Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik, begins its story with why a young Jewish girl had to take over her father’s money-lending business, and from there it proceeds to follow the ripples of this single choice through the lives of the entire cast, throughout a small nation, even through both the mortal and supernatural worlds, until an old, elemental conflict which threatens countless lives is finally brought to a conclusion.
I first read Naomi Novik’s work when a family friend recommended the first of the Temeraire novels to me. I was skeptical, but scarcely did I begin than I found myself drawn ever further in. My mother loves describing both my skepticism beforehand and my lack of appreciation for any interruptions once I got started. As I’ve continued through the rest of that series and read others of her works, I have to say, she has done nothing but impress me time and time again. Novik isn’t simply becoming one of my favorite authors, she is seriously convincing me to include her among my Masters of Storytelling.
For reference: I initially included George R.R. Martin as one of such, but I was far too hasty in that inclusion. He was the lesson I learned in taking my time with that particular honor.
Hey, we all make mistakes! 😉 But I digress!
Spinning Silver is one of Novik’s latest standalone novels, a fantasy which follows the interconnected journeys of a few young maidens as they strive to improve circumstances for themselves, their families, and, ultimately, their people. One only wanted to save her mother’s life but inadvertently catches the eye of a terrible winter lord, while another is unwittingly brought to the attention of a malevolent creature of shadow and flame. Both are soon caught up in struggles to survive and protect those they care about, as is another young girl who is trying to save herself and her brothers from their father’s drunken abuse. All three conflicts and more turn on very small hinges, pivotal moments and decisions, and they influence each other profoundly as all three learn to become stronger than they ever thought they could be.
Novik has a particular skill for taking a variety of old folk tales and blending them together to craft something new which still resonates with the fairy tales we were told as children. In these stories, the characters are both amazing and believable as they drive forward these intricate tales wherein the simple commoner plays as much a part in the destiny of nations as does the greatest fairy king. Humanity itself is examined in all its glory and shame simultaneously as terrifying monsters out of myth come to life, figures from history and legend walk side by side, and gripping, fascinating questions of human nature are examined, all with tremendous artistic grace.
I cannot help but applaud Novik’s skill at this, her finely-honed craft.
What else is there really to say about this book? That it feeds my brain and my soul? That it inspires strong opinions in me about various characters? That I can appreciate the intelligence of the humor? That somehow the couplings which manifest feel right, despite how strange and dangerous as they may be? That the plot has such twists and turns as make it exciting, that the tension is gripping, and the climactic triumph is thrilling? Seriously, I can wax on and on about this book in many ways. Indeed, that exact urge to wax on is precisely why I must cut this short, lest I end up telling the entire story myself when Novik is so much better at doing so.
In short, I give Spinning Silver a rating of 9 stars out of 10.
Grade: solid A.
I highly recommend this book!