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.
I received this book as an audio book through Google Play Books and began listening to it on my morning and evening commute as a way to better keep up with my goal of 52 books read this year. I know a lot of you don't think listening to audiobooks should count as reading. I'd normally agree with you, listening to this was a much better way to spend my time in the car than listening to the radio or the same four albums over and over again like I normally do. Plus, the voice actor for Spinning Silver was absolutely amazing! It was a great experience.
While Miryem is definitely the focus character of the book, there are two other characters, Wanda and Irina, who are essential parts of the story almost as much as Miryem is. All three of them are complex and well-written, with powerful voices and equally powerfully in their actions. There is a large cast of characters, some more important then others, but each is well-developed and rounded to become their own person with their own story line and motivations.
Lithvas, the fictional country Miryem and her heroines live in, is a Slavic-inspired nation plagued by the gold-hungry fey named Staryk. The landscape is beautifully described, even when it's winter-plague makes it hostile for the inhabitants. It's a familiar place, but entirely it's own thanks to the unique Staryk race and other demonic presences that are references to real-life folklore. I found the world, it's history and culture so believable I even paused at one point to ask Daniel if he knew if Lithvas was a real country (he confirmed that it definitely wasn't).
This is a long book, the audio book length was over 17 hours, which is one of the longest audiobooks I've listened to, with the exception of Dune. The story is complex and takes time to tell effectively. In addition to the magical plot, there is a subplot about the persecution and discrimination of the Jews that doesn't play an essential part in the story but does add some depth and color to the characters and world. The ending of the book did seem to go on too long. There were many times where I though, "This would be a great ending, why do I have two hours left?" and a new conflict would be added and so on. With such a long book, a concise and satisfying ending would have been preferable for me.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is a beautifully written, incredibly detailed and long book. The characters feature a cast of strong, well-developed women and several rounded supporting characters. The world is detailed, rich and beliavable. The plot is complex and, while the ending is satisfying, does take some time to get through. If you love fairy tales and The Bear and The Nightengale, you'll love Spinning Silver.