- Author: Naomi Novik
- Series: Standalone
- No. of pages: 480
- Year published: 2018
- Publisher: Pan
- Dates read: 15.12.19 – 21.12.19
- Rating: 3 stars
- Challenge: Read a book which won an award in 2019
Plot: Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge – and if she fails, she’ll die. Yet if she triumphs, it may mean a fate worse than death. And in her desperate efforts to succeed, Miryem unwittingly spins a web which draws in the unhappy daughter of a lord. Irina’s father schemes to wed her to the tsar – he will pay any price to achieve this goal. However, the dashing tsar is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of mortals and winter alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and Irina embark on a quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power and love.
I loved how beautiful the writing style is. The way that Novik would describe the landscape was done in a way that managed to balance the brutality and beauty of living in an awful winter. The way she described food made me want to drool, looking back on it now it was 100% bland boiled potatoes, but she has this way of making it sound delicious. I am not normally the biggest fan of 1st person POV, with some exceptions, but the writing was so beautiful that I actually enjoyed the POV. The multiple POVs allowed us to get a better grasp of the story from all angles. It allowed tension to be created when we have 2 differing POVs, one of a worried mother and another of a daughter in danger. It just adds an extra layer for the reader when you know more than the characters. Sometimes though it was hard to differentiate who was speaking when as they all seemed to have a similar character voice. Especially, Irina and Miryem.
My favourite character was Miryem. I loved her intelligence and how business orientated she was. She was kind, helpful but wouldn’t back down at an injustice which I really liked. She was my favourite POV to follow. I just admired her defiance and work ethic so much.
I did enjoy the other characters that we focussed on and I enjoyed watching Irina’s character development over the course of the book, from a meek character where things happened to her to grabbing hold of her own destiny and making shit happen!
I wasn’t a big fan of the constant reminder that these girls were considered “ugly” by the world. I know that it represents the time where beauty means everything but still, it made me uncomfortable. Especially, when they were told by men how ugly they were. This isn’t a criticism of the writing as this is just what happened to young girls back then, it just made me sad that this is what all women were subjected to. Objects of worth based on physical appearance.
I did start losing momentum about 3/4 into the story and sadly the slow-paced writing, which was good at the beginning, started to weigh on me and make me lose a bit of interest.
The next book I will be reviewing won’t be posted until the end of January. I have a lot of end of the year posts coming up soon and that has sort of take over my normal posting schedule. So stay tuned for those posts!