Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak

Well hello there, my rainy readers!

I checked the last time I posted on my blog, and it was on October 27th of (gasp) last year!!! Guess what that means? Update time!! Skip through if all you want to read is my review!

Fall brought me a lot of fun – midterms not included. As many of you know, I am from the Seattle area, so I got to put on my rainboots and splash through the mud of the cornmaze and eat caramel apples and all that. It was fantabulastic. I also got to celebrate Thanksgiving and eat turkey. I went down to Portland for a bit and got to immerse myself in more rainy weather.

img_3048During winter (also the time of my absolute most favorite holiday) I got to go to a really special place called Enchant, which was on Safeco field, and included a light maze and an ice skating rink. This was one of the highlights of my Christmas. For New Years, I celebrated with friends in the mountains. Snow and good views are the perfect ingredients to start a new year. I didn’t take many pictures but all of these things reminded me so much of the book that I keep meaning to review, which also happens to be one of my favorite books that I read last year: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

One thing that I absolutely loved about this fantasy novel was how rooted it was in theimg_3278 culture. I have some experience with Russian/ Slavik cultures and I felt like it really hit the nail on the head. It was fantasy, but it was also very real. The environment – the snow, the woods, the villages – infected me with a zeal for reading and I couldn’t put it down.

I also loved how the fate of Miryem was so interwoven with the fates of the other women in this novel. Spinning Silver wasn’t about waiting for a prince to come and save them – it was about some strong and brave women making something of themselves and helping the women whose destinies they have been tied to along the way.

However, the element of this novel that gave me the most satisfaction was the way that perception was everything. In the beginning of the novel, both of the villains, human and Staryk, are presented as worthy of contempt and hatred. However, these quick and easy judgments are overturned as slowly each character has their history revealed. The Staryk’s coldness toward humankind, and his hold over their winter becomes understandable and even something one can applaud. And while the tsar is seemingly nothing but villain, trading humanity for greed, even his choices become human and his plight becomes real. Spinning Silver is a good example of how judgement and bias often prevent us from understanding the truth about a person.

Naomi Novak has written a novel that can be read across all ages and has a lesson that needs to be understood by everyone. Spinning Silver is a five star read. If you’re like me and happen to live in the Northern Hemisphere, and want a book to reflect the snow, the ice and the wind, buy this book (here) and give it a read. Here’s to a great new read, and a great New Year!

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