BOOK REVIEW: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts:

My eldest son put a pile of Naomi Novik’s books on my bedside table years ago and said, ‘you must read these, Mum, you’d love them.’ But I didn’t read them (I was busy, so many books, so little time, you know how it goes.) Her books got pushed to the back of the shelf, and spun over with cobwebs, and furred over with dust, and sank away out of sight under the weight of all the other books.


Then a writer-friend of mine, Anna Campbell, asked me on Twitter if I’d read Spinning Silver yet, and I had to admit no, I hadn’t, nor any of her books. Should I? I asked.


I think you’d love it, Anna tweeted back, and so I ordered it straightaway.

Anna was right. I loved it!

In fact, I think that needs a stronger verb and more exclamation marks.

I adored it!!!

My favourite type of fantasy is silver-tongued.

By ‘silver-tongued’, I mean imaginative, poetic, and intense.

I mean wondrous, lyrical, and eerie.


Spinning Silver is all of these things, and more. Naomi Novik has taken the well-known ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ fairy-tale and made it into something new and surprising, and yet filled with archetypal power.

The story has a Slavic setting. The heroine Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of Jewish moneylenders... but her father is too humble and kind-hearted to be very good at it. Miryem sets herself to do what he cannot do, before the whole family starves. Turning silver into gold, she draws the attention of the cold faery ice-king … and finds herself bound to an impossible bargain.


Reducing the story down to this bare-bones outline cannot give you any sense of the compulsively powerful plot, the extraordinarily well-wrought atmosphere, or the boldness of Naomi Novik’s storytelling choices (multiple first-person point-of-view is fiendishly difficult to pull off, and yet she does it with such skill and bravado I never once lost sight of who was telling the story). Needless to say, I have dug out her other books, blown the dust and cobwebs away, and intend to read them all very, very soon.


Another great book with a magical story you'd love to read is:


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Kate Forsyth
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