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audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver is yet another book that I have had forever and wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to!  I love the Temeraire books and some how never got around to reading her others .. Until now

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Spinning Silver
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Naomi Novik
  • Publisher & Release:Del Rey, July 2018
  • Length: 465
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨yes for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Part of me wants to just sit here and gush about Slavic/Polish fairytale tropes, or compare the magic in Spinning Silver to that in the Winternight trilogy, but I’ll mostly spare you and just talk about the book

The World-Building & Magic: Novik is such an amazing world builder.  We are in a cold winter country of Slavic inspiration, where the Boyars own everything and the Tsar is unfortunately possessed by a demon.  Frost vs fire/summer/chaos is a reoccurring theme in these tales and in this case it takes the form of a nameless, cruel winter king vs the flame demon.  The magic of the Staryk (including the King’s Road) is introduced slowly until the plot turns to their kingdom and the real magic is revealed.

I think giving glimpses of the magic was a great tactic to build the tale slowly and not overwhelm Miryem’s story at first.  The whole story has great descriptions though from the snow and weather to the people, lore, food, forests, animals and everything else.   A standalone doesn’t have room to drown in politics or religion but we are given enough of both to understand the country’s issues and power struggles as they relate to the book, also giving it a depth that many retellings don’t achieve.

A power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true

Staryk King

The Characters: as much as I liked the magic and world building, the characters are brilliant too. Miryem was always strong and smart, a true thorn in the villagers sides, and eventually an equal to the Staryk King. The trope is “headstrong maiden takes on Winter King.” Novik’s take on it was fresh and interesting to me and I didn’t even dislike him a tiny bit at the end. Their arc included much bargaining and begrudging respect and was generally fun to read

I wouldn’t hold myself that cheap, to marry a man who’d love me less than everything else he had, even if what he had was a winter kingdom.

Miryem

The rest of the characters, and there were many, all brought something interesting to the book. Women were the property of their fathers and husbands and Wanda totally transcended that to bargain for her own future. Irina surprised me by being cunning and strong when her people needed her. Stepon had a curious point of view in which he narrated a few interesting and exciting events, and I think there was a hidden significance there that was lost on me.

There were Staryk characters too that surprised me and Miryem’s parents were just lovely people. The found family aspect was ❤❤❤❤❤

Themes: oh gosh there were so many good themes, such as not judging people for their race or religion. Not taking people at face value. Keeping to your word and knowing the value of a bargain. Knowing your own self worth and standing defiant in the face of anything less. I think this is a really great young adult book as far as themes and content go.

A note on the audiobook: the audio is 18 hours long, distributed by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group. Lisa Flanagan is amazing with the Slavic accents and distinguishing between the characters. It was hard though sometimes to tell which point of view was speaking at first – and that is the only fault I found with the book as well is that I think we should have had headers or new chapter titles with the name of the speaker. I really enjoyed listening though!

Overall: if you like tales with a twist of magic, fiercely strong female characters, Frost Kings and equally frosty moneylenders, lore and lyrical writing in a cold, cold world…. This is definitely your book!