A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik- Feature and Review


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.



Spinning SilverSpinning Silver by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is a 2018 Del Rey publication.

I need more stories like this one in my life!

I rarely grab a fantasy novel, although, I am often tempted by them. I respect the genre immensely because of the thoughtfulness and work required for world building and the huge imaginations of fantasy writers. However, no matter how badly I might want to dive into a high fantasy, I always manage to talk myself out of it. My first excuse usually has to with the heft of the book, and the sheer concentration required on my part, as fantasy usually requires a bit more of my undivided attention. With so many books I need to read, taking time out for an epic fantasy feels like a daunting endeavor.

However, this book kept popping up on my Goodreads feed, and it happens to be a stand- alone, not a part of an ongoing epic saga, AND it is marketed as a re-telling of the classic Grimm fairy-tale, Rumpelstiltskin, which was one of my favorite stories as a child, a story own children enjoyed too, plus it comes in at just under five hundred pages, which is doable.
The bare bones set up is something like this:

Miryem Mandelstam’s father is a Jewish money-lender, but he’s not very good at his job. He lends money easily enough, but usually fails to collect when the payments are due, which has put his family in serious financial straits. So, Miryem takes over for her father, with far better results. She then hires, Wanda, whose abusive father owes her money, to work off his debt by being her assistant.

Miryem’s success attracts the attention of the ‘Staryk’, fairies, who thrive only in the frigid cold winter. From here, Miryem gets caught in a vicious cycle, as The Winter King forces her to continue turning silver into gold.

Meanwhile, Irina, a plain lady in waiting, from the same city as Miryem’s wealthy maternal grandparents, becomes attractive to everyone around her, with the help of a magical Fae crown. This development helps her father convince the Tsar to marry her. However, the Tsar is rumored to have delved into the black arts and his soul is demon possessed.

First, let me address the Rumpelstiltskin parallels. Yes, there are obvious references to the class fable, however, in my humble opinion, the book goes far beyond a re-telling. In fact, the story seems to also borrow from several other folk legends, as well.

There is a lot going on with the three featured women in the story, all of whom face different challenges and meet those challenges with bravery and cunning. While the fairy-tale has gotten a lot of bad press in recent years, I have never wavered from believing they served a greater purpose. Okay- sure there is a usually a happy ending, (God forbid!) but, there is more dark reality in these tales of folklore than meets the eye, and they nearly always come with a built- in lesson of morality. This story also comes replete with tons of allegory and symbolism, the most notable being that of antisemitism.

The story is absolutely mesmerizing, so rich in detail, and imagery, with layers upon layers of thought -provoking situations, in which our characters face evil, greed, and life or death situations.

The one downfall is that the book is often poorly structured, with breakneck shifts in narratives, which took me out of the story, forcing me to slow down and re-read segments to be sure I was staying up with who was doing or saying what. I really dislike this type of issue in any book I read, but it is especially annoying when it occurs in a genre where large casts of characters are prevalent and so much important dialogue and activity is in play. The momentum, which is not really designed to move at a brisk pace, still suffered, as a result of this rather unorthodox setup. Once I knew what to expect, however, I was prepared for the sudden shifts and eventually adjusted to the jarring style.

Other than that, reading this book was an incredible experience. I loved the way the story paid homage to the types of fairytales I loved, putting a fresh spin on favorite tropes, featuring three strong female leads, and still managed to incorporate faith and religion into the tale, in a new and refreshing way, giving the reader something substantial to digest.

This is my first book by this author, and I feel I may be showing up a little late to the party. But, after losing myself in this gem of a story, I’m inspired to read more of Novik's work. Not only that, immersing myself in this story helped to stave off a rapidly building burnout phase.

It’s time to slow down the conveyor belt on ARC’s and the pressure of deadlines and blog posts, and social media and all the rest, and escape into an epic fantasy tome more often. I need to enjoy more books I’ve been missing out on, more classics, more vintage books, and more reading simply for the pleasure of reading.

Here’s to more world building, to more fantasy and epic sagas, and to taking a long overdue vacation!!





Author, coder, fangirl, geek. Come talk to me @naominovik on twitter or ask me questions at goodreads or at naominovik.com!

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