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.
Here Naomi Novik has gathered countless old tales and turned them into something all kinds of new ... But she also borrows our everyday truths: the way a family can disintegrate into violence, the way a ghetto can be disappeared, how the everyday persecution of Jews can erupt into mass violence, the magic of young children becoming people ... In richness of ideas, and in glory of sentences, both these books are spectacular. Where Uprooted was clean and thrilling, Spinning Silver is like falling asleep in the passenger seat of a car and waking with a jolt of fear ... No one ever takes a lesson! Here our heroines do — and we finally get a perfect tale about the songs of ice and fire.
Spinning Silver is billed as a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and you can see the bones of that story poking through ... What is truly marvelous thing is that, rather than writing against these narrative expectations, Novik embraces and complicates them, leaving the well-worn framework glittering with new meaning and unexpected implications ... This is an affirming, uplifting, multilayered, and wholly original novel, filled with indomitable women ... a story I will hold closely in my heart for a long time.
Like Uprooted, the story sometimes overspills the bounds of its plot, and anyone who disliked the romance in that is unlikely to enjoy the romances in this. But like Uprooted, the main narrative engine is deep, loving friendships and alliances between women ... I didn't want it to end, and I could write gushing praise of it for much longer than I have here — about fairy tale fathers and fairy tale mothers, about how Miryem's Jewishness is the book's warm, glowing heart, about how interlaced it is with the plot's intrusive fairy magic, and about how fascinating is the book's twining of religion, capital, and enchantment. But mostly I'm in awe of how Novik spins moldy, hateful straw into warm and glimmering gold.