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Spinning Silver
Cover of Spinning Silver
Spinning Silver
A Novel
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted."One of the year's strongest fantasy novels."—NPR"A...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted."One of the year's strongest fantasy novels."—NPR"A...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A fresh and imaginative retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale from the bestselling author of Uprooted.

    "One of the year's strongest fantasy novels."—NPR

    "A perfect tale . . . with the vastness of Tolkien and the empathy and joy in daily life of Le Guin."—The New York Times Book Review

    With the Nebula Award–winning Uprooted, Naomi Novik opened a brilliant new chapter in an already acclaimed career, delving into the magic of fairy tales to craft a love story that was both timeless and utterly of the now. Spinning Silver draws readers deeper into this glittering realm of fantasy, where the boundary between wonder and terror is thinner than a breath, and safety can be stolen as quickly as a kiss.
    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.
    When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk—grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh—Miryem's fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
    But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
    Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.
    Praise for Spinning Silver
    "Gorgeous, complex, and magical . . . This is the kind of book that one might wish to inhabit forever."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
    "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

Excerpts-

  • From the book ��hapter 1

    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. If someone didn't pay him back on time, he never so much as mentioned it to them. Only if our cupboards were really bare, or our shoes were falling off our feet, and my mother spoke quietly with him after I was in bed, then he'd go, unhappy, and knock on a few doors, and make it sound like an apology when he asked for some of what they owed. And if there was money in the house and someone asked to borrow, he hated to say no, even if we didn't really have enough ourselves. So all his money, most of which had been my mother's money, her dowry, stayed in other people's houses. And everyone else liked it that way, even though they knew they ought to be ashamed of themselves, so they told the story often, even or especially when I could hear it.

    My mother's father was a moneylender, too, but he was a very good one. He lived in Vysnia, forty miles away by the pitted old trading road that dragged from village to village like a string full of small dirty knots. Mama often took me on visits, when she could afford a few pennies to pay someone to let us ride along at the back of a peddler's cart or a sledge, five or six changes along the way. Sometimes we caught glimpses of the other road through the trees, the one that belonged to the Staryk, gleaming like the top of the river in winter when the snow had blown clear. "Don't look, Miryem," my mother would tell me, but I always kept watching it out of the corner of my eye, hoping to keep it near, because it meant a quicker journey: whoever was driving the cart would slap the horses and hurry them up until it vanished again.

    One time, we heard the hooves behind us as they came off their road, a sound like ice cracking, and the driver beat the horses quick to get the cart behind a tree, and we all huddled there in the well of the wagon among the sacks, my mother's arm wrapped around my head, holding it down so I couldn't be tempted to take a look. They rode past us and did not stop. It was a poor peddler's cart, covered in dull tin pots, and Staryk knights only ever came riding for gold. The hooves went jangling past, and a knife-­wind blew over us, so when I sat up the end of my thin braid was frosted white, and all of my mother's sleeve where it wrapped around me, and our backs. But the frost faded, and as soon as it was gone, the peddler said to my mother, "Well, that's enough of a rest, isn't it," as if he didn't remember why we had stopped.

    "Yes," my mother said, nodding, as if she didn't remember either, and he got back up onto the driver's seat and clucked to the horses and set us going again. I was young enough to remember it afterwards a little, and not...

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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 23, 2018
    This gorgeous, complex, and magical novel, grounded in Germanic, Russian, and Jewish folklore but richly overlaid with a cohesive, creative story of its own, rises well above a mere modern re-
    imagining of classic tales. Novik (Uprooted) begins the story through the eyes of Miryem, a Jewish moneylender’s daughter, whose pride in her ability to wring payments from borrowers draws the demanding attention of the terrifying, otherworldly, and rules-bound Staryk, who are ruled by a wintry, gold-loving king. Secondary characters—a peasant boy, a duke’s daughter, a tsar—eventually become narrators, weaving interconnections that feel simultaneously intimate and mythic. Novik probes the edges between the everyday and the extraordinary, balancing moods of wonder and of inevitability. Her work inspires deep musings about love, wealth, and commitment, and embodies the best of the timeless fairy-tale aesthetic. Readers will be impressed by the way Novik ties the myriad threads of her story together by the end, and, despite the book’s length, they will be sad to walk away from its deeply immersive setting. This is the kind of book that one might wish to inhabit forever.

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2018
    From the author of Uprooted (2015), the splendid Temeraire Napoleonic Wars-and-dragons series, etc., this reworked fairy tale's opening sentence might well have read Once upon a time in Old Lithuania....Expanding a recent short story based on "Rumpelstiltskin," Novik weaves in other elements of Eastern European folklore along with some fine original flourishes. Miryem, the granddaughter of affluent Jewish moneylenders, takes over her incompetent father's failing business affairs. Channeling anger and frustration into business acumen, she collects the debts that are owed, accepting goods or services as well as coin. In this and other ways, Miryem turns copper and silver into gold. Unfortunately, gold attracts the attention of the Staryk, coldhearted fairies who occasionally intrude into the human world, bringing with them forgetfulness and a breath of winter. One such gives Miryem fairy silver, ordering her to change it into gold. Fairy silver, Miryem finds, is so beautiful that it fetches huge sums in gold, especially when made into jewelry magnificent enough to intrigue the Duke. Miryem slowly grasps that she's made a bargain with the Staryk: He will make her his queen if she succeeds in spinning a vast pile of silver into gold--and freeze her solid if she fails. She has no wish to marry him but also notices that the Staryk do not particularly value gold in itself--so why do they want such large quantities of it? In spare prose of great clarity Novik weaves in and out of multiple first-person narratives in sometimes-illuminating, sometimes-disconcerting or confusing ways, exploring human and alien social structures and ethnic prejudices, fathers and daughters, damaged relationships and hidden agendas, wringing unexpected consequences from seemingly simple choices.A medieval fable of obscure moral import blossoms into a thoughtful, emotionally complex, absorbing drama that stands confidently on its own merits.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    June 15, 2018

    Miryem is the progeny of moneylenders, but her family is impoverished because of her father's inability to collect his debts. Wanda's father abuses her and her brothers, drinking away the household's income. Irina knows she is plain and of little help to her father, and that her only choice in life is to wait for marriage. Through these three women, Novik (Uprooted) addresses weighty questions of power, choice, prejudice, beauty, and identity with aplomb. While magic certainly plays a role here, Novik provides opportunities for these protagonists to save themselves, too. Each woman encounters magic for benefit or ill: the ability to change silver to gold, portals to an icy world, a house that exists in multiple realms, a demon, or an ice king. Each must decide what they will sacrifice to rescue their people. Echoes of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale as well as Greek and Slavic myths are transformed through Novik's skillful writing. Ultimately narrated through six distinct voices, her tale moves deftly among stories that ebb and flow and occasionally brush against one another. VERDICT This masterly, immersive high fantasy tale is grounded in real-world challenges and opportunities for growth. Highly recommended for fans of Novik's previous titles or fairy-tale retellings.--Katie Lawrence, Grand Rapids, MI

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2018

    Although he's a moneylender, Miryem's compassionate father has allowed the villagers to avoid paying their debts while his own family starves in the cold. With her mother sick in bed, Miryem steels herself and travels door to door demanding payment. Though she faces prejudice and anger because of her gender and Jewish faith, tenacious Miryem soon takes over as town moneylender, earning a reputation as a shrewd businesswoman who can turn silver into gold. Hearing of her skill, a Staryk (cruel, fairylike creatures from the winter realm) lord visits Miryem and demands that she turn his silver into gold. If she succeeds, he will make her his queen, but if she fails, an icy death awaits. What starts as a quest to survive soon morphs into a mission to save the human and winter kingdoms. As with Uprooted, Novik infuses a fairy-tale concept with Eastern European traditions and weaves everything into a comfortingly familiar yet stunningly unique work. This magical tale is a story of strong women overcoming hardship through perseverance, intelligence, family, and faith. With each chapter told from a different perspective, this masterly work pulls readers into the characters' world, making it impossible not to root for them. VERDICT Recommended for teens who love fairy tales and readers who appreciate complex, character-driven narratives that build slowly to a satisfying conclusion.-Lara Goldstein, Orange County Public Libraries, NC

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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