Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.
But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.
Rating out of five: two stars
The official synopsis doesn’t do the plot justice in its variety. It’s not only a story about Miryem and the cold magical Staryk king, it has multiple pov’s where Wanda – a girl the same age that Miryem she takes on as employee – and Wanda’s brothers Sergey and Stepon are all big parts of the plot. Also there’s the king of the human lands and his bride by arranged marriage who has borrowed some magical powers to escape. It seemed like a weird choice of storytelling until the characters interacted and then the end of the plot seemed very obvious all of a sudden.
The ideas in this book were good, the focus on family made it even better. But often I found myself not knowing which pov the book had switched to, especially as the characters finds themselves travelling to each other places, making it impossible to keep them straight. I did not care for the “human” king and his bride, her name Irina wasn’t even given before an unnaturally long time had passed. There were certainly elements I liked, enough not to put the book down, but it felt so badly executed. The trap with having serious and calculative characters are that they cannot all be like that, or the magic of even a fantasy book will disappear. There were no lightness, except for when mother-figures trying to give comfort, and no humour. The first hundred pages are all Miryem showing how she built up a little empire of money-loaning after her father didn’t have the cold heart needed for it. And that’s somewhat interesting, but wasn’t done very well. I might as well go pick up economy textbooks, and get something actually useful out of reading about it.
For being a fantasy book there were little magic and a lot of corrupted people and demons/creatures, who seemed to have no desires or joys in their lives. The motivation and message are hiding from me here. The self-important seriousness of it all, from the characters to the writing, brought this book down. Miryem might always have an answer to every challenge, but it gave another level of unconcern to even to her sacrifices. I loved Uprooted, but would recommend “Deathless” by Catherynne Valente instead of this book.