Trying to summarize this is hard, because there are a lot of different storylines and viewpoints. We have Miryem, the daughter of a not-very-good moneylender. Oh, he’s a good man, too good to be a moneylender in fact, in that he’s not the best at collecting his money back. Miryem eventually decides to take up the slack and collect the debts herself. Responsibility takes a toll on people, especially when you have to take that burden from someone else. She idly makes a comment that she can turn to silver to gold, and that comment is heard by the wrong people. And they are much more dangerous than a mere prince.
We also see the story from Wanda’s perspective, a poor girl in Miryem’s village that gets entangled in the events of the story. We also have Irina, the plain daughter of a rich man, whose father plots to have her marry the tsar.
There are the Staryk, and at first we don’t know much about them. They have a road that is somehow magical, and they bring winter wherever they go. The white trees belong to them, and the pure white animals in the forest.
Miryem and her family are Jewish, for some reason. It always throws me off when a story takes place in a fictional world with real religions.
Wanda looks at the bright side of things. She works to pay off her father’s debt, and she gets out of the house and out of marrying. And she gets fed as well, which leaves more food for her brothers at home.
There is actual magic in the land, and yet the lower classes, like Wanda, think that math and reading and writing are magic as well. Which I guess you could think of them that way, if you really wanted to, especially to one who does not know them. Most of the world lives without magic and is perfectly content that way. Magic is accepted as strange, but still acknowledged.
We have elements of other fairy tales thrown in. And there are parallels as well. There are multiple storylines, all well-thought out and compelling in their own right, but they are woven together like a tapestry.
I like the matter-of-fact language. It sounds like someone telling a story, not someone writing and overthinking. Each character has their own voice. When Sergy and Wanda are narrating, the language is simpler, with shorter sentences.
We get to see things from a lot of people’s perspectives, even those you weren’t necessarily expecting. And while they aren’t good, everyone does have a reason for their actions.
I’m not sure how I feel about the very end. It somehow feels trite, either that or something is missing. It’s somehow disappointing, and I’m not sure why. Up until the last few pages it seemed that everything had been explained and/or tied up. There were a couple elements I was confused about, and then the explanation hits, it suddenly makes sense. So, 4.5 stars, but we gotta round that up to 5.
Miryem is not here to make friends!
Aw, Miryem, you did a stupid thing! Don’t tempt fate, and don’t taunt the fairies!
Irina – woah, she has long hair! And she had a plot in mind, but it turned out to be unneeded.
Good job, Grandpa. You made things a little easier for her.
Aw man, the scary dude got caught in his own trap.