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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik | review

It will come as literally no surprise to any of you who saw my Favorite Books of 2018 (so far) video, but this review is about to be a rave. And it hits stores today!

Hardcover, 480 pages
Expected publication: July 10th 2018 by Del Rey
A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted, which was hailed as “a very enjoyable fantasy with the air of a modern classic” by The New York Times Book Review.

With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.

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.

Spinning Silver is just… it’s so beautifully complex. It builds on itself in ever-expanding layers in such a strong, smart way. If it had started out with as many pov characters as it has (and it has more than I was expecting), it could have easily been overwhelming or confusing. Instead, each character is added in as needed, at interesting times and in interesting ways, expanding the story and playing their part, without bogging it down. My one note would be that a couple of the characters' voices (the two main, actually) do sound pretty similar, and that's mostly in the fact that they both sound very reserved and cold*. But in some ways, I think they both are very reserved and cold, and each have their reasons for it; the important thing is that, as they grow and change, their voices do a little bit, too.

The story – a retelling of Rumplestiltskin -- works really well as a fairy tale retelling; one of the better, actually, imo, because it feels so rich and fully-realized. But it is so much more than that, and works so well as a story on its own, independent of the fairy tale. It doesn't rest on the laurels of the tale, but it also doesn't dismiss the fairy tale, or use it as a bare framework only in name, as so many “retellings” do. It very much IS Rumplestiltskin, and it very much IS its own thing. Of course, because I loved it, and loved the main characters, people are going to call it slow. I already know. I already know! But I loved these characters and found it really brilliantly paced. There is a sense of time passing, so that it moves quickly when it needs to, but doesn't feel rushed or glossed-over, and I feel like that exact thing — the sense of time being a real thing that people have to live with and go through — is something that's ignored or even intentionally abused in books nowadays. The trend is all for flash-fast and uber "readable," leaving a lot of books feeling rootless and easy to forget, which is patently not true of Spinning Silver.

I don't recall this from Uprooted [review], though maybe it's a known strength of Novik's, but in Spinning Silver, at least, Naomi Novik does gray SO well. There are levels to villainy, to victimhood, to strength, to family. It deals with racism and abuse very well, both in the framework of the story, and as a general, non-didactic approach, again adding more layers to the delicious, elaborate cake that is this book. Everything is so, so complex. I know I've already said that, but it bears repeating -- there's a lot to sink your teeth into here, and I feel like further readings would just uncover more and more. And I do want to reread this. I want to reread it and I will reread it. Absolutely beautiful.

* And yes, of course, this made me love them even more. Reserved, cold characters are Misty catnip!

Disclosure: I received this book for review consideration; Amazon Affiliate links are used in this post. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own, and you guys: I loved this book.

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