Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
This past week, The Hubs and I took The Kid and two of our dogs for a trip down memory lane. Twelve years ago we honeymooned in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest, cut off from easy access to grocery stores, internet, and good beer. A lot has changed in twelve years. We packed great food, there is now lightning fast internet, and the local gas station had an impressive beer selection. Impressive enough that we had to cram in our selections in the apartment-sized fridge in the cabin. But one thing didn't change-the quiet of the woods is my favorite place to read. I plowed through three books in our four day stay and all of them were amazing.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is my second Book of the Month pick and my first time reading this author.
I know, I'm kicking myself too. Novik is a great writer.
Spinning Silver is a gender-flipped retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. Miryem is the much-loved daughter of a moneylender whose kindness and leniency has left his own family in poverty. When Miryem's mother falls ill and needs medicine and care they can't afford, Miryem takes matters into her own hands and sets out with her basket to collect what is owed to her family. When the villagers realize that she means business and is more than capable of keeping precise records, debts begin to paid on schedule. Her newfound success not only changes the fate of her own family, but of those around her. Wanda, a young woman whose abusive father would rather drink the family's money than pay off their debt, is sent to work as a housemaid for Miryem's family. Away from her father and finally receiving at least one proper a meal a day has given Wanda her first sense of security since her mother's death.
While on a trip home from visiting her wealthy grandparents, Miryem confronts her mother's unwillingness to be proud of Miryem's success. Why should they be cold? Hungry? Why, when Miryem can turn silver into gold? This last statement brings out the mysterious Staryk, the magical and lethal fey that rule the woods and have a lust for all things gold. When the Staryk King traps Miryem into an impossible deal, her fate, and that of those around her, is put in the balance. Across the land, another woman, Irina, awaits her fate with the Tsar-a man who is not what he seems and wants Irina for more than her dowry. When Irina and Miryem cross paths, the two realize that they are stronger together and the only hope for their kingdoms.
Novik weaves a tale that is both action packed and beautiful. I read this while sitting in a cabin staring at the forest-and hoping there really wasn't any fey kings wanting to pop out. The white trees, embroidered dresses, silver crowns, and horse drawn sleighs made for a magical setting. The friendship and trust that grows between Wanda and Miryem was also beautiful to watch. As daughters, meant only to be married off and produce heirs, their intelligence and cunning was sorely underestimated.
I really enjoyed this book. It was the perfect mix of fantasy and suspense set in a beautifully crafted world.
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