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Retelling fairytales is never an easy job. It is all the more difficult because the author has to read and outgrow the benchmark set by the original, both literarily and emotionally.

Spinning Silver 

This is the retelling of the fairy tale that has done justice to the original. Miriam is a moneylender’s daughter. Her father has been too generous about collecting the debt back and this inhibition brought them from riches to rags. Finally, one-day Miriyem sets out to collect the debts she learns the trick as to how to coerce them into repaying the debt and proves herself better than her father. In one of the houses where she goes to collect the debt, due to the inability of the family, she takes their daughter Wanda home as a domestic help in return for the money paid back on the condition that the debt will be considered repaid in 4 years. Miriam slowly grows the business and the word goes out that she could turn Silver into gold. The news reaches the ears of the Staryk who puts forth a condition in return for her life. In another part of the world, Irina is forced into a marriage with the Tsar. Tsar is not what he seems peripheral. How these three women fight through thick and thin toward survival is the crux of the tale.

Taking Rumpelstiltskin as her starting point, Spinning Silver is a rich, multilayered new story which is a joy to read.

The plot

The plot is based on a fairy tale but it has an inherent life that is instilled by the author. The author has portrayed the girls in a good light and portrayed them as strong personalities. The rest of the characters are reduced to mere braces. The stark and Tsar are given different shades to justify the girls’ feelings for them. Craft such complicated characters and pulling off a palpable tale need immense dexterity. Notwithstanding the suspense, the author has kept the present dominant throughout.

As with her standalone novel Uprooted, Naomi Novik has once again been influenced by classic folktales.

The narration

The narration is kept in first person by the different female characters and hence the author has put forth the perspective of the characters in different scenarios. Surprisingly, what one finds advantageous is equally advantageous throughout the book. Nonetheless, the book lags behind after Miriyems’s encounter with Irina.


Characters take the spotlight of the book. The tale becomes secondary due to the impeccable character craft and the narration that projects the characters and their lookout. The understanding between Staryk and Miriyema as well as the give and take between User and Irina are eternal and stand relevant in any era.


The climax doesn’t have any dramatic twists primarily because the book is not all about the thrilling side but about the palpable feelings of the characters and their survival. It is surreal to connect with the characters.

The roundabout of the book would be that it is a perfect fit for female fantasy lovers.

About the author

Naomi Novik is the acclaimed author of the Temeraire series and the Nebula-winning novel Uprooted, a fantasy influenced by the Polish fairy tales of her childhood. She is a founder of the Organization for Transformative Works and the Archive of Our Own. She lives in New York City with her family and six computers.

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