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Spinning Silver: A Novel Hardcover – July 10, 2018

4.6 out of 5 stars 3,073 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“A perfect tale . . . This book is about the determination and quiet competence of women doing remarkable things without knowing first that they can do them. . . . A big and meaty novel, rich in both ideas and people, with the vastness of Tolkien and the empathy and joy in daily life of Le Guin.”The New York Times Book Review

“Gorgeous, complex, and magical . . . This is the kind of book that one might wish to inhabit forever.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Cool and clever and . . . dire and wonderful.”—Laini Taylor, author of Strange the Dreamer

“A book as cool and mysterious as a winter’s night, with two marvelous heroines at its heart, Spinning Silver pits the cold of endless winter against the fires of duty, love, and sacrifice. I couldn’t put it down.”—Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale

“Masterly . . . Novik addresses weighty questions of power, choice, prejudice, beauty, and identity with aplomb.”Library Journal (starred review)

“Naomi Novik knows how to weave words into magic, and Spinning Silver enchants the reader from the first page. This magnificent tale of three courageous young women who find the power to change their fates will catch you in its spell and linger long after the last chapter is read.”—Christina Henry, bestselling author of The Mermaid

“A brilliant reclamation of ‘Rumpelstiltskin,’ digging deep into that story’s anti-Semitism and pulling up something nourishing from the roots . . . One of the year’s strongest fantasy novels . . . I’m in awe of how Novik spins moldy, hateful straw into warm and glimmering gold.”—Amal El-Mohtar, NPR

“A thoughtful, emotionally complex, absorbing drama.”Kirkus Reviews

“Novik has a knack for creating richly layered fantasy worlds with complex social dynamics, ruthless rulers and epic plot twists; her poetic narratives often recast magical motifs in unexpected ways. . . . This one, a stand-alone retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Rumpelstiltskin,’ includes a feminist exploration of the politics of money.”Newsweek

“The Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale has never been as captivating. . . . Spinning Silver further cements [Novik’s] place as one of the genre greats.”Paste

“Deftly woven and highly immersive.”Tordotcom

“An inventive retelling.”Bustle

“A stroke of genius . . . Novik’s characters are compelling, and the moral choices they are faced with are genuinely difficult. . . . Her tone can move from gently humorous, to sweepingly epic, to piercingly sad easily, and back again. . . . Even better than Uprooted.”Locus

Spinning Silver follows in the tradition set by Robin McKinley of fairy-tale worlds populated by fairy-tale characters who feel like real people, and of princesses with strength and agency. But it moves the tradition forward.”Vox

About the Author

Naomi Novik received the 2007 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the World Science Fiction Convention. In 2016 she won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted. She is also the author of the nine volumes of the Temeraire series and the graphic novel Will Supervillains Be on the Final? An avid reader of fantasy literature, Novik is also a history buff with a particular interest in the Napoleonic era and a fondness for the work of Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen. She lives in New York City with her family and six computers.

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Product details

  • Publisher : Del Rey; First Edition (July 10, 2018)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 480 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0399180982
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0399180989
  • Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions : 5.85 x 1.44 x 8.57 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 3,073 ratings

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
3,073 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on July 10, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on July 27, 2018
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Retelling with a complex plot
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 12, 2018
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20 people found this helpful
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B. Douglas
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, magical tale, and a thought-provoking meditation on paying what is owed.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 16, 2018
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15 people found this helpful
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Caroline Sundberg
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly written, enthralling piece of fantasy.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 25, 2018
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6 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Take my money! If Novik’s name is on it, I’ll read it!!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 13, 2018
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4 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, atmospheric and with plenty of girlpower!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 12, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, atmospheric and with plenty of girlpower!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 12, 2019
The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard.

The real story is, the miller’s daughter with her long golden hair wants to catch a lord, a prince, a rich man’s son, so she goes to the moneylender and borrows for a ring and a necklace and decks herself out for the festival. And she’s beautiful enough, so the lord, the prince, the rich man’s son notices her, and dances with her, and tumbles her in a quiet hayloft when the dancing is over, and afterwards he goes home and marries the rich woman his family has picked out for him.

Then the miller’s despoiled daughter tells everyone that the moneylender’s in league with the devil, and the village runs him out or maybe even stones him, so at least she gets to keep the jewels for a dowry, and the blacksmith marries her before that firstborn child comes along a little early.

Because that’s what the story’s really about: getting out of paying your debts. That’s not how they tell it, but I knew. My father was a moneylender, you see.

He wasn’t very good at it.

First impressions: I wanted to read this straightaway because I loved Uprooted. I am a massive fan of reimagined or ‘fractured’ fairytales so I have been very fond of the fashion for retellings over the last few years.

I liked how Uprooted drew on folklore and fairytales. Recently, I have also been reading some Russian fairytales and some books based around them (The Bear and the Nightingale, The House with Chicken Legs etc) so I was excited to see that Spinning Silver drew on these, as well as the fact that it sounded like it was using Rumplestiltskin, not one of the more commonly recycled fairytales.

Also, look at the beautiful cover!

I still regret not getting a hardback of Uprooted as I was out of the country when it came out so I have just bought a copy of Spinning Silver in hardback to make sure I don’t miss out on it too!

I loved following Miryem on her journey, from being the granddaughter of a very good moneylender and the daughter of a very poor one, to taking matters into her own hands and turning difficulty into prosperity. The introduction of the Staryk raised the stakes even further, with a careless boast leading to all sorts of problems for her. Just like in the old fairytales, which are often darker than the Disney-ified version that is most popular, the supernatural forces that she tangles with are capricious and could be deadly.

We are then introduced to Wanda, an ordinary girl who suffers at the hands of a drunken father and wants to protect her brothers. When she catches wind of her father selling her off as a bride, she takes her fate into her won hands and it becomes entangled with Miryem’s. Finally we meet the third of our female protagonists, Irina, the rather-plan daughter of a lord who is able to catch the eye of the tsar himself thanks to the power of enchanted silver jewellery. Yet, the tsar is home to something far more powerful and malevolent than she could ever have imagined…

The threads of the narrative wind tighter and tighter, finally bringing these three women together in a scenario where each of their strength and determination helps them to decide their own path. These are powerful women, without wielding a weapon, flawed, real and gripping.

I loved all the little snippets of folklore and fairytales in each of the three narratives, the little nods towards a shared narrative history, yet with elements from history and a distinctly modern outlook.

If you liked Uprooted, you will love this. And, if you haven’t read either yet, what are you waiting for?

Spinning Silver will enthrall you from the first sentence, drawing you tighter into the story with every twist. Even if you’re reading it on a hot summer day, be prepared to feel the shiver of an icy wind…
Enthralling, atmospheric and with plenty of girlpower, this is a re-imagined fairytale like no other!

My mother’s face was full of misery. We didn’t speak.

Would you rather we were sill poor and hungry?”

I burst out to her finally, the silence between us heavy in the midst of the dark woods, and she put her arms around me and kissed me and said, “My darling, my darling, I’m sorry,” weeping a little.

“Sorry?” I said. “To be warm instead of cold? To be rich and comfortable? To have a daughter who can turn silver into gold?”

I pushed away from her.

“To see you harden yourself to ice, to make it so,” she said.

The horses trotted on more swiftly, but the Staryk road kept pace with us all the way home, shining between the trees. I could feel it on my side, a shimmer of colder wind trying to press against me and pierce through to my skin, but I didn’t care.

I was colder inside than out.

What I liked: I liked how the story was based on Russian folklore, the way several stories are melded together, the real-life aspects of anti-semitism which added an extra depth, the character development, particularly as the ‘baddies’ generally turn out to be more nuanced. I loved the central figures of each story being female, as well as the fact that they all changed their destinies through brains and hard work – you don’t have to have a sword to be kick-ass!

Even better if: Can I have Naomi Novik’s next book already?

How you could use it in your classroom: This would be a great book for older secondary pupils or at college/ university when looking at comparative literature and how all of the original threads from folklore, fairytale and history have been woven together to create a multi-faceted, rich story. I would also love to look at how he familiarity of fairytales affects our experience with this story e.g. the tree who contains the spirit of Wanda’s mother and the nut (like Cinderella) and the ‘witch’s house’ where certain tasks must be completed in return for hospitality, etc.
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