Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

spinning silverSummer is coming my friends. As a winter person, I’m trying to survive it with books that will make me feel cold. I recently finished Norse Mythology and now I am about to tell you about another cold tale of winter in the wonderful story of Spinning Silver.

Before I tell you my thoughts, here’s what Goodreads have to say:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

Novik stays true to her Uprooted’s Slavic theme. Spinning Silver craftily mixes Slavic folk stories with a hint of Rumpelstiltskin retelling. In case you are wondering: Uprooted is not related to Spinning Silver. These are two standalone books.

Spinning Silver takes us to wintery Lithuania. Frost covered wings of cruel winter bring mysterious riders to its villages. They travel to the human world via their winter road; steal people’s gold and kill whoever / whatever gets in their way. They are called Staryk (the ancient / old ones). And people fear and hate them equally.

Meet Miryem – our first protagonist, a moneylender’s daughter trying to revive her father’s dying business to save her ill mother. She is smart but is starting to close herself off emotionally to do what is ‘necessary’.

Then there is Wanda, a servant girl who is trying to get by. Her future is looking bleak as her abusive drunken father has one thing on his mind: how to sell her off so he can get more money for his alcohol.

The third protagonist, Irina is smart and scheming, but also compassionate and protective. She would do anything to save people from Winter’s reign. Will she succeed?

All these there females have following in common: they are happy to think for themselves and to make their own destinies. Their actions are not full off ‘roaring and screaming’ but are rather more subtle – their bravery is demonstrated by them showing up. They follow through with their smart but also uncertain plans whilst forming unlikely alliance. Novik’s beautifully crafted females are brave whilst remaining vulnerable, smart but also afraid. They show range of emotions that deeply resonated with me.

What is slightly unusual about Spinning Silver is that there are three supporting characters as well which we get to hear talking now and again. They are added gradually and because of that, they don’t overpower the narrative. They only add their unique perspectives from time to time.

There is always an element of danger whenever introducing multiple POVs. That is that us, readers, may prefer some over others. I did struggle connecting with these three characters but appreciated the part they played. Spinning Silver is narrated in first person and using this technique gave me an additional insight into the storyline.

There is a touch of slow burning romance (‘kindling’ kind of slow), which is weaved in extremely carefully. I enjoyed the main focus being on both characters’ motives as well as their mission without them being distracted by romance thoughts. Also, the slow burn is something I personally take over instalove any day.

Novik’s language is exquisite – deliberately chosen words, eerie mood, skilfully built tension. It’s all there. I was pulled into the story from the beginning, it’s a fairly slow paced one but it’s extremely atmospheric and you will appreciate it either whilst curled under a warm blanket on a cold winter day or like me, craving some cold shade on a hot day whilst dreaming of icy winter roads…

I saw in Spinning Silver a story of underdogs and a strong message of brain over brawn. 

I also thought Novik‘s exploration of Rumpelstiltskin being portrayed via a Jewish moneylender, as well as being a woman, was intriguing. I am trying not to reveal too much as spoilers are my major pet peeve. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts though if you read this book.

Recommended? Yes!!! Especially if you have enjoyed Uprooted! Also, if you have enjoyed other Slavic themes books such as Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale or Bardugo’s The Grishaverse Series.

Possible triggers: child abuse and antisemitism

Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  (4/5)

What do you think? Do you want to read Spinning Silver or have you read it already?

And do you like Slavic folk tales?

24 thoughts on “Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”

  1. Interesting–I didn’t know this one featured multiple POVS! I’m a little worried that I’ll also have issues connecting with all the characters (especially since it’s only 480 pages long), but I love the underdogs aspect of it. Great review, Vera! I’m really looking forward to this one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not going to lie Kathy – I did struggle with connecting to those 3 side characters.. Their stories were fairly short / brief to the point that they didn’t annoy me. 🙂

      The main focus is on those main characters and I liked the feminist spin on it. Hope you enjoy it too and thank you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you had a better experience with this than the first book! I’m personally really eager to read Uprooted, but like you say in your first review, I’ve heard there are iffy elements to it like the romance. Hmm…still uber conflicted. 😛 think I’ll give this series a go though, especially if you enjoyed the slow burn here so much. Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I honestly think Novik is an excellent writer – her skilful ‘spread of dread’ in Uprooted is something I still remember. I wasn’t keen on the romance part but it didn’t spoil the story. I really hope you will enjoy the book should you give it a try. 🍀 There is a great friendship story there that I loved to bits.

      Spinning Silver is a stand alone book but has a similar Slavic theming. Both books are sort of retellings as well. Uprooted is about Beauty and the Beast, Spinning Silver about Rumpelstiltskin. 😊

      I really hope you enjoy either of them should you decide to read them. 😊🍀🤞❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely review! I am so eager to read this despite not being able to finish Uprooted. I loved Naomi Novik’s writing style, but didn’t love the dragon or the MC. It’s nice to know that there will be smarter characters in this story, and eerie and atmospheric books are my favorite!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Dragon was definitely not my favourite character, I do know what you mean. I also enjoy Novik’s writing style, fingers crossed you will enjoy Spinning Silver! 🍀 And thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean Angelica, the romance part in Uprooted didn’t work for me either. Fingers crossed you enjoy Spinning Silver, it’s main focus is on friendship which I really appreciated. 🍀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt these were two different stories and the romance part that I disliked in Uprooted was not featured in Spinning Silver. I really hope you enjoy Spinning Silver Lily! 😊🍀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so excited about reading this one!! I’m glad you liked it, as I LOVE Naomi Novik’s style of writing and I would be so sad if this one was a dud! Thanks for the great review, you got me really revved up for this one!! 💖🍻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Novak is an excellent writer as well, her way of building slow and steady tension is something that always gets me. And her choice of words is just… ❤️

      Thanks so much and fingers crossed you love that book as well! 😊🍀

      Liked by 1 person

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