Review: Spinning Silver

Naomi Novik is a unique writer in my world – I find her books extremely frustrating and extremely intriguing at the same time. I love retellings and twists on fairy tails and Novik hits both with this book.

More than 90% of the book is told from the perspective of women – Miryem, Wanda, and Irina being the main protagonists. Miryem and Irina each seeing bigger picture issues they want to “fix” or address – Wanda mostly doesn’t want to be cold and hungry (I don’t blame her!). I enjoyed the Russian twist on Rumpelstiltskin.

I don’t particularly like how Novik handled men in this novel. In His Majesty’s Dragons, the protagonist was a man, so I know she can do it – write decent men. For some reason the men in Spinning Silver are flat stereotypes at best – “the big brute” or the “angsty artist” or “pretentious prince.” I honestly have a higher expectation, this isn’t her debut novel – it’s one of her newest novels and I know she can do better.

The plot as well I would hold to a higher standard and it took awhile to get going. I was easily a third of the way through before I began to feel engaged. And too many characters kept being introduced throughout. A new character who ended up pretty important was introduced in about chapter 20 out of 25.

Miryem was probably my biggest point of happiness. She is Jewish, and it isn’t smothered across the book, but gently woven through with growing importance throughout. Little comments about the fear and isolation Jews felt in medieval Russia. The Jewish wedding in the book we one of my favorite scenes. At first it felt like an unnecessary affectation and stereotype, but Novik built it into a key element and extremely positive piece of the novel and Miryem’s character.

It was a good read. And if it was the first novel I had read by Novik, I would probably be primarily singing her praises. So I candidly recommend the book. I DO think she has better books, but this book is still GOOD.