Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. A frost-licked fairy-tale re-telling where the heroines decide whether the princes are worth rescuing.

Hurray for stand-alones!

Naomi Novik enthralls us with another fairy-tale flavored story and proves again, that stand alones can contain everything you need for a good story and more.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I read Uprooted and loved it and was saving Spinning Silver to savor later. I didn’t realize how long I’d actually waited until I checked the list of Hugo nominees and saw her book listed there. Yikes! Better late than never!

So, while the sun’s been frying the sidewalks this week, I’ve been transported to the frost-bitten woods of Spinning Silver, where our heroines wrestle with cruel winters and even crueller princes.

Our main is Miryem, a resourceful girl whose family is in the money-lending business. Due to her father’s gentle nature and foolish generosity, the local villagers have been refusing to pay back the money they owe, putting Miryem’s family in dire straits. Miryem decides to take matters into her own hands, even though she is only a girl and a Jewish girl at that, she cleverly finds a way to make the debtors fulfill their promises. Even if the villagers only give her goats or cloth, Miryem is able to change it into gold and profit. She does so well, in fact, that she attracts the attentions of the Staryk King, the mysterious lord who rules the winter woods. And that’s when the troubles begin.

Oh me oh my, the character dynamics are fun to witness!

Who is going to kill who first?

Who is going to rescue the kingdom?

Who is going to fall in love?

You slide easily into their headspace through the first person narrative, and it’s a glorious time. The heroines of the story are clever survivors, with reputations they earned from having to make tough decisions where men have failed. The princes and kings are greedy, handsome, cruel but also misunderstood and sympathetic. The give and take between the characters, the posturing and bargaining, keeps the other on edge, and us readers at the edge of our seats.

No one is who they are expected to be and each character continues to surprise each other. And as the reader, you get to enjoy the discovery process and how the characters have to work to understand and, ultimately, respect and sympathize and build relationships with each other.

There is a very strong feeling of “Proving Them Wrong” – whether it is the snobbish judgements of the lords and ladies at court, or the anti-semitism from the villagers, or the general dismissiveness from the men, our heroines surprise everyone and each other with their own grit. In Spinning Silver, our heroines wield sharp-edged minds rather than swords to save not only their loved ones but the entire kingdom.

Five pale white nuts to be planted along a glimmering white road.

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