4 reasons Spinning Silver is the fairy tale retelling you need in your life


Naomi Novik’s newest novel, Spinning Silver, is so much more than your average fairy tale retelling.

Naomi Novik, author of the beloved Uprooted, has finally released a new novel. Spinning Silver is another fairy tale reimagining, this time tackling the story of Rumpelstiltskin.

The story opens with Miryem, the daughter of a moneylender who isn’t the greatest at his job. Too kind to collect on his debts, Miryem’s father mostly gets taken advantage of by the other people in their village. They use his money to buy lavish lives for themselves, while Miryem’s family starves.

Growing tired of this, Miryem decides it’s time to take over the moneylending business. Her anger toward her neighbors has magnified enough that she doesn’t mind being cruel to collect what her family’s owed. And despite her parents’ objections to her new career, Miryem thrives as a moneylender. She’s soon living a comfortable life.

Unfortunately, Miryem’s talents for turning silver into gold also gain her a reputation. And that reputation attracts a Staryk to her house. The Staryk are greedy creatures, notorious for raiding villages and freezing humans to death. Given their love of gold, it’s no surprise that one would seek out Miryem — though what he offers her in return for her services does come as a shock.

Interwoven into Miryem’s story are the tales of two other women, Wanda and Irina. Wanda inadvertently becomes Miryem’s assistant as a means to work off her father’s debts. But while this is meant to be a punishment of sorts, Wanda views it as anything but. Working with Miryem puts distance between her and her abusive father, and it puts off the arranged marriage she’ll eventually have to endure.

Irina, on the other hand, is the daughter of a duke. When Miryem shows up with necklaces and crowns made of gold, her father quickly trades for them. He offers them as Irina’s dowry, wishing her to marry the tsar. But the tsar has secrets of his own, and they certainly aren’t in Irina’s best interests.

The girls’ storylines eventually converge, forcing them to work together to overcome their struggles. But if the plot alone doesn’t fascinate you, here are four other reasons to pick up Spinning Silver.

1. The powerful female characters

While Spinning Silver adds point of view characters throughout the book, the story is mostly told from the perspectives of three women of varying statuses. Though they come from different backgrounds, all of them have one thing in common: They’re each facing an unwanted marriage in a society where women are treated as little more than chattel.

Readers have seen such societies critiqued again and again, but watching women persevere within them never seems to get old. All of Novik’s characters have unique and refreshing strength that allows them to overcome the struggles they face.

Miryem, Wanda, and Irina all outwit their male counterparts, and they repeatedly use their intelligence and frustration to save themselves. If you’re a fan of tough women, this book certainly isn’t lacking them.

2. The magic and setting

Novik is a master at world building, and the setting of Spinning Silver is the perfect combination of the magical and the mundane. Miryem’s village is so ordinary, it’s easy to shrug off the villagers’ superstitions at the beginning of the book. Of course, the illusion of being ordinary goes out the window when the Staryk actually do show up.

The magic in Spinning Silver is subtle, revealing itself more and more as the story continues. There’s a refreshing balance of the ordinary and the extraordinary, and that’s what most of us want from a fairy tale.

3. The messages about money

Most fairy tales provide commentary on some issue, and it would be difficult to tackle Rumpelstiltskin without discussing money. Miryem’s earlier struggles certainly make a statement about human greed, demonstrating that most people won’t concern themselves with the struggles of their neighbors (especially if they’re more than comfortable themselves).

The story also makes the point that having money won’t solve all of one’s problems. In fact, having a lot of money can often make a situation worse. This is certainly the case with Miryem, Irina, and Wanda. In moderation, money was able to keep them comfortable. It wasn’t, however, able to protect them from the hardships that followed, no matter how much of it they accumulated.

4. The mouthwatering descriptions of food

If you’ve ever read anything by Naomi Novik, you’ll know that her descriptions of food tend to leave readers drooling. From simple mentions of sugary porridge to accounts of elaborate feasts, the author has a knack for describing a delicious meal.

So if you do read Spinning Silver, you’ll need to schedule in snack breaks. But honestly, isn’t that just another reason to pick this up?

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Spinning Silver hit bookstores on Tuesday, July 10.