Friday, September 11, 2020

Review: SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik


Rating: 2/5 stars

I really wanted to love this book. Like Uprooted, Spinning Silver has a gorgeous cover and the synopsis sounds amazing; I was sure it was going to be a new favorite. But it wasn’t. . . .

I listened to the Spinning Silver audiobook, and the first hour of the audiobook read like a summary of a whole novel: all telling, no showing, and it spanned months and months, a kind of build up to the actual story and a way to set the stage and introduce us to the characters and tell us about their lives and what they did. We learned about Miryem being the moneylender’s daughter and going around and demanding payment from the loan borrowers because her father was never able to get them to pay and how she turned the whole town around and basically became very wealthy. Except that this “summary” was what I thought the entirety of the book was going to be about, so once we moved on to “the present day” in the story, I was very confused about what the rest of story would actually be about.

Just like Uprooted, this book is an example of misplaced expectations. I thought this book was going to be about one thing and it turned out to be about something else with only a small presence of what I originally expected. I hate when publishers market a book incorrectly because it attracts the wrong kind of audience. Spinning Silver is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, but it’s also not. There’s so much more story going on than just her spinning silver into gold, and there’s so many other characters telling their own separate stories as well. 

One of the moneylenders refuses to pay so Miryem demands his daughter come work for her family. The daughter’s name is Wanda and this book is told partially through her perspective as well, and partially through the POVs of about six different people, but the problem is the same person narrates all of characters, and all six perspectives are told in first person, so there were some instances where I had no idea who we were reading about, or a situation was happening to one girl and then I later realized it had actually happened to someone else, and it was all very convoluted and confusing. The voice of the characters is too similar if I can read chapters without being able to tell a difference, and that’s a problem. And especially when I finished the book and had to go online to look up how many perspectives this book had and was surprised it was so many. I literally had no idea while I was reading that there were so many POVs and that’s a big issue. 

So then I went back and read the whole story again from the beginning. I desperately wanted to understand it and enjoy it, so I did what I never do and read it twice in one year. But honestly, that didn’t help me. I understood only a tiny bit better what was going on, but this book did not need six POVs. Some of them were minor characters, side characters whose eyes we did not need to see from. Instead of writing so many perspectives, Novik should have written only a couple and had them be in third-person. In my opinion, that would have combined a lot of POVs and made the narrative much easier to follow.

After reading and then rereading Spinning Silver, I was able to grasp a little bit better why I think I don’t jive with Naomi Novik’s books: it’s her writing style. I’ve mentioned in many reviews previously that an author’s writing style is the biggest factor in whether or not I’m going to enjoy a book. Not the characters, not the setting, not even the plot; it’s the writing style. And I’ve realized that I don’t like Novik’s writing style. So even though Spinning Silver’s (and Uprooted’s) plot sounded amazing and the characters were really cool and we had a beautiful setting with some cool magic, I didn’t like the book because I didn’t like how she wrote it. Now don’t get me wrong, she has some beautiful writing at times, and I can’t explain exactly all the reasons why, but I just don’t like how she describes details or writes characters. 

Spinning Silver also feels like it takes place in the same world as Uprooted. They are both very atmospheric and magical in a way that I feel like the stories are on opposite ends of the same world. The writing style and descriptions and even the characters all felt very similar to me (and even the covers match). I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but it’s something that really stood out to me, and maybe to the story’s detriment; maybe I can’t like one without liking the other to some extent also.

I’m so so sad I didn’t love this book. I wanted to, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m still going to give His Majesty’s Dragon and A Deadly Education a chance because those stories sound way different from Uprooted and Spinning Silver, so it’s possible they could be written differently and I will like them better, but those will be my last attempt at reading Naomi Novik’s stories. 

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