Those of you who know me will know that Uprooted completely blew my mind. It was my favourite read of 2017, and Spinning Silver is already one of my favourite reads of 2018.
The story follows three young women; Miryem, the daughter of a money lender who is reluctant to collect his debts, Wanda, the the abused daughter of a farmer, and Irina, the daughter of a Duke who successfully makes her the next Tsarina. These three characters are the main narrators (with a couple other characters occasionally thrown in). Their stories become more interconnected as the Staryk, the strange winter creatures in the forest, thrive in an unusually long winter. It was very satisfying to read this in the middle of a heatwave.
Novik is an expert at weaving fairy tale elements into a brand new shiny story. Spinning Silver has elements of Russian fairy tales, Rumplestiltskin, faerie lore, and tops it off with sinister acknowledgements of just how purely terrible human beings are, even when there is worse around. And there is plenty worse. Miryem, the young money lender, isn’t just coded Jewish like in most fantasy fiction I come across (it can get pretty dicey when moneylenders pop up in fantasy, see JKRs goblins at Gringotts for a particularly fun example) but Miryem and her family are explicitly referred to as Jewish! It shouldn’t have shocked me, but sadly it did, it occurred to me about halfway through that the only Jewish characters I’ve read about have been in war novels, so I’m gonna try to amend that in the future. But anyway, back to my point, the worst thing Miryem faces isn’t the Staryk, or demons from Russian lore, it’s the people that live in her town, who owe her money and blame her people for their own debts. It was just so horribly refreshing to read I just loved it and it made me consider how prejudice works in such an intricate way I just ARGH I love Naomi Novik so much.
Another thing I loved about Spinning Silver was the romance! I live for slow burn romances guys, and this book DELIVERED. I practically wept at every interaction that Irina and the Tsar had together, it was beautiful and so satisfying. I won’t say too much about this but the romance element of Miryem’s plot felt a little rushed at the end and I would have loved to see more of that, or even have it a little more open ended rather than wrapped up too fast. Wanda didn’t have any romantic plot, which I was glad of, she was the one character in straits too dire to really give that any thought and if she had that sort of plot I’d have been disappointed, but Novik can be trusted guys.
I’ve seen a few people complaining that it was a little bit heteronormative and I do have to agree. Uprooted didn’t have much prominent LGBT representation as far as I can remember, but, like Uprooted, Spinning Silver has just so many great women looking out for each other, looking out for themselves, being selfish, being kind, being human and it was satisfying. I’m excited to see what Novik writes next and I’ve got my hands on the first in her Temeraire series so I can see what she does wit dragons, because if she can write a book this beautiful just about money and debt then she’s gonna blow my mind with fire breathing lizards.