Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Spinning Silver has been exploding in the book scene over the past months since its release, it seems everyone has been reading it and falling in love with the characters within this Russian inspired fairy tale retelling of Rumplestiltskin.
I am a huge fan of fairy tale retellings and so I had high hopes for this book and spotting it on my libraries new releases bookshelf I immediately picked it up. I hoped that it would be perfect for this autumn time of year as we head into the Halloween season and having just DNF'd a thriller I was desperate to find something to sink my teeth into.
This book is set in historic Russia and much of it is based around old Russian folktales along with the theme of turning silver into gold as in Rumplestiltskin. For those who have read and enjoyed Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale, this will be absolutely up your street as it has a very similar vibe to the setting and many of the same folk tales are mentioned such as Baba Yaga and the theme of Winter King's. We follow 3 different young female protagonists in this book. The first is the daughter of a Jewish moneylender who finding her father is better at lending money than reclaiming debts he is due takes over his business in order to save her family from poverty. As a result of her success, she attracts the attention of the Staryk king who challenges her to turn his silver into gold. The second is a poor girl from the same village who lives with her two brothers under the tyranny of her violent father and who goes to work for the moneylender as a way of paying off his debt and the way in which these first two stories intertwine are one of the highlights of the book. Their building friendship and the lessons they share make really good reading. The third and final character we follow is the daughter of a duke who aims to make her a marriage with the Tsar but she has little to recommend her as Tsarina and little does she know the darkness that her future husband hides within and the danger she will be placed in through the marriage.
This was an up and down reading experience for me with this book. There were chapters where I would be sucked into the story and would really be enjoying the characterisations that Novik outlayed and I would be really enjoying the story but then I'd come across chapters where I was getting a little bit bored. Things would become a little bit too wandered and steeped in the myths and I'd lose the will to keep reading and hence would be tempted to skip just a little to get back to the good bits. I think for me I found the bits where our heroines came together were really powerful and their growth as women was brilliant to read as was the building relationships between all the different families. Where it was character centered I was all in. I could have read all day but then when we became more steeped in the mystical and magical side of things I didn't love it. I found it all a bit too mixed up and confusing.
For me I have to give this one a 3 out of 5 star rating because it didn't grip me enough. About 200 pages in I did stop and think maybe it wasn't for me, then I flew through 8 chapters and thought I was back on track only to find that it dipped again and the last few chapters left me feeling a little unfulfilled. Because of my bumpy ride I can only give the 3 stars.