Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning SilverSpinning Silver by Naomi Novik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quick review for a rather hefty read. Where to start? “Spinning Silver” definitely was worth all of the 17+ hours I spent reading/listening to it, many times in a straight stretch wanting to know what happened to each of the main characters (primarily three) this book centers upon. Yet, I have a hard time not pointing out some major cons that factored into my reading experience. Before I delve too heavily into my reactions to the book, I might as well get those detracting factors out of the way.

1. This book is told in first-person through multiple perspectives that frequently jump within the same chapter. And they are not labeled. If this bothers you, you will have a very hard time with this book. I switched between reading this book physically from my library and listening to the audiobook version. I actually ended up going with the audiobook for most of my reading experience because it was easier to tell who the narrator was based on the change in intonation from the audio reader. Even with that, the fact I struggled so much with determining who was speaking in a given section made me want to knock a star from my overall rating (more on that later). As much as I realize this was done in a symbolic way given the significance of naming in this story, the omission was jarring and detracted from my reading experience more than I would’ve hoped. Please, please, please Fantasy (or any genre for that matter) authors, if you’re going to have multiple perspectives, label them if they’re not in third person. And ideally don’t put more than one POV per chapter. Think about your audience reading it. It’s not that I couldn’t follow this narrative using context clues, but it made this reading experience much harder than it should’ve been.

2. This somewhat links to point one, but the pacing in this novel was very sluggish. I think the main culprit might’ve been the constant head hopping between characters, with some scenes backtracking to overlapping events when that could’ve been further minimized with tighter writing. Even still, there’s a lot of character history, links between storylines, and depth of character experience to be had in this novel – all of which I enjoyed being able to take in for what it offered. It just took a while to get there. Eventually the story converges with each character’s storyline in a satisfying way.

One other thing I think it’s worth mentioning – not really a big spoiler in the scheme of this book, just more than likely an unpopular opinion.

I’m still wary regarding how Novik treats rape in pieces of her storylines, at least from my experiences with both “Uprooted” and this book. I’m not sure if this is an issue in her other series, it may not even come up, but I’m only judging based on the two novels I’ve read of her thus far. Sorry guys. *winces* I think it bugged me more in “Uprooted” than it did in this novel, though. I haven’t come across many people who’ve pointed this issue in other reviews to discuss it, unfortunately.

That being said – I still give this book a strong 3.5 stars overall. I found myself immersed in this book more than “Uprooted” because I liked following the different characters through their experiences, even to a fine point of seeing where their storylines converged. What you need to know is that this story follows primarily three women – Mireyem, Wanda, and Irina. (There are other perspectives that get folded into this narrative, but for the sake of talking about the overarching novel, these are the ones you really get to know). Mireyem is a debt collector that takes over for her father’s duties and she’s able to turn silver into gold, and that attracts attention to her in all the wrong ways (cue in the Rumplestilskin link). Wanda is a young woman who comes to work for Mireyem’s family to escape her father’s abusive household – though things ultimately become contentious for her family as time and events move forward. Irina is a young woman set to marry a tzar, but said tzar is horrible for reasons that ultimately reveal themselves as Irina finds herself part of a larger scheme.

I definitely felt invested in the plight of all three of these characters, as they face some very harrowing, horrifying events and figures. I was fascinated to see that this book was a smart blend of fairy tale links and Jewish roots. I also loved some of the more harrowing moments that tested the mettle of each of the women here, and how they were able to overcome those conflicts. I really loved pieces of Novik’s atmospheric writing and attention to setting and character – I just wish that the overlapping of storylines could’ve been handled better in streamline.

I definitely wouldn’t mind picking up this book again to reread certain pieces and attention to both lore and character, but I still feel like I’m getting a handle for Novik’s style and writing. It has a few stumbles, but I definitely want to see other potential directions she takes her fairy tale links and narration.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

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