Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

*Spinning Silver will be published Tuesday, July 10th!*

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Del Rey, 2018
Hardcover. 480 pages. 

About the book:
"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."

Spinning Silver would be the perfect book for a cozy winter read--it's practically the opposite of your typical 'summer read'--but I understand that winter is not the prime time for book releases. Fortunately, however, no matter when you actually do read it, it's still going to be a wonderful, breathtaking story. Also, for those wondering if they need to read Uprooted before Spinning Silver: the two novels are not connected and do not need to be read in any order; they share the same general magical atmosphere and it feels like a similar world, but the two are not connected and are not in the same universe.

This book is bewitching, both in terms of its appeal and captivating manner and also in terms of the plot and events of the story itself. There is something so miraculously engaging about Novik's writing that just completely pulls you in and holds you tight until the story is over--and even then it's hard to let go of this world and the characters. I've always been interested in the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, so I was pleased to see how Novik took elements from that story and incorporated them into a variety of different and even surprising aspects of Spinning Silver. She has created an incredibly clever, subtle, and carefully-plotted story that is not one I will forget, and one that I am sure to revisit.

There are a lot of different threads going on in this story at the same time and it's easy to find yourself a bit lost at times if you aren't paying close enough attention. This book is also definitely on the slower side and is very much about the journey and the slow changes in the characters and how they take small but important steps in attempts to improve their lives while also improving the lives of them around me. There are still plenty of interesting events and plot developments in addition to the slower aspects, but this book is not based on a fast-paced storyline and is one to be savoured rather than plowed through.

There are a few different POVs that we follow in this book, but the main ones are that of Miryem, Wanda, and Irina. Each perspective is identified by a specific symbol at the start of each chapter, which I personally thought was a rather clever way of delineating who would be the speaker for each chapter, as it wasn't an overt name thrown in your face, but instead a symbolic image that guided you into each narration. It took me a minute to remember a few of the different symbols, but once you catch on it is not difficult to keep up.

Miryem seems to also be the binding force among these three young women, and she is a character that I came to greatly admire. She has not grown up in much comfort, but she has always had the love of her family. She is someone that sees a problem with something, such as people taking advantage of her father's kindness, and decides to get things done in order to make both her and her family's lives better. It doesn't matter if people do not like what she has to do, what matters to her is fairness and making sure her family is provided for. I loved Novik's decision to make Miryem and her family Jewish--Novik herself being of Lithuanian-Jewish descent--and how she incorporated that entire aspect. I do not have personal experience, but I felt it was very well written and it seems to be getting positive praise from those who are Jewish or of Jewish descent as well.

Wanda, unlike Miryem, does not receive much in the way of love or positive attention from her father, who is abusive to both her and her two brothers. She is an incredibly strong person, though her strength was born out of a necessity to take care of her family and to survive the harsh life she has grown up with. However, her fate slowly begins to change in extremely unexpected and occasionally fortuitous ways as the story goes on, and we begin to learn more about Wanda and how far she will go for her and her brother's survival and to ultimately live out better lives.

Irina, unlike both Miryem and Wanda, was born into royalty and a fairly privileged life, but her privilege ends at material wealth and goods, as her family is not overly warm or loving towards her. Irina is the character that probably most surprised me. When we are first introduced to Irina, she is pretty much told what to do in her life, and as she grows throughout the novel and is thrust into new and unforeseen situations, we get to see her fully come to life and take charge of her own strengths in life.

All three of these women's' storylines eventually merge in different ways and at different times, and I loved the way that Novik brought everything together. The magical elements were so strong and brought so much intrigue to the story that I couldn't pull myself away from it. I was also enormously pleased with the ending of this book, and I cannot think of a better way Novik could have ended it, as it is more on the bittersweet side, which is something that I felt matched perfectly with the story.

I know I've already mentioned Novik's writing style, but I just want to touch again on how compelling it truly was. She writes in a rather simple and uncomplicated style, which leads one to initially wonder how she could write something quite so captivating and beautiful, but it is the simplicity that makes this book so wonderful. The true depth and beauty is found within the narration, and it is so delightful to discover.

Overall, I've given Spinning Silver five stars!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received an ARC of Spinning Silver courtesy of Del Rey and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the book.*

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  1. How have I not heard of this!? It looks awesome!

  2. I love when simple writing can still come across as so powerful. Normally I'm drawn to fantasy books in the summertime, but I can see how this one would be good in the winter, too!

  3. I can't wait to get my hands on this one!!

  4. I loved Uprooted, and I'm curious to read this at some point. I do love Novik's writing😁

  5. This sounds absolutely brilliant! This is one of my most anticipated reads so I'm so excited to hear how much you loved it :)