Spinning Silver

By Naomi Novik,

Book cover of Spinning Silver

Book description

Following her award-winning novel Uprooted, Naomi Novik has once again been influenced by classic folktales. Taking Rumpelstiltskin as her starting point, Spinning Silver is rich, original and a joy to read.

Will dark magic claim their home?
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father's too kind-hearted…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked Spinning Silver as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Spinning Silver is a riff on Rumpelstiltskin set in medieval Russia. Naomi Novik goes lighter on the history here than she did in her Napoleonic-era Temeraire series, but Spinning Silver is still threaded with authentic details. The prejudice the Jewish protagonist and her family experience feels particularly real—and relevant. I also liked that she and the other female leads aren’t beauties (a common trope in fantasy). Instead, they’re resourceful and brave, facing down men and demons alike.

I’m less high on the rotating first-person point of view. But I loved Spinning Silver anyway. If you like historical fantasy, you probably…

Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty and the Beast in a realm of Slavic folklore. This little gem manages to spin these tales in a new light, while seamlessly weaving them together into a beautiful tapestry that creates the illusion that they were always one story. I appreciated that the protagonist wasn’t your average damsel in distress, nor was she some passive princess strung along throughout the narrative through chance and misfortune; Miryem is a well-rounded character, head-strong and frank, whose actions (turning silver into gold, albeit in a more realistic way) capture the attention of a fey “beast” who might just have…

This beautiful story of family, sacrifice, and courage to choose your own path is deeply steeped in Slavic folklore. Told mostly from the point of view of three women, a princess, a peasant girl, and a Jewish moneylender, the book effortlessly weaves in the supernatural elements. The characters are all believable and nuanced which to me is an absolute must in any book. A great read.

Novik’s Rumpelstiltskin retelling is an outstanding book. Of the three leading ladies, Miryem was my favourite, for a strange reason. I loved how angry she was; the villagers took advantage of her father and she wasn’t about to let that keep happening. She got herself into trouble, but she was smart enough to come out ahead. Miryem, Wanda, and Irina were put in impossible situations, either through their own choices or that of the men in their lives, and in the end, they saved themselves. Another reason to love this incredible book!

Spinning Silver is a loose reimagining of the tale of Rumpelstiltskin and is meant for older readers (Young Adult/Adult). Novik crafts an Old Russian/Slavic-inspired world of Tsars and kopeks and moneylenders. She’s clearly done extensive research on the clothing and food and politics of the time, which makes the setting feel effortlessly real. Then, she adds in a fairy race made of ice known as the Staryk. Also, the fire demon Chernobog (surprise!). The world of Spinning Silver feels so rich and old and familiar that it makes room for the fantastic to enter in without us hardly noticing. It’s…

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