Spinning silver by Naomi Novik

Miryema’s father has always been a good man, but an irreparably bad lender. Even when Miryem was a baby, he managed to lend the villagers almost the entire value of his wife’s dowry, and he was not a man who knew how to demand back what people owed him and what they pledged to return to him.

Thus Miryem, although her mother came from a wealthy, successful family, grew up in misery. It is difficult for people, the father defended his debtors. Poverty reigns everywhere, money is hard to come by, and… Well, you know that when winter comes, the Staryk horde on their monstrous horses attacks the villages and takes away all the gold they can get.

Watching for years how others are getting better, while they are getting worse, how others are feeding and heating with their money while her family is freezing and starving, how others are healthy and sailing while her parents ’health is deteriorating, Miryam concluded that enough. She went knocking door to door, asking for the money back.

But the world I wanted wasn’t the world I lived in, and if I would do nothing until I could repair every terrible thing at once, I would do nothing forever.


Soon Miryem became the main lender in her village and a good and honest lender. Word spread quickly about her ability to make money. That girl turns gold into silver, they said. Unfortunately for her, the word spread to the other world, the world from which a mysterious and dangerous ice-silver road leads to Miryem’s village, which constantly shines ominously on the edge of the village, through the trees of the dense forest.

One evening, King Staryk himself, a race of elves whose cruelty could only be measured by their hunger for gold, visited Miryem and made his offer. Three times they will turn elfish silver into gold for him. If she succeeds, she will become his wife and Queen Staryka. If she fails, he will turn her into a lump of ice. He then disappeared, leaving Miryem the first supply of silver to be turned into gold.

Not far from Miryem, another girl faces a fate she doesn’t want to live – Wanda watched her mother give birth to child after child, and then they die one after another. All her life she watched what marriage brings to a woman – violence, danger, captivity, fatigue, death. She knew that her father would quickly give it to anyone in the village whoever offered him some miserable money for her that he could drink. Who, then, will care for brothers who are hungry and cold, still more babies than children? Deciding that she does not want the fate of her mother for herself, Wanda will be encouraged by an unimaginable move.

There are men who are wolves inside, and want to eat up other people to fill their bellies. That it what was in your house with you, all your life.

Spinning silver

Far from Wanda and Miryem, in the capital, Irina grows up, the eternal dissatisfaction of her own ambitious father. For a long time, her beautiful mother could not give Irina’s father an heir, and then Irina arrived – a useless girl who did not deserve to inherit even a part of her mother’s beauty. Shortly afterwards, the mother, giving birth to a long-awaited heir, died in childbirth along with the baby. Irina’s fate became uncertain.

The emperor is coming to town soon. All of Irina’s father’s plans to marry his daughter to the emperor’s son fell through. With such an ugly daughter, he will be happy if he finds her a lower nobleman at all who would take her for a wife.

My mother had enough magic to give me three blessings before she died,” I said, and he instinctively bent in to hear it. “The first was wit; the second beauty, and the third—that fools should recognize neither.” Irina

Spinning Silver

The moment the lives of these three women intersect, the story glowed to such a level of tension and uncertainty that not only had I postponed my regular jobs and responsibilities to read, but I would have completely forgotten that there was a world outside the book. What dinner?! Who needs to cook lunch, me?!

Since I quickly gave up on the book Uprooted, well its translation to Croatian, I didn’t expect much from this one. When “Spinning Silver” began to show me the full power and magic of its originality, I wondered if I might have made a mistake somewhere with the book “Uprooted”? Was it really written by the same person? Did I perhaps give up too soon because of the wrong mood I was in while reading “Uprooted”? Maybe the translation is bad, so I gave up the book I was supposed to start reading in English?

As I tried to figure out where I went wrong with Uprooted, this book continued to fascinate me with such speed and intensity that I was already beginning to fear at what point this would end, at what point the author would not be able to follow herself, and at what point all this would happen. become bad or end up unsatisfactory.

Even then, as I feared a disappointing ending, I knew that Naomi Novik had created something original and bold in this story of hers (only remotely inspired by Rumpelstiltskin, one of the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm collection).

First of all, we have Miryem, a girl who breaks page by page the prejudice about women as beings who do not understand money and its value, do not know how to handle it, and even less know how to get it.

It’s not seemly for a girl,” my grandmother tried, but my grandfather snorted.

“Gold doesn’t know the hand that holds it,” he said, and frowned at me, but in a pleased way.

Spinning Silver

Even today it seems shameful, if you are a woman, to admit that you are interested in money, YOUR OWN money – that you want it, that you value it, that you want to know why you don’t have it when you need to have it, why someone else has it even though he works less than you, that you want to learn how to earn it and that you want the freedom to dispose of it completely independently and not to blame anyone for it.

Wanda is a character who teaches us fearlessness, tireless diligence, honesty and loyalty to those whose good intentions we believe in.

Irina is a smart but self-confident young woman who cannot be discouraged by the fact that she is not beautiful. She is not disappointed to learn that as a woman she cannot arouse male desire and that she will probably never meet someone who will want to be his alone. Irina is not touched by these sentiments, she has her plans, her desires, her ambitions.

When the lives of these three women intertwine, Naomi Novik shows us a whole new conflict. We no longer have three women competing for the affection of a single man. Here we meet three phenomenal women fighting for their futures, for their lives.

It’s just interesting how at one point Naomi Novik lined them up on the chessboard of this story – they’re not friends and allies – they can’t be, when they stand in each other’s way to what each of them wants most. I really thought I had found a point in the book from which Naomi Novik would resort to some sort of cliché to unravel this situation.

The emotion that Naomi Novik gave to women in her book is one that is persistently abducted by women, that is not allowed to them and that makes them ashamed – anger.

The author says in one of her interviews, talking about Miryem: “I liked the flavor of her anger. Young women aren’t allowed to be selfishly angry. They’re sometimes allowed to be angry in a sort of righteous way for other people, but they’re often discouraged from being like, ‘This is unfair to me. I’m mad for me, and I want these things for me. ’I think it’s really important for women to fight the idea that they’re not allowed to want things for themselves.”

Which one will they sacrifice? Which of them will conclude that her fate is not so important after all? Which of them would conclude that she wanted a little too much after all?

So the fairy silver brought you a monster of fire for a husband, and me a monster of ice. We should put them in a room together and let them make us both widows.

Spinning Silver

Are there any love stories? None. I wouldn’t last that long with this book. I’m kidding.

No, there is no love story – but there are such well-disguised erotic tensions – and not even between the characters, but this tension pianissimo vibrates exclusively in the reader, that the end of this book, though not at all sweet, is so deeply satisfying that I wrote on the margin: “Well, this is how someone should fall in love with a woman – with deep respect in their eyes, not just with their pants up in a tent below their belts.”

And there’s one little scene, somewhere behind the three hundred pages, that touched me so much that I hugged the book with tears in my eyes. But really.

There is not a single little thing that disappointed me in this book and I do not know how and from which side to praise it. I beg the translator to translate it with dedication and care and creativity and with a lot of love – this story must reach a lot of girls, girls and women who really need everything that Miryem, Wanda and Irina need to give them.

You were challenged beyond the bounds of what could be done, and found a path to make it true.

Spinning Silver

Since my copy of the book is actually a paperback that almost falls apart from handling the book, I plan to give myself a hardcover book as a first opportunity. You know what I’m especially looking forward to? Reviewing this first book over and over again, looking for underlined paragraphs and then marking those same paragraphs in a new book. Pure barbaric hedonism, I know. And then I will do the same with the translated copy, when it arrives.

Winter begins in about ten days, my dear people. If you want it to be memorable, give yourself this book. If you don’t currently have women around you who inspire you – because you’re, say, a mom who is isolated from her normal society by the needs of her little ones – Miryem, Wanda and Irina will become friends to keep in your heart as if you grew up with them. Because actually, reading this book, you will grow up with them.

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