Spinning Silver

Monday, November 5, 2018

Spinning Silver
Naomi Novik, 2018

Premise: Miryem's family was nearly starving until she took over her father's moneylending business. Irina may be the daughter of a duke, but she's not pretty enough to be a useful pawn. Wanda is the only person standing between her brothers and their drunken father. All three young women face marriage, and therefore, danger. Magic only complicates matters.

This is a sister novel to Uprooted, in that it is a fantasy novel which takes inspiration from fairy tales (most obviously Rumplestiltskin) and emphasizes cultural traditions which are often neglected in commonly British-descended fantasy tropes. In this case, the country takes quite a bit from Eastern Europe, and Miryem and her relations are Jewish and face discrimination and danger because of this.

I really liked so much about this book. I loved the three stories and the way they combined. I loved the use and reinterpretation of fairy-tale elements. I loved that tipping point of marriage in all three stories and the danger and horror each young woman was confronted with. I loved the hard choices each of them faced and the way they dealt with them.

My biggest criticism has to do with structure. I think the structure could have been tighter. The point of view changes from chapter to chapter, and I was fine with this while it was the three young women, even though the third didn't appear until the story felt well underway. But then chapters appeared throughout the book adding additional viewpoint characters, and I think this really weakens the impact of the storytelling, making it more like just an average run-of-the-mill fantasy novel. One point-of-view character has only one chapter, and I think it would have been much more compelling to get the information delivered in that chapter from an outside perspective.

I do love the way the magic worked, and the various supernatural creatures. However, another quibble was that I felt there was an alternative ending heavily foreshadowed by the magic early on (matching two characters who do not end up together), but nothing came of it. And I have mixed feelings about aspects of the ending.

Still, while I didn't think it was perfect, I did enjoy it a lot.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


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