Audiobook Review: Spinning Silver

Published July 10th 2018 

Author: Naomi Novik

Narrator: Lisa Flanagan

Audiobook Length: 17 hours 56 minutes

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

Spinning Silver is a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. While this novel was actually recommended to be the first of Novik’s works, it is my fourth novel with the other two being Uprooted, A Deadly Education, and The Last Graduate. While the different tales are full of unique content, there is a nice atmospheric vibe to the writing. This story follows multiple characters. The first is Miryem, the daughter of the town’s moneylender. When she takes over the business, she hires the second main character, a peasant girl named Wanda. She sells some jewelry to Irina, the daughter of a local duke, who is married off to Tsar Mirnatius. As the story progresses, there are a few other perspectives briefly added.

Each of the three characters works to make a better life for themselves and does not wish to be trapped by their circumstances. I loved reading about each character and how their stories tied together. As the story contains multiple POVs that change mid-chapter, it was a little difficult to follow at first in audiobook form. While I still could eventually figure it out in context, I would have preferred a more direct indication about the narrator. There is a great representation of the Jewish community and culture included in this story. The entire novel feels like a fairy tale with descriptions of the world. There is the fantasy element of turning silver to gold and demons, which nicely tie into stories of biological and found families.

The pacing of this novel is very slow with a gradual build-up to the main action. The first half of the novel was a little difficult to get into, but the second half picked up a lot. For me, I think listening to this on audiobook helped as it got me through the slower portion. One day I may go back and read the written version, but I do not think it would have worked for me this time around. Overall, this one was definitely worth a chance and I would recommend it to those who love atmospheric fairy tales. The world-building and characters are very well done and I love the arcs that the different characters go through. The multiple perspectives were sometimes a bit much to keep track of, but it would be difficult to choose which ones to delete if given the choice. I continue to enjoy Novik’s unique and captivating stories and I cannot wait to read another one in the future!

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