Naomi Novick’s most recent book, Spinning Silver, immerses her readers in a world of fairy tales and magic. As she re-tells a hybrid of Rumplestiltskin and other classic stories, she creates an irresistible world, filled with the greatest promises for redemption, and the greatest terrors of defeat.
Miryem Mandelstam, the moneylender’s teen-aged daughter, commands the book’s central plot, as her unusual powers make her an ally and an enemy to the fabled Staryk forest creatures. As she struggles to hold her ground between her world and the Staryk kingdom, Miryem’s personal fate is inseparable from the destiny of the empire. From her family to the Czar, everyone in the kingdom needs her protection, and it takes a complex network of supporting characters for Miryem to reach her fullest potential.
It is a great pleasure to read a book that features such an incredibly strong young female protagonist as Miryem, and that Novick’s book features a whole cast of them underlines some of the darker questions beneath the narrative. Like the best fairy tales, Spinning Silver is not about getting to the “happily ever after”, and readers who expect such simplicity are going to be disappointed. Readers who are unafraid to engage with issues surrounding gender roles, anti-Semitism, political intrigue, and justice will find themselves thinking about the book long after they turn the last page. Novick’s ability to balance beautiful storytelling with a study of deeper human conflicts, without becoming preachy or dismissively flighty, makes Spinning Silver a book that readers will enjoy returning to over and over again.