Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Also by this author: Uprooted
Published by Del Rey on July 10, 2018
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.
When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk--grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh--Miryem's fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.
So, forewarning, I am going to present a very unpopular opinion here. It will take almost no effort for you to go find any number of glowing reviews for this (there is a lot of love out there for it), so keep that in mind as I voice my dissension here.
The story is about Miryem, the daughter of a money lender. I like that her character is strong, and that she takes charge in situations, is able to step in and do what she can to improve their business. She is also fair and level headed. Her role as money lender causes her to cross paths with Wanda, a peasant girl who we learn is a very hard worker and victim of circumstance. There are additional POVs as well, but I never connected with them as much as these two.
Honestly, this is one of those books where I found myself not caring about or connecting with most of the characters, and just struggled with the storyline because of it (I typically struggle to enjoy a story if I don’t get that care about the characters). I was, at best, apathetic about the story. That is a horrible way to feel about a book.
I am often a proponent of multiple POVs and appreciate how they can really flesh out a story and add depth to the world and characters. They can create complexity to the story that just can not be achieved with a single POV. However, I do sometimes notice a book where I think it would benefit from a smaller scope, sticking to just one POV (or possibly two). This is one of those books. I don’t feel like the underlying story or world is so complex that it warranted the number of POVs, and for me, they diluted the story. instead of enhancing it It kept me from having the page time I needed to really connect with the characters better and engage with the story. Personally, I would have preferred the focus to be mainly on Miryem or Wanda, or maybe even both. But the other POVs, while helped disseminate information, just felt like a detraction for me. Not everyone has this problem with the book (as is evident by the amount of love for I mentioned earlier). Some readers were obviously able to engage with Novik’s approach, just for me, it didn’t work.
And I don’t want to list only negatives. Novik is a talented writer, and even though I struggled with this one more than I would like, I do believe it was because of the structure rather than quality of prose. The fairy tale aspect of it is appealing and well done as well. There was also great atmosphere. Some readers will love it just for the fantasy elements and the fairy tale vibe, some readers will find that connection that I found missing, others may find just the tone and atmosphere pull them in and they can find that love for this book I’ve seen so many readers experience. But, for me, it just wasn’t enough.