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 finally read Naomi Novik’s Uprooted after it sat on my TBR list for ages and ages. What a huge mistake, Uprooted was gorgeous. It captivated me from the first word to the last. My anticipation for another book in set in this world was sky high.
Spinning Silver is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale we all know and love. At least that’s what I thought going in. It’s actually a whole lot more than that and other than turning items into gold, doesn’t resemble the original very much at all. And while being in the same world as Uprooted, these are all new characters, in an all new setting, and there are no glimpses of Agnieszka, or her Dragon, or the wonderful tree people who I fell in love with. But that’s okay, because in Spinning Silver we have three lovely, strong-willed heroines and an introduction to a new race of feylike people who covet gold.
This story is told in multiple points of view, which I will admit can get a tad confusing at the beginning of the story. The main protagonist, and the first introduced, is Miryem, daughter of the village’s moneylender. In order to keep her family from poverty and starvation Miryem takes over her father’s business and it thrives in her very capable hands. This draws the attention of the Staryk, fey like creatures who yearn for gold, who come to her requesting she turn certain items into gold. Which she does, in the most interesting, ingenious way. Yet this only brings her more trouble as the Staryk keep coming back for more and each time the tasks get bigger and harder to complete.
I mentioned Miryem first because she is the heart of this story. But there are several other female characters who I would consider heroines in this tale; Wanda, Miryem’s hired help, and Irina, daughter of the local duke and eventual wife to the tsar. But there are really six POVs ( I think) along with Miryem, Wanda, and Irina. We also get some thoughts from Irina’s tsar and nurse, as well as Wanda’s younger brother. I had to go back and see if we get into the head of the leader of the Staryk, but I don’t think so. Do you see now why I said it gets a little confusing at times? Yet, Naomi Novik makes it work. These added perspectives add to the story rather than take away from it.
I think there are a lot of deep-set meanings throughout this story. Miryem’s family is Jewish and Ms. Novik masterfully explores some of the stereotypes surrounding Jewish moneylenders. This is also a story about female strength and resolve. Three women working together to overcome the odds in a man’s world. The money-lender overcoming not only anti-Semitism, but also gender roles. The nobleman’s daughter who outsmarts not only her father, but the Tsar and the demon who possesses him. The poverty-stricken young woman who patiently works toward a goal and manages to get herself and her brother out from under the thumb of a violent father. Each of their sub-plots are interesting and important to the overall main story arc. Oh, and there is also a lovely slow-burn, enemies to lovers romance thrown in that made my romance loving heart happy.
Even though Spinning Silver was so incredibly different from Uprooted, I enjoyed it just as much. I can’t recommend this author and her brilliant, beautiful, captivating storytelling enough. Final Grade-A
“Lady, though you choose a home in the sunlit world, you are a Staryk queen indeed.”