Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik Book Review

Pub DateJuly 10, 2018
PublisherDel Rey
Page Count465 pages
GenreFantasy, YA, Romance
Goodreads Star Rating4.20
My Star Rating 5
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik Book Review

Spinning Silver Summary

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is a fantasy story that follows Miryem, daughter of a moneylender who’s not doing a good job collecting debts. Her family is destitute because of that, and so she sets off to collect the debts in her father’s stead. But her ability captures the attention of the Staryk (fae) king who wants her to start turning silver to gold for him. Along the way, she meets Wanda, the eldest sister of her poor family who agrees to work with Miryem, and Irina, a plain girl who is chosen to marry a demon-possessed prince. 

Spinning Silver Review

Spinning Silver has a slow, fairytale-esque beginning. A lot of things are told to the reader, and not a lot is shown. But it does serve the purpose of quickly introducing you to Miryem as a person and her family situation. And despite its slow start, it manages to draw you in with the tale it’s spinning. 

The focus of the story is on Miryem, and later Wanda and Irina, three women who at first appear not to have a place in society or much choice in their fate. And I loved how quickly that changed once they took control of their lives. I won’t spoil anything here because both their journeys and the results are worth reading about — but it was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever read. 

There is romance in Spinning Silver, though it’s not a very prominent element of the plot, and the focus is very much on what these three women achieve. 

This whole book in general feels like an impressive feat. No character is bland or meant to be just window dressing. No action taken is wasted or senseless. Our heroines make the best decisions they can with what they’re given, and they’re flawed and realistic in a way most YA heroines are not. 

The setting and world-building are both mesmerizing — imagine cold, windy winters, dangerous fae lurking in the forests, demons and sprites. I highly recommend reading this during the colder months because the atmosphere is impeccable for that. But if you don’t like summer heat and would like to be transported somewhere (much) colder, Spinning Silver is an excellent choice for that as well. 


  • Fantastic world building
  • Amazing, readable prose
  • Well-written, inspiring female characters
  • Also well-written side characters
  • Winter vibes

Read Spinning Silver If You Like

  • Standalone fantasy stories
  • Strong female characters 
  • Fairytale-esque vibes
  • A splash of romance (not the main focus)
  • Friendship, family, found family, and more

Avoid Spinning Silver If You Don’t Like

  • Fantasy stories without a strong romance storyline
  • Russian folklore-inspired stories
  • Slow-paced books
  • Books without much action
  • Lower stakes, more internal than world-affecting

Here are a few more things you should know about Spinning Silver

  • It’s written in third-person point of view, and it alternates between Miryem’s, Irina’s and Wanda’s perspective (as well as a few more)
  • It’s set in Lithuania, though most of the world is altered with fantasy elements
  • Most of the book happens during winter or in the winter kingdom
  • There is very little romance (between Miryem and Staryk king), and it’s not the main focus of the story; Spinning Silver also has no spice
  • Trigger warnings for death, murder, anti-semitism, domestic abuse, child abuse, mentions of sexual assault, alcohol addiction and abuse

Books Like Spinning Silver

1. Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

If you’re looking for another Russian folklore inspired novel, with rich world-building and winter vibes, I recommend Bear and the Nightingale. It’s a fantastic story, beautifully written, with very strong elements of magic, religion, and family. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I would recommend reading it during winter or holidays. Keep in mind that it’s slow paced and focuses a lot on lyrical storytelling and building the world. 

2. Other Naomi Novik books (Uprooted, mostly)

Naomi Novik has written many books, and Uprooted is probably the most similar to Spinning Silver. It’s another standalone and it follows a girl who gets taken by a wizard named Dragon.

3. Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher

Nettle and Bone is probably one of my favorite fantasy novels, and it reminds me a lot of Spinning Silver. For one, it’s a standalone, with high stakes, but not quite world-saving stakes, which makes it somewhat cozy. 

Nettle and Bone is full of wit and humor, with some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read, and a beautiful romance on the side. It follows an almost-nun as she decides she’s the only one who can save her abused sister from her husband, the prince

All she wants to do is have a peaceful life, and her journey is somewhat selfish because the prince will marry her if he kills her sister. Along the way, she meets a motley crew of characters who all agree to help her on her unlikely quest. 


Is Spinning Silver a retelling?

Yes, Spinning Silver is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling with Miryem being forced to turn silver into gold for the fae (Staryk) king. 

Is Spinning Silver a standalone?

Yes, Spinning Silver is a standalone, though Naomi Novik has a similar standalone called Uprooted. You don’t need to read Uprooted before Spinning Silver, though. 

Does Spinning Silver have romance? 

Yes, Spinning Silver has romance, but it’s a very minor element in the story. 

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