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Spinning Silver Paperback – January 1, 2019
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- Item Weight : 11.9 ounces
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1509899043
- ISBN-10 : 1509899049
- Product Dimensions : 5.12 x 1.26 x 7.72 inches
- Publisher : Pan (16 May 2019); Main Market Edition (January 1, 2019)
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,176,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Spinning Silver is a story about value and love and family, and how much we are willing to trade, or sacrifice, for what we need, or who we love. An embroidered apron may earn a kopek in the market or it can be traded for a loaf of bread and a bottle of cooking oil. An unwed virgin daughter, a priceless commodity, can be traded away in marriage by her farmer father for a pig. A duke's daughter is worthy of trade for a chest of gold, or a political alliance. But, saving your people, your family, you and yours, is equal to the price of your soul.
Although there are six narratives in this story, the 3 strongest are the moneylender Miryem; Wanda, the farmer's daughter; and Irina, the daughter of the duke. When a fourth was added about one-third of the way through the book it was a little jarring, but this turned out to be an important voice. The last two voices expose parts of the story for the readers what the others cannot. Thankfully the writer has an icon representing each voice at the beginning of their narrative otherwise it would be confusing.
Miryem wants to provide and protect her family and so becomes what her father could not: a moneylender that collects. She is clever and resourceful and with tenacity and a strength that developed after years of second citizen treatment because her family is Jewish, Miryem tells the villagers she expects them to pay their debts. Some begrudgingly pay a few pennies at a time or with food or household goods; the farmer gives Miryem his daughter, Wanda, to work as an indentured servant until his drinking and gambling debt is paid off. This deal creates a strong relationship and in turn is the basis of the one of the most touching storylines in the book.
Proud of her ability to provide for her family, Miryem makes a prideful boast that is overheard by the Staryk, magical wintry creatures that control the forest lands, raid the villages and coat the land with snow every season. To protect her family, she unwillingly makes a deal with the Staryk king and agrees to an impossible task.
To Irina's father, the duke, she has little value; she is not beautiful enough to catch a wealthy husband nor is she a son who can carry on his name. A fortuitous meeting between the duke and Miryem changes all that. Irina becomes her father's pawn to win the tsar. But it also brings out an ancient and deadly power. To fight this, another bargain is struck, a formidable bargain.
Throughout the book there is the beauty of the Staryk's frozen kingdom, a glass mountain, a Jewish wedding under the forest sky, a family that finds a love they never knew, reindeer with fangs, a tree that listens, mirrors that bring sanctuary, a crown that gives its wearer beauty and power, silver that becomes gold, three questions, hidden names, and a magic house; each brings its own value, its own cost, its own sacrifice.
And that ending.
This is an incredible book with a gorgeous cover that I highly recommend. Like Novik's other masterpiece, Uprooted, it is a standalone and you do not need to read her other works. But, you would be missing out if you didn't.
SPINNING SILVER is absolutely outstanding in every way. Totally original (no, it's not a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, regardless of what you might see elsewhere), extremely well-written, fascinating and worth every penny that I paid. It is written in such a way that it is suitable for everyone from children to YA to adults. No sex, no profanity (I can't remember the last time I read a G-rated novel) but gripping and thrilling nonetheless.
The story is set in a fictional word meant to evoke images of Russia and is told from the viewpoints of several different main characters. Miryem, the daughter of a Jewish moneylender whose family is relatively poor because her father is too nice to collect debts owed him, Wanda, the daughter of a loathsome drunk who beats her who goes to work for Miryem's family to pay off her father's drinking debt and her younger brothers, Sergey and Stepon, Irina, daughter of a minor noble who hopes to marry Irina off to the Tsar, and Magreta, Irina's lifelong nurse. All live in a land locked in a brutal winter that is somehow maintained by the mysterious Staryk.
Each segment of each chapter alternates as a first person description of events among those 5 main characters. It was a bit disconcerting at first when the reader is not expecting the narrator to change constantly and before we get to know the different personalities. But Novik is a clever writer that gives everyone a distinct and and different voice so before very long, the constant point of view alternation becomes second nature.
Unlike my usual reviews, I am not going to even attempt to summarize plot more than the description of the principals above. It's too complex (but easy to follow because of Novik's great writing chops) and I wouldn't want to spoil any of the many twists and turns. Suffice it to say that it is a tale of love and magic an one just has to read it to understand.
Very Highly Recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
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.
On another level, this story is an engaging mediation on the nature of indebtedness, and gifts; of honour and honesty. Love wins in the end, but it is long in making its appearance. Until then the tale is ruled by cold justice and fair return, or hot injustice.
As always, Novik's writing is fluent, engaging, and often poetic. It conveys the flavour of it's setting in its very cadences. I highly recommend this!
Each character is beautifully fleshed out, with flaws and redeeming factors in equal measure. Nobody was too perfect, or too evil, and as such the world and its plot seemed absolutely plausible - despite being set in a world with magic and other goings on.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book for those who love an enthralling story, set in a world that both resembles and does not resemble our own, that is well written with just the right amount of mystery throughout.
Miryem, the Jewish Moneylenders daughter (who is actually far better at it than her father), has a reputation for turning silver in to gold, and this reaches the ears of the Staryk King, who demands that she change his silver in to gold. Which she does three times; the consequences of which aren’t quite what she expects.
Novik writes good female characters, without any doubt. Miryem, whotakes over her father’s moneylending business and saves her family; Irena, the daughter of a Duke, who marries the demon possessed Tsar; and Wanda, the daughter of a destitute, drunk farmer, who by luck comes to pay off her father’s debts by working for Miryem.
These women’s lives converge to create a bewitching story of real human concerns: poverty, helplessness, strength found when needed, and how important it is to pay your debts!
I do hope Novik writes more books like this. I’ll buy them all!!
I don't think I'm in the right headspace for this book.
I'm listening to the audio and the narrator does not change the tone of her voice for any of the main female characters, and because it head hops without telling you which character it's after jumping to it gets extremely confusing.
I don't like having to figure out which view point I'm supposed to be in. I wasn't able to get lost or enjoy anything that was happening.
Some of the scenes are extremely confusing. At one point two characters have a full conversation and I was sitting there thinking, 'what just happened?' the whole scene made my head hurt and after that my interest plummeted.