I was forced to read in school. Poor people, low education, domestic violence, no consideration for anyone. Only greed, poverty and stupidity.

At least that was how I saw it, don’t blame me for an honest opinion. Now, I still have things that I didn’t agree with. And they are quite a few but they somehow melt into each other, you know, and one triggers the other. Like domino pieces.

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The thing is that the book seemed to be kind of a slow.

Even though there was this magical action to it, the amount of quite unnecessary details was something I didn’t look forward to reading anymore as the book went on. I mean, I do get when there are details at the beginning, to settle one into the world, action and so on, but as Spinning Silver went on, the details persisted. And they slowed down the story considerably.

I also wasn’t a fan of the sudden multiple points of view. After a while, I got used to them, but at the beginning, they came like a shock.

There were three POVs that interchanged within a chapter, without any other indication of the change like a name, a letter, a signal, SOMETHING at the beginning.

And maybe it wouldn’t have been so confusing if there was established from the beginning that there are going to be three of them interchanging.

But no. At first, it was only one. Then, from one, they became two. And after almost a quarter of the book, in the middle of a chapter, there was a third one that came out of nowhere. I swear it took me half the chapter to realise who was talking.

If you get to make freestyle out of those multiple POVs, please either signal them accordingly (because some of us are dumb and it takes more to process) or don’t write the narrative in the first person. Please.

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Well so…that was my whole experience first time reading a Naomi Novik novel. I don’t say that I hated it, because I didn’t, but I still believe that the future works are going to captivate me in a way this one had the potential to, but didn’t. Not a bad book, I actually thought it was well-written and compact, but for me, less detail would’ve made wonders. Until I really can say that I have an opinion about Novik’s writing, I’ll just leave this review here and hope for the best 🤞

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