Review of KINDLE Ebook Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik #Brainfluffbookreview #SpinningSilverbookreview


I’ve loved Novik’s writing for many years, being a fan of her fabulous Temeraire series – see my review of Victory of Eagles and I was also blown away by Uprooted – see my review here. So I was thrilled when Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy mentioned Novik had released Spinning Silver.

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.

I’ve heard this one described as a retelling of the old fairytale ‘Rumplestiltskin’, but it isn’t that straightforward. Novik has taken elements of that story – just a few – and woven them into another, more detailed backdrop. The setting is a version of 19th century Russia, complete with isolated villages surrounded by hundreds of miles of thick woodland, nobility who have the power of life and death over their subjects and a simmering resentment against the Jewish community. They are the ones who lend money to those who need it, the ones who often also make music, jewellery and can read and write within their close-knit communities, so make a convenient target when those in power don’t want to pay back their debts. Add in the danger of the ferocious cold of a Russian winter, when the dreaded Staryk are more easily able to cross into the human world. These icy fae have mercilessly predated upon the humans who wander too far into their forests, killing and stealing from them – and when their actions further impact upon the protagonists in the story, these shadowy, terrifying beings end up at the heart of this story.

It’s a complicated tale with three main protagonists, Miryem, the moneylender’s daughter, Wanda, who becomes her servant and is desperate to escape her drunken abusive father and Irena, the Duke’s eldest daughter by his first wife, whose bookish nature and plain looks have been a constant disappointment – until the Tsar comes to visit…

The story bounces between these three young women as their fates increasingly become intertwined. There is a fair amount of explanation – with pages when Novik is telling the story rather than having her characters speak, which I normally dislike. But I’m going to give her a pass on this one – firstly because it didn’t jar with me. This is, after all, a fairy story, which is always told from the outside in. Secondly, because though there is a fair amount of exposition, it was necessary in this complex plot and it didn’t stop Novik from immersing us in the thoughts and fears of her main protagonists. Thirdly, it was a delightfully long book with an unusually dense story, which I loved.

I’m aware this is a Marmite book – those aspects I’ve listed above as pluses have also exasperated some readers, preventing them from bonding with this book. Normally, I love a story to unfold from the inside out, but I simply think this time around it wouldn’t have worked so effectively. All I would say is – give it a go and discover for yourself if this one is for you. If you enjoy it, you’ll thank me. This is one that has had me continuing to ponder it since I’ve read it – always a sign that a book has properly got under my skin and it’s recommended for fantasy fans who like detailed worlds with plenty of unexpected twists thrown in.


36 responses »

    • Thank you, Jennifer:). Yes – there are a few books out there that really seem to divide folks and I coined the phrase to sum that up:)). I happen to LOVE Marmite, while Himself hates it so much, he won’t kiss me after I’ve eaten it!

  1. Hi, I’ve just stumbled across your blog and found it interesting. I have a first book, The Red Lands, out for free promotion on Friday 14th Dec. and would like if you could grab a copy. If you find it interesting, I would love to have a review like this one on Amazon. Keep on Blogging and have a wonderful day!

    • Thank you for your kind offer Forest, sadly I’m really stacked out with books right now and don’t think I’m going to be able to fit it into my schedule. Wishing you all the best in your writing career and take care.

  2. I love this book too!
    I think I may need to go back and read her dragon series during the dark days of January. Oh, and now you’ve got me thinking about what American food is the equivalent of marmite? 🤨🤨🤨

  3. Great review. I recently read this too and while I enjoyed it and thought the writing was wonderful I didn’t love it. I found it a little difficult to connect to any characters because of the style.

    • Yes, I do know what you are saying – it wasn’t written in first person limited viewpoint, but because of the nature of the story, I felt she didn’t have much choice.

    • Yes – it wasn’t as immersive, was it? But I think it was probably the only way she could produce the whole of the story arc that she wanted to portray, though I’ll agree that there were a few times when I wondered why we’d jumped into the head of a particular character when it didn’t seem to add very much to the overall plot, which is why this one didn’t get a 10…

    • Yes – I haven’t encountered many folks who disliked Uprooted, but Spinning Silver is a more complicated story. I’d love to hear your take on either book, Kimberly:)

  4. I confess I had to look up “Marmite” in order to know what you meant there… and now that I understand, I have to agree with you. Especially since I didn’t really care for Spinning Silver. To me, it was… messy and convoluted. :S But even though I stand on the other side of the fence opinion-wise, I do think you expressed your opinion of Spinning Silver very well in this revivew, Sarah. Nice job. 🙂

    • Thank you Sara – particularly as I unhelpfully used a metaphor that lost more than half my reading audience! Yes, I’d noted you were one of the folks who found this a frustrating read – and I do understand why:).

    • We have a dark brown, yeast-based spread here in the UK called Marmite with a strong, salty taste. People either love or loathe it. No one thinks Marmite is just okay – and that’s why I’ve compared this book to Marmite, because while lots of folks love it, there are also a number who have found it a very frustrating read. Sorry about that – in using a very personal metaphor, I’d forgotten my US blogging pals probably didn’t know what Marmite is!

      • I recall that you explained it once to me before, or I looked it up, but I’d forgotten altogether. That happens sometimes once you make it into your 70’s.

      • Lol… you don’t have to make it to you 70s to have a senior moment, Rae. Because I NOW recall having to explain what I meant and deciding not to use it again. Only to forget…

  5. I’m afraid to read this one, I mean the review, because I’m afraid to spoil it for myself accidentally. But then you might remember my reaction to Uprooted, so I’m not even sure when I will read this book. Are there any big spoilers?

  6. OMG…..I’ve been wanting to read “Uprooted” for the LOOOONGEST time now….sigh… I wish I could MUCH faster, and get to all the books I badly want to get to…. Of course, I want to read “Spinning Silver”, as well!!

    I not only LOVE the covers of both of these books, but the plots, as well. They are so magical and beautiful! “Spinning Silver” sounds especially interesting, too, because of the three protagonists!

    Thanks for the GREAT review!! HUGS!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Thank you for your comments, Maria – you are always so kind and encouraging:)). Yes, both books are lovely, but quite different in tone and approach, despite both being retellings. And I also very much like the covers, too.

  7. I’ve heard about this book when it came out, but given my mixed feelings about Uprooted, I was reluctant to read it. I guess if my TBR wasn’t so huge, I would have caved in, but since I’m drowning in books to read, for now your lovely review will have to do. 🙂

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