“Because that’s what the story’s really about: getting out of paying your debts. That’s not how they tell it, but I knew. My father was a moneylender, you see.”
Everyone who knows me knows fantasy is my favorite genre to read especially with how shitty the world is nowadays. I like to get lost in a whole new world that is built entirely from scratch where everything is possible and you know your hero is going to come out victorious in the end. Novik has mastered the act of fairytale retellings and this book is a very loose retelling of the fairytale, “Rumpelstiltskin”.
I say loose because it has some of the elements like a character that turns silver into gold, there is also a big thing about not giving up what your name is, and everything happens deep in the forest. But the central story and the characters are unique inventions of the author herself. The traditional story is one where Rumpelstiltskin aids a woman in spinning straw into gold and she refuses to hold up her side of the bargain. But somehow in Rumpelstiltskin, he is the villain and I have never understood that logic. This book turns that entire idea on its head.
Miryem is the daughter of the town moneylender, but she takes over her father’s business when he repeatedly fails to collect their debts. Turns out she has a talent for making people pay what they owe and she starts making money for her family, turning silver into gold and this attracts the attention of a Staryk (a creature who values gold above all else) king who wants her for her talent and forcibly makes her his queen.
This book is told from multiple people’s perspective which I wasn’t expecting because from the description it seemed to be a book firmly about Miryem but that was not the case. A lot of characters feature prominently in this book and it might get hard to keep up with the story and whose point of view is being heard next. I did this book on audio and there was no indication of whose character POV preceded each chapter, so I wonder if that was the same with the actual book.
I liked that this book is a YA fantasy novel that does not focus on a love triangle, I think I’m all loved triangled out when it comes to this genre. In fact, this book is not a love story at all. It’s about strong girls fighting hard for their beliefs, for their country and for their family. It feels so refreshing to see young women being bad asses and trying to have agency in a world that sees them as property – first as their father’s and then their husband’s.
The book tackles a lot of serious issues for a YA novel – sexual abuse, loss of a parent, rape, sexism, antisemitism, alcoholism etc so just a heads up for possible trigger warnings. I found it very interesting that Novik makes the money lending family Jewish. She uses the book to explore the stereotypes surrounding Jews and money and tries to subtly point out the antisemitism in that stereotype. I thought that was very cleverly done.
Overall, this just felt like a story that was single-handedly created for me. From the Staryks, to the Winter King, to the traveling between places, to the so very strong female cast, to the magic, to every single word on every single page. Novik creates a world that is difficult to leave once the book is done and I am definitely looking forward to what she does next. I gave this book 4 stars on good reads. As mentioned earlier, I did this on audio and the narrator was fantastic so I definitely recommend that medium.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Do you read/ like fantasy? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!!
p.s: If you read this and want more fantasy recommendations, we have a post here on the blog guiding you through this genre. Do look it up and feel free to leave a comment!