In an unnamed eastern European village, Miryem, the daughter of moneylenders, has hardened her heart. To save her starving family, she takes up her father's business, collecting the money owed to them. Her talent quickly earns her the reputation for changing silver into gold, drawing the attention of a cold, dark King in the woods.
But she is not alone.
Irina, the neglected daughter of a lord and Wanda a poverty-stricken farmhand join Meryim as they face evil with justice, determination and family.
While each woman stood out, fully realized on their own, Wanda was by and away my favourite character, full of quiet resolve and hope.
In Spinning Silver Novik seeks to reconstruct the fable Rumpelstiltskin by injecting diversity and deconstructing old tropes. At the same time, she remains conscious of the culture of a medieval setting. This includes an honest portrayal of Judaism. Heart-warming when we are within the intimacies of family and heart-breaking when exposed to the cruelties and judgement of the outside world.
Despite the historical setting this is very much a fantasy. Magic is a part of the landscape, the environment and the culture, vivid and pervasive.
Novik’s writing is straightforward, with classical intonations. Harkening back to Hans Christian Anderson, but with a 21st century imagining. This allows for fantastic pacing without sacrificing depth and emotion resulting in a truly engrossing story.
Spinning Silver was a standout novel and will probably be in my top five favourite reads this year.
Reviewed by Kelsey Ward