Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty – until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk – fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh – Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered.

A couple of years ago I read fantasy author Naomi Novik’s first fairy tale retelling, Uprooted, and it was the promise of more of her atmospheric writing and dark magic that convinced me to pick up her newest book, Spinning Silver. Unfortunately, this reinvention of the Rumpelstiltskin story lacked everything that made its predecessor so special.

Spinning Silver starts with great promise. Novik is undoubtedly a great writer and her atmospheric descriptions quickly drew me into the story. Miryem is an intriguing central character, a young woman who is forced to live in poverty and watch her family suffer because her father is so terrible at getting people to repay their debts. So she makes herself as hard as ice and goes out to get the money that rightfully belongs to her family. The atmosphere is magical and enchanting yet we get a strong sense of the characters’ battles with everyday hardships.

Unfortunately, all that promise in the early chapters soon fades away as the plot continues at a glacial pace. In many of the chapters, nothing happens and the story is weighed down by endless descriptions. We are also often forced to read the same scene several times from different characters’ perspectives, slowing down the plot even further and becoming incredibly repetitive.

Novik also has several different narrators. Instead of including a character name when the perspective changes, the reader must work out whose perspective they are reading. This isn’t difficult – even though the characters all sound the same – but I don’t understand why Novik chose not to include headings at the start of each chapter. Several of these characters are also redundant and added nothing to the story.

The frequent bouncing around between different characters meant that we didn’t settle on any of them for long enough for them to really get my sympathy, especially as they all have such similar styles of narration. Because I didn’t care about any of them, the climax at the end lacked any emotional impact.

Despite the overall strength of Novik’s writing, this is not a book I’ll be recommending. By the end I was so bored that I ended up skimming large chunks of text – and I don’t feel I missed anything.