ARC Review: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver

Title: Spinning Silver

Author: Naomi Novik

Series: N/A

Publisher: Macmillan

Release Date: July 12th 2018


Five Stars

Spinning Silver is a new take on the classic fairytale Rumpelstiltskin, from Naomi Novik, the author of the award-winning Uprooted.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father is not a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has left his family on the edge of poverty—until Miryem intercedes. Hardening her heart, she sets out to retrieve what is owed, and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. But when an ill-advised boast brings her to the attention of the cold creatures who haunt the wood, nothing will be the same again. For words have power, and the fate of a kingdom will be forever altered by the challenge she is issued.

Channelling the heart of the original fairy tale, Naomi Novik deftly interweaves six distinct narrative voices – each learning valuable lessons about sacrifice, power and love – into a rich, multi-layered fantasy.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Because that’s what the story’s really about: getting out of paying your debts. That’s not how they tell it, but I knew. My father was a moneylender, you see.
He wasn’t very good at it. If someone didn’t pay him back on time, he never so much as mentioned it to them.”

Miryem’s father is a moneylender, but he’s not a very good one. He lends his money to anyone who asks but lets them to put off their repayments which has left his own family in poverty. When her mother falls ill, sick of seeing the villagers profit off her family’s money, Miryem starts collecting what they are owed. She hardens her heart and before long she has taken in all the money her father lost and then some, before long she has a reputation that travels far beyond her village.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fairytale retelling that focuses on Rumpelstiltskin before, but Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is a favourite of mine so I knew this was going to be a great read. Spinning Silver tells the stories of six characters, focusing mainly on Miryem, Wanda – who’s working for Miryem to pay off her father’s debt – and Irina – a Duke’s daughter whose father hopes to ensnare the Tsar. The three stories fit together in this book, and it is Miryem’s beginning as a moneylender which shapes Wanda’s and Irina’s stories.

“Will you give them your gold?”
“No,” I said, speaking as much to the Staryk in the forest as to her. “No, I won’t give them a thing. They want silver turned to gold, so that’s what I’ll do.”

When the Staryk’s, cold creatures who rule the woods and covert gold, hear of Miryem’s boast their king set her three tasks to prove she really can turn silver into gold. If she fails she will be killed, but if she succeeds she will become the Staryk Queen. As Miryem works to complete the tasks before the deadline, as Wanda works for Miryem to escape her abusive father, as Irina uses the Staryk silver turned to jewellery to ensure the Tsar winter stretches ever longer, and soon the fate of their kingdom balances on the Staryk kings’ whims.

Spinning Silver was definitely an enchanting tale, there was a lot happening in this book and so many stories to tell. As well as reading Miryem’s, Wanda’s and Irina’s POV the story is also told through Wanda’s youngest brother Stepon, Irina’s nurse Margreta and the young Tsar, Mirnatius’s eyes; characters who are on the outside of the magic and challenges surrounding Miryem, Wanda and Irina, but characters who are affected by the decisions and choices they make.

…The Characters

“I didn’t want to be the Staryk’s queen any more than I wanted to be his slave, or frozen into ice.
I couldn’t forget him anymore. He was in the corner of my mind all the time now, creeping farther over it every day a little more like frost on a windowpane.”

Miryem is a hard character, when her father can’t stand strong even when her mother falls ill Miryem refuses to let the village walk all over them. She’s clever and a good business woman; she has a good head for numbers, as any moneylender’s daughter should, and she turns those numbers into silver and gold for her family. Miryem isn’t afraid of the challenges the Staryk king has set her, she’s determined to master them no matter the cost, but before too long the consequences catch up with her and she’s trapped making bargains with a creature much cleverer than herself.

I waiting until the sun was up high. Then I said I was going for water, but I went to the tree instead. I knelt down under the branches and said, “Help me, Mama.”
Two days later, the moneylender’s daughter came to the house.

Wanda was probably my favourite character in this book. She’s shy and kind hearted, her family have lived in poverty beyond what Miryem’s family endured and her father is an abusive man who borrowed from the moneylender to gamble and drink. When Wanda starts working for Miryem she starts becoming more than a simple farm girl; she is trusted with Miryem’s collections around the village, taught letters and numbers, and respected and loved by Miryem’s family.

The relationship between Wanda and her two brothers, Sergey and Stepon, develops a lot throughout the book. In the beginning they’re very much all out for themselves, wanting nothing more than to escape their father’s notice and his fists, but when Sergey is attacked by one of the Staryk it becomes the three of them against the world. They look after one another and keep each other’s secrets, they’re loyal to each other beyond their father and beyond others in the village.

“Well, jeweller, you are in luck. You may have a hundred gold coins for your necklace, and the next thing you will make will be a crown fit for a queen, to be my daughter’s dowry: and you will have ten times a hundred gold for it when I see it on her brow.”

Irina has Staryk blood following through her veins but other than that she is unnoticeable. For most of her life she has been confined to two small rooms with her nurse, but that changes when Miryem brings the Staryk silver turned jewellery to her father’s door. Irina is unexceptional in her father’s eyes but as she leaves her rooms, leaves the world she has been confined to, she is allowed to grow into her own. She’s clever, resourceful and sharp, hiding and protecting herself from the demon who wishes to feast on her, and she’s dedicated to those she loves and the people of her kingdom.

All the characters we meet in this book were wonderfully developed, and a lot of what made this story amazing was seeing them grow. Miryem seems cold at first but she has those she loves who she will do anything and go to any lengths for, Wanda has been beaten down by her father but when she is free from him she turns into a valued and loyal member of Miryem’s family. Irina seems unnoticeable, not beautiful or exceptionally talented, but the magic Miryem’s challenge gives her and the magic in her Staryk blood allows her to become powerful.

…The Setting

“The pale endless grey of the sky in here was broken up into jewelled brilliance, thin dazzling rainbow lines sketched across it, and in the centre of the meadow beneath that diamond roof, a grove of white trees grew.
Even sick with fear and anger and my own helplessness, the impossible wonder of the place snagged at me.”

In some ways Spinning Silver had the feel of a magical realism book, especially in terms of the world building. A lot of the things that make up this world were explained away as ‘magic’ but it didn’t leave me feeling like the setting was underdeveloped, instead it fit in with the fairytale story Naomi Novik was writing. I don’t think we ever discover what the Staryk really are, we hear of them through the whispers of the villagers and they’re never properly introduced but always present, adding an undercurrent of fear in the lives of all the characters. The setting Spinning Silver had was beautiful though and we’re able to see so much of the world, from Miryem’s tiny village all the way to the Staryk’s kingdom of ice and cold.

Other than Rumpelstiltskin I’m not sure what other fairytales were used to influence Spinning Silver but it’s all been woven together to create a beautiful story. The plot is slow but constant throughout the story, the characters are incredibly developed and the world itself was wonderful to explore. When it comes to fairytale retellings Naomi Novik is going to be an auto-buy author for me.

What did you think of Spinning Silver? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

34 thoughts on “ARC Review: Spinning Silver

  1. Hello Beth ❤
    Your reviews are always so well-written. I love how you go into detail about the characters and the relationships they develop. It sounds like there are some strong female MCs in this novel, which is great. Glad to hear that you enjoyed this one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Sophie, and I’m glad you like my reviews as well. After this long it’s really the only way I’m ever going to be able to write them! 🙂
      Yeah honestly all the characters in this book were really different but all really strong as well, there was so much incredible development I could talk for days about it. 😀
      Thanks! 🙂 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean. After blogging for a while, we develop our own style, right? Right now I am most comfortable writing bullet-point / mini reviews and I can’t imagine myself writing a review any other way!
        Great to hear that you liked the character development in this book. I’ll keep this in mind when I am looking to read a fairy tale retelling 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely, and this has pretty much become my style now for better or worse. I’d like to try a mini or bullet point review one day, but from experience I know I’m not great at sticking to the mini part of mini reviews. 😀
        Definitely do, when it comes to fairytale retellings you can’t go wrong with Naomi Novik. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, the only other place I’ve heard of Rumpelstiltskin is in Once Upon a Time (TV series) and the character in itself is truly fascinating. It’s nice to see this author take on this character and offer such a wonderful retelling though. It actually has me curious about it. I haven’t read Uprooted, but now I’m wondering if that and Spinning Silver would be worth trying out at some point. Great review, Beth! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I haven’t seen Once Upon a Time but I want to. I mean I love fairytale retellings so I’m kind of surprised I haven’t seen it already. I think Naomi Novik had quite a unique take on the character, it isn’t so much of a standard retelling as one which uses the tale as basis to create a whole new story with new characters. I’d say it’s well worth checking out though, and so is Uprooted.
      Thanks Lashaan. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As you said, there aren’t that many retellings focusing on Rumpelstiltskin and so this one already makes me really curious. I have yet to read Uprooted but I’ve been dying to ever since i got it a few months ago. Might need to move it up on the TBR as well as this one! It’s very promising when you say that the characters were very well developed and that the setting holds a great balance equating to magical realism. This sounds like a fantastic read and now I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Wonderful review, Beth! So happy you enjoyed this one! Another fantastic retelling to add to your collection 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like Spinning Silver is the first I’ve actually come across (I could be wrong about that though, I can’t think of any others off the top of my head). Uprooted is really good but I ended up enjoying Spinning Silver a tiny little bit more, so I’d say move both up your TBR! 😀 Everything was so well written, looking back I genuinely can’t think of anything I didn’t love about this book.
      Thanks so much Azia, and I really hope you enjoy this one as much as I did (and Uprooted as well)! 🙂 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some other ones I’ve run across is The Wish Granter (Ravenspire, #2) and Book of Lost Things, both of which I have yet to read! They both sound pretty interesting though.
        And that’s always a great feeling: when you look back and find that you liked a book even more than you first realized. Ah, so happy Spinning Silver was an amazing read for you. Definitely gonna have to move it (and Uprooted) up on my TBR.
        Of course! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh both of those are releases still on my TBR list. I knew The Wish Granter was one but didn’t know Book of Lost Things was a Rumplestiltskin retelling.
        It doesn’t happen much but it really is, and that’s great to hear. I’m sure you’ll love them both as much as I did! 🙂 ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ohh beautiful review, Beth! I have been curious about the author’s work for a little while now, maybe I’ll have to try her books out sometime. That one sounds really interesting and I love that the characters are so well-developed and incredible like that. It makes me want to read this even more 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie! 🙂 ❤️ I’d highly recommend checking out Naomi Novik’s books, especially if you’re already curious about her work. She’s an incredible author and definitely a favourite of mine too.
      Yeah everything was really well developed. Honestly I don’t think I have any complaints about this book! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was amazing, and definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far too. Yeah I did prefer Wanda and Miryem to Irina, but towards the end I loved Irina just as much as well.
      Same here, she’s an autobuy author for me now for sure! 😀


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