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Staff Picks Category: Fairy tales

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik []



Spinning Silver is a fairy-tale inspired fantasy set in Lithvas, a fictional country with with elements of Lithuanian, Polish, and Russian history and culture. The kingdom is ruled by a tsar. The economy is largely agrarian with barley and wool playing an important role. Winters are harsh. With its combination of Eastern European culture, fairy-tale like magic, and modern sensibilities, Spinning Silver has much in common with Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and folks who enjoyed Uprooted will enjoy Spinning Silver as well. That said, Spinning Silver is the darker and more complicated story, and much of that complexity and darkness comes from a simple fact: Miryem, the central character in the novel, and her family are Jews.

Though much of Spinning Silver is fantasy, the antisemitism that shapes the outlook of so many of its characters is not. Novik said in an interview with Paste magazine that “Spinning Silver is about my father’s family, and they were Lithuanian Jews who had to escape persecution”. Distrust is high and misunderstandings are common (Wanda, a farm girl, mistakes the family’s sabbath prayer for a magical spell), and Miryem and her family are always aware that their lives could be disrupted by anti-Jewish violence. And as moneylenders their role in the local economy is both welcome and despised.

Spinning Silver is about value and assessment, debts and promises, trades and bargains. Miryem’s strength comes ultimately from her recognition of her own worth and her insistence on not being undervalued. And Miryem, Wanda, and Irina, the three main women in the story, are all remarkable for their cool level-headedness and practical outlook. Whether trading in the market, bargaining with an otherworldly ice king, exorcising a demon, or deciding whether or not to accept the hand of suitor, these women stand up for themselves and make careful, calculated decisions. In Spinning Silver these well reasoned decisions and difficult compromises are celebrated and, at least in Miryem’s case, elevated to the point of high magic.

Spinning Silver is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this summer. If you enjoy a good fairy tale I highly recommend you give it a try.

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Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale []



This book was amazing! The twists on the original Rapunzel and the strong female lead make for an amazing read! It still has some of the original aspects, but a lot has been changed.