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Daily Helping for May 2nd, 2021 – Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

A close up photo of the book Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

It’s been a long time since I last featured a book as a daily helping. To be clear, this was not out of a lack of desire to read. No, it is entirely the fault of my (completely self-imposed, I know) rule that I have to finish a work of art before it can count as a daily helping. This means that books were always going to involve a lot more of a time investment before they could be featured than say, simply listening to a song. But I knew that when I made up the Daily Hart rules. What I didn’t know was that my work schedule of late would become the monstrosity that it did, and that I simply would not have the mental capacity to read anything for pleasure for months on end. But I’m happy to report that I made it through, my work projects are more or less wrapped up, and I’m ready to dive back into the wonderful stack of books that are currently sitting next to my bed. The first one I reached for? Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik.

This book was at the top of my list because no less than half a dozen friends and several podcasts have been raving about this book for quite some time now. That, and the premise sounded incredible. A fantasy retelling of a popular fairy tale featuring a trio of intelligent and capable female characters? Count me in.

Thankfully, Spinning Silver absolutely delivered on this premise. It tells the story of Miryem, the daughter of a village moneylender, Wanda, Miryem’s family’s servant, and Irina, the daughter of a local Duke who is destined for a higher crown. All three women are forced into their circumstances by the men in their lives, and all three do their best with the cards they are dealt. Spinning Silver touches on a lot of themes, but the central idea is that of debt, and specifically how the act of owing someone, whether it is coin or gratitude, can influence and shape the interactions with the people around you. Even more specifically, how everyone can have a different expectation of how debts should be repaid.

It’s a fascinating concept, and Novik has a lot of interesting things to say about it. But she also does a lot of really interesting things with the narrative itself, including introducing point of view characters quite late in the game, and narrating key moments through the eyes of the most unlikely of characters. The book also does an incredible job of balancing the more fantastical elements of the story with the realities of human nature. Yes, this is a world where fairies exist and are a threat. But this is also a world where the regular people around you are equally a threat when money and greed comes into play. Spinning Silver weaves these two elements together brilliantly.

There were a lot of things that I loved about this book, but more than anything, I loved the three main characters. I can’t even begin to describe how refreshing it was to read a story where all three female leads are smart. And not just the stereotypical “strong female character” smart. Miryem, Wanda, and Irina are all from very different backgrounds and circumstances, and therefore they are all smart in their own distinct ways. And this is reflected in the way they each navigate the narrative. All three of them are very much aware of their station in life, but they all find ways to use this knowledge to their advantage.

I really hope that I have a lot more reading in my future, because Spinning Silver has reminded me of just how much fun it is to escape into a fantasy world, even if it is just for a couple of hours. I currently have a stack of books sitting by my bed, just waiting to be read, so hopefully you’ll be hearing about them sooner rather than later.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!