Review: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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.

I loved Uprooted, and this is definitely a book in the same vein, although standalone – rich in fairytales and mythology but told through the characters and their struggles; it’s a richly woven tapestry of personalities and settings, and it’s a story where every choice seems to matter – and there’s no predicting where those choices could lead.

I love the mix of viewpoints and characters; we start with Miryem and then glimpse Wanda, whose fate – and those of her brothers – is woven into Miryem’s; and then Irina is tugged into the web, along with her beloved nurse and the Tsar; and as the story continues, we see slices of the story from each of them, darting back and forth but all weaving together wonderfully. I love the way that each character’s story and choices affects the others, and how everything interweaves.

It’s also one of those wonderful books where everything sort-of-concludes… but there’s still a third of the book left! And because the conclusion did leave little niggles and questions, everything spirals again, and it’s wonderful to have the question of “well, yes, but then what?” answered. Nothing quite works out how it does in the fairytales, but I also adore the way the fairy stories (from a variety of sources!) and mythology and setting is all woven in, recognisable but never feeling more than slightly familiar.

It’s a book that I am going to return to, and keep dipping into – it’s one that stuck with me as I read and after I finished. Beautiful, warming, haunting and worth a read.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.