Have you ever finished a novel and immediately wanted to re-read it so you can see each character in a new light?
I had never heard of Naomi Novik, and the description of “Spinning Silver” simply said it was a new take on the Rumpelstiltskin story, so I had low expectations. Ten pages in, I was hooked. By the two-thirds point, I was cheering out loud for the characters. And by the ending I was reading more and more slowly so that I wouldn’t have to leave that world behind.
If you are looking for a fantasy book with realistic characters and a gritty, believable setting, give this one a try. Novik doesn’t shy away from tragedy or prejudism, so this is not always uplifting, but her heroine is such a determined young woman that it’s impossible not to root for her.
The best praise I can give it is to say that each twist of the plot comes from making her characters more complex. Just when you think you know where the story is headed, she adds more layers to the people in her world – in a way that does not feel forced – and makes you question what is good and evil, what is necessary.
But through it all, she repeats the simple, heartfelt theme of generosity to our neighbors, whenever possible and as much as possible. That’s a good lesson to take from an adult’s fairy tale.