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The Audiobookworm's Review
Rating: 4.5 Stars
I adored Spinning Silver. Fairytale retellings are always sort of hit or miss with me. Most of them stick to closely to the source material and become predictable. However, Spinning Silver found the perfect balance. It paired fantasy with alternate reality to create something unique, yet subtly familiar.
It's a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin-- sort of. Perhaps retelling isn't the right word. It's about a young girl who can change pennies into gold, but not with magic. She is simply a good businesswoman capable of investing and turning a profit. I found Miryem extremely likable and I was most invested in her story. I appreciate resourcefulness so I found Miryem relatable and easy to root for.
Honestly, I would have been fine if there was nothing more to Miryem's story than this. I thought it was the ultimate swerve. A story that has been told so many times that it has been imbued with fantastical elements over the centuries to give it flair. It reminded me of the Drew Barrymore film Ever After, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. In Ever After, we learn the true story of Cinderella and that she really existed in 18th century France (sans magic). I thought Naomi Novik was going for a similar twist by making Miryem's family Jewish and incorporating real-world elements into her story and I was eating it up.
For the longest time, this was a five star audiobook for me. By the time the secondary POV character, Wanda, was introduced, I was already committed to this story. I didn't dislike Wanda, but she was no Miryem. As the story went on I did warm to her, but still preferred Miryem's chapters. However, I never got the point of Margareta's character or her POV. Not only did she seem useless to the overall story, I think she actually hurt it. Her inclusion did nothing but confuse me. Margareta is the main reason I can't give this five stars, even though I really want to! At a certain point, I decided to just ignore her all together and focus on Miryem and Wanda.
Then, Bam! Novik threw fantastical elements into the mix à la Once Upon A Time and I was swerved again. Luckily, I was able to hang onto my seat. The fantastical elements definitely complicated the story, but I didn't mind them too much. Novik's writing was so incredible that she could have thrown almost anything at me and I would've gone along with it. That's the mark of an amazing storyteller.
Narration review: I've had Naomi Novik's previous novel Uprooted on my TBR list for a while now, but I can never get into it because the narrator's accent is hard for me to understand. I was worried I might face a similar problem with Spinning Silver. Fortunately, that was not the case. Lisa Flanagan does an amazing Russian accent that is authentic, yet still intelligible. The more I listened, the easier it became to understand.
However, her narration did contribute to my confusion regarding the POV characters. There wasn't a lot of vocal distinction made between Miryem, Wanda, and Margareta. Additionally, there were no indicators given when the POV characters were being switched. The most frustrating thing about listening to Spinning Silver was that I was constantly confused about which POV character I was hearing. I'm torn about recommending this audiobook for that reason. In all other respects, Flanagan gave a wonderful performance and one that I genuinely enjoyed. However, reading the physical book would eliminate much of the POV confusion. ♣︎