(5/5 ⭐️) “I am not your subject or your servant, and if you want a cowering mouse for a wife, go find someone else who can turn silver to gold for you.” Spinning silver is more than a story about a girl who turns silver to gold. It’s a story about three incredible female figures and the lengths they will go to do what is best for the ones they love. It’s a tale about finding one’s strengths, about paying one’s debts, and about doing what is right and good.
Spinning Silver follows the stories of three women whose lives are intertwined: We have Miryem the money lender’s daughter, who quickly learns that all debts must be paid. Irina the daughter of a duke, forced to marry against her will. And Wanda, the daughter of an abusive father, desperate to care for the ones she loves. When the Staryk king learns of Miryem’s ability to turn silver into gold, he appears on Miryem’s doorstep and sets her an impossible challenge that will either result in her death, or her loss of free will. Neither outcome is good, but Miryem is forced to chose anyway. This challenge sets about a chain of events that brings all three women together. Miryem, Irina, and Wanda must fight for their lives to free the world from not just one devastating outcome, but two: a never-ending winter or a world consumed by fire. Along the way they are forced to make deadly choices, while testing the limits of their sacrifices, choices, and love.
Spinning Silver is a creative take on the fairy tale Rumplestiltskin. The world building is rich with Eastern European folklore that deeply draws the reader in, like stories of Baba Yaga. Each of the three women in this story were forced into positions by the men of power in their lives, stripped of their own free will, and utilized to the benefits of others, but instead of meekly accepting their fates, they rose up against those who tried to control them and found a way to carve out a new future. I loved the empowerment of this novel.
In terms of fantasy, it was a perfect fit. There were fire and ice parallels, the fate of a kingdom at stake, lots of magic (turning silver to gold), as well as a couple of temperamental kings to appease any appetite. The banter and dialogue was excellent, and was especially entertaining between Miryem and the Staryk king. There were two romance storylines that unfolded, and I liked the way both of them ended. I will say that while they ended well, I felt a little unfulfilled. I would have liked to have seen just a smidge more—a genuine kiss, for example.
The character growth of all three women was distinct and obvious. I felt that they each learned valuable lessons as they traversed their character arc. The plot was perfectly paced, and switched point of view often enough to keep me turning pages at a ferocious rate. For those of you who don’t like more than a couple of characters, be warned that we see POVs from approximately six or seven characters throughout the story. They were masterfully woven together in such a way that the story flowed fluidly.
For the second installment in Naomi Novik’s series, I thought this was a home run. While it had a few things that I could pick at, I think it was a five star book IMO. I still liked Uprooted better, but I plan to definitely read Spinning Silver a second time, maybe even a third.