Miryem comes from moneylenders on both sides of her family, but while her grandfather has made a name for himself in a walled city, her own father has trouble even approaching his clients in their small town. When Miryem tires of living in squalor while the warm and well-fed townsfolk spin wicked stories about her family and others like her, she takes it upon herself to reclaim her mother’s lended dowry. In doing so, she sets off a chain reaction that leads to dark consequences with the Staryk, who haunt the forests and have raided the surrounding towns for gold each winter for as long as anyone can remember.
A story of faeries and witches and demons who try to push the seasons around for their own gain, Spinning Silver is a masterpiece of interwoven storylines. Heroes all, Miryem, Wanda, and Irina must band together to bring nature back into balance and return peace to their families and their kingdom.
This book was fabulous. Novik’s writing astounds me every time I crack open a book. It haunts me well after I’ve closed it, and sticks its nose into whatever projects of my own I’m working on, saying “Ohhh, but can we make this more complicated and awesome?!” Which is wonderful, but also frustrating when I’m just outlining.
This was the second book I’ve read by Novik, the first being Uprooted, which simply took my breath away. I think this one was slightly harder to follow, just because it took me a few sentences into each chapter to figure out whose POV we were supposed to be in, because, hey, there are many, and three of them are girls who are all roughly the same age and think in similar ways. Nevertheless, I very much appreciated the different personalities and the subtleties in which they were different, and it was most interesting, to me at least, to see three similar people react to things in totally different ways.
I can’t say much about the storylines themselves because SpOiLeRs, but the scenery was beautiful: Winter in Russia, similar to the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden vibes (Catch my review of the first novel in that series here!), but definitely set a few years later because transit seems to be much easier in this universe than that one. The three heroes from vastly differing backgrounds and yet all facing similar fates really hits home, while also giving you a much broader view of the world than if it had only followed one of them. This is a book I will not be forgetting any time soon.
It’s already MAY, but I had such a hard time choosing between the 56 books I managed to read last year. I am SO PROUD of that number. I worked hard for it. I figured that now is as good a time as any to share them with you because maybe you’ll want to pick them up over the summer. People read then, right?
In an effort to shorten the judging process that got me to this point, I decided to only nominate books that I read for the first time, and to exclude all re-reads from this contest. In no particular order, here are the top 10 books I read in 2017.
1 – Grace, Not Perfection – Emily Ley
This book changed my life. I read it while I was nannying for my baby cousin, so even the more maternal bits really hit home. Whether you are young and virtually single like me, or raising a bunch of munchkins, or just living your best life, this book will help you make it even better. I can’t wait to pick up Emily’s second book, A Simplified Life, this year.
2 – The Diviners – Libba Bray
1920s New York City + strange magical abilities + teens sleuthing to stop a supernatural serial killer? SIGN ME UP. This is one of those books that you pick up at the library because of the cool cover and then run away with it once you finish reading the blurb because it’s so cool. And even at a whopping 500+ pages it just flies by because the writing is just that good. I’m saving my reviews of this series for October. Look out for it then!
3 – A Novel Bookstore – Laurence Cossé
Let me just say… WOW. This birth-of-a-bookstore/mystery novel about the fictional The Good Novel bookstore in Paris and its founders blew me away. A tiny bit slow in some places, but the intertwining narratives of the founders, reviewers, and their loved ones was wonderfully written and lovingly translated from the original French.
4 – A Gathering of Shadows – V. E. Schwab
This whole series is wonderful. I’ve never read anything like the Shades of Magic trilogy, and I am so SO excited that Schwab will be blessing us with a spinoff sequel trilogy, as well as a prequel comic book. Of the trilogy, the second novel was my favorite, and the cover art especially drew me in. The character development is just expert level here, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Schwab’s work.
5 – Uprooted – Naomi Novik
This book. THIS. BOOK. I haven’t read a story like this since I picked up the actual Grimm’s Fairytales. The plot is phenomenal, the characters aren’t perfect, or entirely lovable or hateable, and the forest. is. alive.
Uprooted gets a lot of hate for the romance aspect of it, but I think it was handled really well and people need to get used to the idea that semi-immortal beings need love too. You don’t hear people complaining about Bella and Edward being together because Edward is like 900 years older than her, do you? So don’t come at me about Agnieszka’s romance. It’s as healthy a love as she is going to get in these crazy times.
6 – Elantris – Brandon Sanderson
An arranged marriage alliance + a religious war + a mysterious plague that only effects the god-like people of Elantris? Trust me when I say the roughly 600 pages are worth it. I haven’t read worldbuilding like this since Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga — which makes sense if you think about it because Jordan chose Sanderson to finish his work when he was passing.
7 – M Train – Patti Smith
I’ve never read a memoir written by a musician before, and let me tell you, this was delightful. Patti Smith is not just a musician, poet, and author, but also a mother, wife, icon, and member of a former mysterious society. This memoir is written mostly stream-of-consciousness style, but that only adds to the magic of the words. From writing in coffee shops (like I am now), to traveling the globe, to singing in cafeterias at midnight, M Train is sure to inspire you to write more of your own work and see the everyday magic around you.
8 – Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella – Megan Morrison
It’s no secret that I adored the first Tyme novel by Morrison, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel, but Disenchanted did me one better if that’s possible. “Cinderella” comes from a family of fashion. Her new stepmother is a trial, but she probably means well. The private school she goes to is full of rich and royal brats, most of whom will grow up to work in the family business: that is, fashion. The entire Blue Kingdom runs on fashion. But not everyone loves it. Ella knows which families use sweatshop labor, and sets out to bring. them. down. Even if it means ruining her chances with the cute but cursed prince in the process. I can’t wait for the third installment (involving the Frog Prince!), due out in the next year.
9 – In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan
If you’ve been reading fantasy your entire life and wondering why tropes are what they are — the guy gets the girl, everyone loves the hero, the maidens need rescuing, etc. etc… LOOK NO FURTHER. Brennan turns every single trope on its head and it’s flawless. Not only does everyone hate Elliot, he doesn’t even get the girl, or get to save the world, or have a touching reunion with his parents. Nope. Elliot gets shipped off to a school in a war zone in a magical land because his teacher doesn’t like him, and spends most of his time in the library wishing he could meet mermaids despite everyone telling him how dangerous they are. Elliot is not a hero, and he certainly doesn’t like the would-be hero, Luke Sunborn, with the beautiful golden locks. Nope. Not one bit.
10 – Lois Lane: Fallout – Gwenda Bond
I didn’t even know I needed a series about Lois before Clark until I saw Bond’s book on the shelf, and now I need her to be consulted with on anything and everything to do with Superman and Lois Lane that is ever created in the future. I have always loved Lois, but never before have I gotten the chance to really get to know her. Now that the military brat has settled in one place for the first time, attending a Metropolis high school and interning at The Daily Planet, she has a bit of free time on her hands, and a lot of bad guys to take down. Now if only she could convince her online crush SmallvilleGuy to meet in person.
Agniezka and Kasia grew up knowing they were born in a choosing year, that one of the girls their age would be selected by the Dragon at 17 to live in the tower for 10 years. They also know that whoever is chosen usually leaves the valley after their years are up. When the Dragon arrives to claim his choice, everyone assumes it will the bravest, the most accomplished, the most beautiful: Kasia. Except they are wrong.
This book has been getting many (and by many I mean thousands) of mixed reviews. They complain about the romance – newsflash, the age difference is still less than that in Twilight – as well as the protagonist. She gets called a ‘special snowflake’ a lot. I think this term has come to be used very loosely and in too many different ways.
The term is actually defined as a person who gets special treatment because of supposedly unique attributes or characteristics. In 2017, we have to contextualize our use of the word, because it has come to mean someone who creates ridiculous characters (like an ‘Avariel wereshark Elemental Archon of Fire‘), as well as a derogatory word for an entire generation of people (who are apparently ‘too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own‘). Lately, if a fictional character discovers any type of hidden talent, they are immediately called a ‘special snowflake’. Sure, in the past few years this term was used to define a character who miraculously finds out they know the exact way to win their personal battle at the exact right moment and is able to accomplish it without any training whatsoever (like if Harry Potter had Avada Kadavraed Voldy as an 11-year-old without ever being taught the spell, or if he made up a new one altogether). But that’s not what our heroine does in Uprooted.
SPOILERS **** Not only is she terrible at most magic, the only magic she is good at was written by a famous crazy lady who had the same affinities that the heroine does. And also: SHE PRACTICES! Plus she’s like, channeling the valley, or whatever.****
The point being at no time in this book is the heroine a ‘special snowflake’. She works hard for what she has, and it’s explained that she’s had these tendencies since she was born. I wouldn’t even call her a ‘chosen one’ since she finds others like her later on. If she hadn’t saved the world, someone else would have. The timing (and her temper) just set everything in motion in time for this story to take shape. There is, in fact, nothing so special about her at all.
That being said, this story is fantastic. It’s based on a Polish folk tale, the kind of story the Brother’s Grimm would have loved to tell, but not quite as dark as they probably would have written it. The heroine is frustrating, as are our would-be heroes, and I wouldn’t say anyone is completely good or evil, or even completely sane, probably, but that just makes everything more mysterious and magical, and twisted. I really loved their use of the forest as a backdrop, character, and metaphor. You don’t come across many stories as filled out as this one anymore, and it’s a standalone novel!
Anyone who enjoys their fairy tales dark(-ish) will love this book. And not just because it has something like five climaxes. Just a warning: It is YA. There are some ‘romantic’ scenes not really appropriate for younger audiences, but they are pretty quick, so I wouldn’t really call the book steamy or anything. If you have a young teen, I would recommend you read it first and then decide if it’s appropriate for them to read.