Published by Macmillan Australia on July 10, 2018
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic
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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.
I love a good slow burn fantasy that really draws you in with a rich, detailed setting, and Spinning Silver provides a rich, wintery fantasy filled with magic and whimsy. Grounded in folklore, Spinning Silver tells us a story of a Miryem, a moneylender who masters the art of tax collecting and Irina, a daughter of a duke who gets married to a tsar possessed by a demon of fire. It’s a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that stands on its own as a feminist fantasy retelling focused on friendship, sacrifice and empowerment.
Told through six different perspectives, including a farmer’s daughter who works to pay off her debts and a nanny who would do anything to protect Irina, a complex, detailed plot is woven within Spinning Silver. I loved Miryem and her practicality, commercialism and bargaining skills, which proves to be her saving grace later on. As a Jewish moneylender, we see her navigate racism and segregation from the other townspeople and honour her beliefs, even when faced with the dangerous Staryk King. It was also wonderful hearing from Wanda, a girl facing domestic abuse, starvation and poverty who for the first time, finds a purpose in her life through paid work. I also loved Irina and how she uses her wit, self-preservation and intellect to navigate her demonic husband.
While six POVs can be overwhelming, some perspectives only appeared a few times when relevant during the story, and the main characters still shone through at certain areas in the plot. The story opens with Miryem and Wanda, but then focuses on Miryem and Irina in the later chapters. While I enjoyed hearing from the six different characters, I found some of the additions were unneccessary to the overall plot.
As with Uprooted, I loved the magical slow burn when it came to the story and how Naomi Novik takes time to construct the detailed world and the characters within them. I loved seeing the plot unfold around the icy Staryk King, driven by greed for Miryem’s abilities, and Irina’s fiery demon husband who wants to bargain with her. While there’s definitely a strong male presence in the book, especially with Miryem and Irina’s husbands, the focus of the book is on their support of each other and navigating their perilous fates on their own – without the help of a male saviour.
Spinning Silver is a standalone, wintery fantasy wrapped in magic and enchantment that captures female strength, support and friendship. I loved the fairytale icy kingdom it was set in along with the magical elements and the underlying story of friendship and female empowerment.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a review copy!
Spinning Silver is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$29.99 or The Book Depository.