Spinning Silver: A Novel

Spinning Silver: A Novel

by Naomi Novik

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399181009
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 1,434
File size: 7 MB

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.

Read an Excerpt

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 old enough to care about the Staryk as much as about the ordinary cold biting through my clothes, and my pinched stomach. I didn’t want to say anything that might make the cart stop again, impatient to get to the city and my grandfather’s house.

My grandmother would always have a new dress for me, plain and dull brown but warm and well-­made, and each winter a pair of new leather shoes that didn’t pinch my feet and weren’t patched and cracked around the edges. She would feed me to bursting three times every day, and the last night before we left she would always make cheesecake, her cheesecake, which was baked golden on the outside and thick and white and crumbly inside and tasted just a little bit of apples, and she would make decorations with sweet golden raisins on the top. After I had slowly and lingeringly eaten every last bite of a slice wider than the palm of my hand, they would put me to bed upstairs, in the big cozy bedroom where my mother and her sisters had slept as girls, in the same narrow wooden bed carved with doves. My mother would sit next to her mother by the fireplace, and put her head on her shoulder. They wouldn’t speak, but when I was a little older and didn’t fall asleep right away, I would see in the firelight glow that both of them had a little wet track of tears down their faces.

We could have stayed. There was room in my grandfather’s house, and welcome for us. But we always went home, because we loved my father. He was terrible with money, but he was endlessly warm and gentle, and he tried to make up for his failings: he spent nearly all of every day out in the cold woods hunting for food and firewood, and when he was indoors there was nothing he wouldn’t do to help my mother. No talk of woman’s work in my house, and when we did go hungry, he went hungriest, and snuck food from his plate to ours. When he sat by the fire in the evenings, his hands were always working, whittling some new little toy for me or something for my mother, a decoration on a chair or a wooden spoon.

But winter was always long and bitter, and every year I was old enough to remember was worse than the one before. Our town was unwalled and half nameless; some people said it was called Pakel, for being near the road, and those who didn’t like that, because it reminded them of being near the Staryk road, would shout them down and say it was called Pavys, for being near the river, but no one bothered to put it on a map, so no decision was ever made. When we spoke, we all only called it town. It was welcome to travelers, a third of the way between Vysnia and Minask, and a small river crossed the road running from east to west. Many farmers brought their goods by boat, so our market day was busy. But that was the limit of our importance. No lord concerned himself very much with us, and the tsar in Koron not at all. I could not have told you whom the tax collector worked for until on one visit to my grandfather’s house I learned accidentally that the Duke of Vysnia was angry because the receipts from our town had been creeping steadily down year to year. The cold kept stealing out of the woods earlier and earlier, eating at our crops.

And the year I turned sixteen, the Staryk came, too, during what should have been the last week of autumn, before the late barley was all the way in. They had always come raiding for gold, once in a while; people told stories of half-­remembered glimpses, and the dead they left behind. But over the last seven years, as the winters worsened, they had grown more rapacious. There were still a few leaves clinging to the trees when they rode off their road and onto ours, and they went only ten miles past our village to the rich monastery down the road, and there they killed a dozen of the monks and stole the golden candlesticks, and the golden cup, and all the icons painted in gilt, and carried away that golden treasure to whatever kingdom lay at the end of their own road.

The ground froze solid that night with their passing, and every day after that a sharp steady wind blew out of the forest carrying whirls of stinging snow. Our own little house stood apart and at the very end of town, without other walls nearby to share in breaking the wind, and we grew ever more thin and hungry and shivering. My father kept making his excuses, avoiding the work he couldn’t bear to do. But even when my mother finally pressed him and he tried, he only came back with a scant handful of coins, and said in apology for them, “It’s a bad winter. A hard winter for everyone,” when I didn’t believe they’d even bothered to make him that much of an excuse. I walked through town the next day to take our loaf to the baker, and I heard women who owed us money talking of the feasts they planned to cook, the treats they would buy in the market. It was coming on midwinter. They all wanted to have something good on the table; something special for the festival, their festival.

So they had sent my father away empty-­handed, and their lights shone out on the snow and the smell of roasting meat slipped out of the cracks while I walked slowly back to the baker, to give him a worn penny in return for a coarse half-­burned loaf that hadn’t been the loaf I’d made at all. He’d given a good loaf to one of his other customers, and kept a ruined one for us. At home my mother was making thin cabbage soup and scrounging together used cooking oil to light the lamp for the third night of our own celebration, coughing as she worked: another deep chill had rolled in from the woods, and it crept through every crack and eave of our run-­down little house. We only had the flames lit for a few minutes before a gust of it came in and blew them out, and my father said, “Well, perhaps that means it’s time for bed,” instead of relighting them, because we were almost out of oil.

By the eighth day, my mother was too tired from coughing to get out of bed at all. “She’ll be all right soon,” my father said, avoiding my eyes. “This cold will break soon. It’s been so long already.” He was whittling candles out of wood, little narrow sticks to burn, because we’d used the last drops of oil the night before. There wasn’t going to be any miracle of light in our house.

He went out to scrounge under the snow for some more firewood. Our box was getting low, too. “Miryem,” my mother said, hoarsely, after he left. I took her a cup of weak tea with a scraping of honey, all I had to comfort her. She sipped a little and lay back on the pillows and said, “When the winter breaks, I want you to go to my father’s house. He’ll take you to my father’s house.”

The last time we had visited my grandfather, one night my mother’s sisters had come to dinner with their husbands and their children. They all wore dresses made of thick wool, and they left fur cloaks in the entryway, and had gold rings on their hands, and gold bracelets. They laughed and sang and the whole room was warm, though it had been deep in winter, and we ate fresh bread and roast chicken and hot golden soup full of flavor and salt, steam rising into my face. When my mother spoke, I inhaled all the warmth of that memory with her words, and longed for it with my cold hands curled into painful knots. I thought of going there to stay, a beggar girl, leaving my father alone and my mother’s gold forever in our neighbors’ houses.

I pressed my lips together hard, and then I kissed her forehead and told her to rest, and after she fell fitfully asleep, I went to the box next to the fireplace where my father kept his big ledger-­book. I took it out and I took his worn pen out of its holder, and I mixed ink out of the ashes in the fireplace and I made a list. A moneylender’s daughter, even a bad moneylender’s daughter, learns her numbers. I wrote and figured and wrote and figured, interest and time broken up by all the little haphazard scattered payments. My father had every one carefully written down, as scrupulous with all of them as no one else ever was with him. And when I had my list finished, I took all the knitting out of my bag, put my shawl on, and went out into the cold morning.

I went to every house that owed us, and I banged on their doors. It was early, very early, still dark, because my mother’s coughing had woken us in the night. Everyone was still at home. So the men opened the doors and stared at me in surprise, and I looked them in their faces and said, cold and hard, “I’ve come to settle your account.”

They tried to put me off, of course; some of them laughed at me. Oleg, the carter with his big hands, closed them into fists and put them on his hips and stared at me while his small squirrelish wife kept her head down over the fire, darting eyes towards me. Kajus, who had borrowed two gold pieces the year before I was born, and did a good custom in the krupnik he brewed in the big copper kettles he’d bought with the money, smiled at me and asked me to come inside and warm myself up, have a hot drink. I refused. I didn’t want to be warmed. I stood on their doorsteps, and I brought out my list, and I told them how much they had borrowed, and what little they had paid, and how much interest they owed besides.

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Spinning Silver 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Walk written, layered with multiple perspectives. Exceeded expectations.
Anonymous 11 months ago
An engaging, complex story that starts as a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and then just runs all over the place with it. There are recognizable elements of other fairy tales throughout, and heroines who fight tooth and nail for their happy endings, and a focus on Jewish culture that's refreshing in an otherwise common medieval setting. All of this and nearly 400 pages long mean days of good reading ahead of you.
Anonymous 11 months ago
This book was awesome from beginning to end. I loved how I could relate to everyone character in the book. I do hope there will be more books like this in the future
Anonymous 11 months ago
A very satisfying and vivid fairy tale. This is why novik is my favorite author
Anonymous 9 days ago
Fantastic and majestically wonderful.
thereadingchick 16 days ago
I love a fairy tale re-telling when I don’t remember the exact details of that fairy tale. It helps me get lost in the story instead of making comparisons to the original. Spinning Silver was a new take on the story Rumplestiltskin and about all I could remember from that story was that there was a girl that spun straw into gold and got her some unwanted attention. Our heroine Miryem has a talent for turning things into gold but it’s not by spinning straw. She is the daughter of a family of moneylenders, and while her father is horrible at collecting those dollars owed, Miryem excels at remaining cold to their customers excuses and keeps her hand out until it is filled. While walking home through the forest one day, she makes an off hard remark about being able to turn anything into gold and the Staryk overhear. The Staryk are a race of (for lack of a better term) ice people. They live in winter 24/7 and are the boogeymen of Miryem’s world. When she catches their attention she does what she does best. She gets them results and gets some unwanted attention in return. Miryem is not the only main character of this book. It’s actually told through multiple POV’s and I’ll admit that that got a little confusing. Especially when a new POV was introduced and you spent a few paragraphs reading to try to figure out whose eyes you were seeing through this time. Each character had their own plot that spun and twisted together to combine into a satisfying conclusion to all of their storylines. I’ll admit to liking Miryem’s story the best, but maybe that’s because her POV was easy to spot. The pace of this story helped the overall feeling that you were reading a fairy tale and the writing was well done. However, there was a lack of warmth for these characters. I so wanted to like them but something seemed to be missing. They were all so determined in their lives, but nothing seemed to make them very happy. Overall, even though there was a happy ending, I felt kind of unhappy about it all. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the writing, the story had twists and turns that I didn’t expect and I certainly appreciated the craftsmanship of the author, but for me it lacked heart. I have read nothing but great reviews for this novel, but because of that lack of warmth I could only give it a 3.5 rating. Sorry Naomi! However, as with all books reading is subjective and all of you may LOVE this book. Even though I am always right (not really), if you are interested in reading this book, please do! I would love to hear what you think. ❤️❤️❤️❣️
Anonymous 3 months ago
Loved the old world folklore feel and the intricate plot!!!!!!!! Constant changing viewpoints made it difficult to follow sometimes.
Anonymous 3 months ago
My favorite retelling of a fairy tale. Miryem and Wanda and Irina felt like old friends by the end of the book. I'll complete this review when I get to my laptop.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This was great! I want a sequel so badly and I want it now.
Anonymous 5 months ago
A most enjoyable read, I honestly wish it had had 100 more or so pages to develope even more. I quite enjoyed it.
Scarls17 6 months ago
Like Uprooted, this is a dark and lovely fairytale retelling. I was especially impressed in Spinning Silver with how the characters all related to each other and how Novik did such a good job of writing them all so differently. I never had to go back and double check who was the subject of a new chapter.
reececo331 7 months ago
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik A twist on Rumplestiltskin, how do you handle a the story of a young girl that could turn the mundane, straw, silver into gold. Naomi Novik has created a unique story drawing on her knowledge of Russian folklore a riveting story of personal responsibility, growth and consequences. This is a great story of caution for kids, but also realizing that sometimes your dreams may turn straw(silver) into gold but magic has its consequence. The story of Miryem, the daughter of a too honest, and kind Jewish money lender in Russia is the tip of the iceberg in this story. Miryem, required by her mother's illness, caused by their starvation and depredation because of the exploitation of her father's kind hearted spirit, to save her family. Miryem must request and require her neighbors to return with interest the loans they have squandered for her entire life. Her ability to negotiate and find resources in providing a service to her community gets noticed my the Russian mystical world. She is faced with a choice, confront her fears, or find her family desuetude again. She triumphs and earns a reward she was not prepared for. Her solution to the problem that reward brought up has endangered others, and she must sacrifice much for the benefit of all. Its an amazing folk tale in its own, teaching the reader not only to work hard, and get rewarded but to take responsibility for your own actions. I will keep an eye out for an opportunity to share this with my students and favored schools.
reececo331 7 months ago
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik A twist on Rumplestiltskin, how do you handle a the story of a young girl that could turn the mundane, straw, silver into gold. Naomi Novik has created a unique story drawing on her knowledge of Russian folklore a riveting story of personal responsibility, growth and consequences. This is a great story of caution for kids, but also realizing that sometimes your dreams may turn straw(silver) into gold but magic has its consequence. The story of Miryem, the daughter of a too honest, and kind Jewish money lender in Russia is the tip of the iceberg in this story. Miryem, required by her mother's illness, caused by their starvation and depredation because of the exploitation of her father's kind hearted spirit, to save her family. Miryem must request and require her neighbors to return with interest the loans they have squandered for her entire life. Her ability to negotiate and find resources in providing a service to her community gets noticed my the Russian mystical world. She is faced with a choice, confront her fears, or find her family desuetude again. She triumphs and earns a reward she was not prepared for. Her solution to the problem that reward brought up has endangered others, and she must sacrifice much for the benefit of all. Its an amazing folk tale in its own, teaching the reader not only to work hard, and get rewarded but to take responsibility for your own actions. I will keep an eye out for an opportunity to share this with my students and favored schools.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Deftly woven and well told. Like few stories I have ever read.
Anonymous 9 months ago
The narrative is in the voice of several characters - Miryam, Wanda Irina, Stepon, Magreta - each telling the story from that character's point of view. It always seems to be simply told, like a fairy tale. Very satisfying.
Book_and_recipe_Examiner 10 months ago
Three young women's lives become intertwined by the magic god of winter, the Staryk, and his demands. One young woman is the daughter and granddaughter of a moneylender. But her father is weak and unwilling to call in the debts owed him. Miryem his daughter has had enough when her mother's cough brings her to the brink of death, so she becomes as shrewd as the reputation of Jewish moneylenders, and makes people pay what they owe, though her heart grows colder as she grows wealthier. A man cannot “squeeze blood from a stone,” so Miryam has his daughter, strong and tall Wanda, come work for her in the house as partial payment. However this is a blessing as she and her brothers were starving from bad winters and an alcoholic, abusive father. Before long, her brother is also hired to keep watch over the house of the moneylenders at night, for strange visitors of ice and snow have been leaving tracks outside the windows and doors. Irina is the plain daughter of the wealthy Duke, who fears she will soon be engaged to the cruel, sadistic Tsar, also the son of a witch. In her dowry is a cold, glowing silver necklace melted down from the silver coins the Staryk left for Miryam to “turn into gold.” His demands grow greater and his promise for her reward is terrifying, yet what can she do otherwise? If she disobeys, she will be turned to ice. Spinning Silver is a fast-paced fantasy novel overflowing with well-spun together variations of old fairy tales and a large cast of characters that will mesmerize adults and teens equally. For discussion questions, similar books, quotes, and a matching recipe (and explanation) for Apple Oat Hazelnut Muffins, visit http://hub.me/am9CO
dibbylodd 10 months ago
Strong, believable (even when utterly fantastic), engaging characters. People to love. People to dislike. "People" you can't quite figure out as they develop. That's part of the appeal--the characters grow and develop as you read. She reminds the reader what true folklore and fantasy really looks like as she did with Uprooted. Thank you, Naomi Novic!
SCostner 11 months ago
If you haven't yet encountered the writing of Naomi Novik, then you are in for a treat. Rich world building, complex characters, and a story that grows and deepens as it goes to always keep you eager to find out how it all ties together. Novik draws on her Polish heritage and adds in fantasy elements that delight and terrorize in all the right places. Miryem is the daughter of a Jewish moneylender. When she takes over the collections and does a much better job of it than her father ever did, she attracts the attention of a Staryk lord. The Staryk raid the land of men and steal gold, so when their lord hears Miryem boasting that she can turn silver to gold, he takes her. Irina is the daughter of a duke, relegated to a cold bedroom at the top of the house with her old nurse. But her father manages to marry her off to the tsar, and puts her life in jeopardy by doing so. Irina knows that the tsar is the son of a witch and suspects him of sorcery. Even being the tsarina will not be enough to save her if he decides he is tired of her. How do the lives of a kidnapped Jewess with a talent for making money and a young noblewoman who was never out of her father's keeping become intertwined? What do the Staryk, the tsar, and the state of the kingdom have in common? And after all the plots and counter-plots, who will be left alive at the end? You will have to read to find out. Highly recommended for YA readers who enjoy reimagined fairy tales. This is a combination of Rumpelstiltskin and other elements that fantasy readers will want to hoard like dragon's gold. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
SCostner 11 months ago
If you haven't yet encountered the writing of Naomi Novik, then you are in for a treat. Rich world building, complex characters, and a story that grows and deepens as it goes to always keep you eager to find out how it all ties together. Novik draws on her Polish heritage and adds in fantasy elements that delight and terrorize in all the right places. Miryem is the daughter of a Jewish moneylender. When she takes over the collections and does a much better job of it than her father ever did, she attracts the attention of a Staryk lord. The Staryk raid the land of men and steal gold, so when their lord hears Miryem boasting that she can turn silver to gold, he takes her. Irina is the daughter of a duke, relegated to a cold bedroom at the top of the house with her old nurse. But her father manages to marry her off to the tsar, and puts her life in jeopardy by doing so. Irina knows that the tsar is the son of a witch and suspects him of sorcery. Even being the tsarina will not be enough to save her if he decides he is tired of her. How do the lives of a kidnapped Jewess with a talent for making money and a young noblewoman who was never out of her father's keeping become intertwined? What do the Staryk, the tsar, and the state of the kingdom have in common? And after all the plots and counter-plots, who will be left alive at the end? You will have to read to find out. Highly recommended for YA readers who enjoy reimagined fairy tales. This is a combination of Rumpelstiltskin and other elements that fantasy readers will want to hoard like dragon's gold. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
OwlishReader 11 months ago
*This book was provided to me by Net Galley in exchange for an honest review* From my understanding, this book is supposed to be a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. I would say that the plot of this book veers too far away from the story of Rumpelstiltskin to be a true retelling, though it does nod to the original story. This is a fantasy book that mainly follow three characters; Miriem, the daughter of a moneylender; Wanda, a poor girl living with her abusive father and two brothers; and Irina, the daughter of a Duke. The story is mainly told from the point of view of those three characters. Naomi Novik's writing is absolutely beautiful. Her writing is atmospheric and beautifully descriptive. This book has some similarities to The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. If you enjoyed one you will most likely enjoy the other. Both authors have similar writing styles and both stories are set in similar places during similar time periods, as well both featuring themes inspired by Slavic folklore. Firstly, I am obsessed with this book. Thankfully, it is a stand alone so if you didn't read Uprooted you can read this and follow the plot easily. I will 100% be picking up Uprooted ASAP! The writing was outstanding, the story was engaging, the characters were dynamic. What more could a reader ask for!? There is nothing about this book that I can say I didn't like. I would most definitely recommend this to people who enjoy fantasy, especially for those who are not fans of very long and complicated fantasy books. This plot was very easy to follow with an interesting and unique magic system that revolves around the Staryk who are a Fae race. So basically, Fae, magic, bad ass female protagonist, awesome writing. This book is a YES!