I don't cope well with heat, so this last week especially has been somewhat trying (I'm very tempted to run a cold bath and stay in it for the next few hours) but two cinema trips have helped a bit, and hopefully it will break tonight.
The films were 'Mamma Mia! Here we go again' and 'Mary Shelley'. 'Mamma Mia' is a safe bet for anyone who likes ABBA (which I do), but even so I was surprised at how much I liked this one. Mary Shelley was awful, there's nothing about it that I could recommend.
I really enjoyed Naomi Novik's 'Uprooted' when I read it last year, so much so that I've been really looking forward to 'Spinning Silver' which is a sort of pendant novel. 'Uprooted' (I think I have this right) borrows quite heavily from Polish folklore, 'Spinning Silver' nods to Rumplestiltskin but is based in a Russian Jewish tradition - which I'm sure I read is her husbands family background. Both books play with magic and fairy tales, both are set in a non specific once upon a time kind of a world, and both are what I think of as young adult fiction.
The sort of Russian background, and very Russian folklore figures and demons reminded me of Katherine Arden's 'The Bear and the Nightingale' - Russian/Slavic folklore is definitely getting a moment. The comparison definitely highlights Novik's experience as a writer - she has a much lighter touch, but beyond that I don't really want to make comparisons.
'Spinning Silver' is all told in the first person (which I have no strong feelings about, but I know annoys some) mostly by Miryem, the moneylenders daughter, Wanda a peasant girl who goes to work for her to help pay her fathers debt, and Irina, a dukes daughter. Their paths cross and re-cross as they try their best to make something out of their lives.
Miryem's father doesn't like to ask for the money he has lent back, so in desperation Miryem takes over the business and thrives at it - which dismays her parents, but pleases her grandfather. Wanda's father is an abusive alcoholic, working off his debt is a chance for her to widen her horizons and maybe escape - but it's all jeopardised by a deal Miryem is forced into by an ice king. Irina is the plain daughter of a powerful man, transformed by the silver Miryem has to change into gold. She has to make the best of the marriage that enchantment brings her.
What I really liked about this book was the way that Novik explores the transactional nature of human relationships - because everything is based on give and take, decisions do come with a cost attached, and so does power. The considerations which motivate the different characters are compelling, not least because they're sometimes as simple as the fear of starvation and violence.
Novik's handling of anti-semitism is masterly as well. She doesn't over do it, but there's a thread of isolation and prejudice that runs through the book, sometimes erupting into something uglier, but mostly a background sense of hostility towards Miryem and her parents.
There's a lot to like about 'Spinning Silver' (though for me 'Uprooted' has some extra spark about it that this one lacks) and whilst I'm not much interested in Novik's Dragon books, I'm really interested to see what she does next.