Would also work for “Award Winner”, as it’s won a Locus Award, and ALA Award and an Audie, or “Remix”, as it’s a fairy tale retelling.
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of Jewish moneylenders, but her father is a dreadful one, who doesn’t have the heart to actually claim back the debts that the villagers owe, even when his daughter is starving and the long, cold winters are making his wife sicker and sicker. Miryem refuses to see her mother die due to her father’s weakness, hardens her heart and takes over her father’s duties. Unlike him, she refuses to listen to excuses and starts forcing people to pay back some of what they owe. If they can’t contribute coin, she’ll take goods.
Wanda is the daughter and eldest child of a violent, drunken farmer who borrowed money from the moneylender when his wife was sick, but drank most of the money away, so she died. Now he abuses Wanda and her two brothers, who barely have enough to survive on, since what the tax collectors don’t take away, their father spends on drink. When Miryem comes calling to collect on the debt, she decides Wanda will come work in her parents house as a servant, a maid of all work, and will gradually pay off the debt that way. Neither Mireym, nor Wanda’s father realise how happy Wanda is about this change in her circumstances. Wanda is away from her father’s violent presence for much of the day, she gets more to eat (even if she sometimes has to steal bread meant for the chickens), her father can’t marry her off to anyone (as then no one will be paying off the debt) and gradually, she steps in as an assistant to Miryem, and slowly learns the intricacies of the numbers in her ledger.
Because Miryem is ruthlessly efficient, she manages to start reclaiming her mother’s dowry. A savvy businesswoman, she sells everything her family can’t directly use, making a profit, so that soon her family has gone from abject poverty to modest wealth again. Her grandfather is immensely proud of her, and lends her silver for more loans, which she is able to return to him as gold. Getting a reputation as someone who can start with silver and end up with gold is dangerous, though. Miryem finds herself challenged by the Staryk, the cold creatures who haunt the woods and terrorise people in the winter. The first time he brings her a small pouch of six silver coins to be returned as gold. If Miryem succeeds, she will be rewarded, if she fails, she will be turned to ice. Miryem takes the coins to a young jeweller in the city where her grandfather lives. He turns the magic silver into a ring, which they sell to the local duke, and not only do they manage to get the six gold coins the Staryk demands, but they both make a profit.
The second time, the Staryk lord comes, he demands sixty silver coins transformed and claims it is the second of three tests. Miryem is bold enough to ask what her reward will be if she actually succeeds, and is shocked to discover that should that come to pass, the Staryk lord making the demands will take her as his wife. She doesn’t really want that (he’s terrifying), but neither does she want to die. She goes back to the jeweller, who makes a beautiful necklace, which he also presents to the duke. The duke, who has never really thought he’d be able to make an especially good match for his plain daughter Irina, discovers that with the Staryk silver ring and necklace, she may not be beautiful, but she’s striking and mesmerising in a way he can clearly capitalise on. He demands a silver crown from the jeweller, and since the third time the Staryk lord arrives, he wants 600 silver coins turned to gold, Miryem has no problem providing enough metal. As soon as she has presented the gold the Staryk lord (who turns out to be the king of his people), she is whisked away to his kingdom, and her family in the human world are left with only vague memories of her.
Full review on my blog.
Bingo #8: Far and Away (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), Travel (Ride with Me), Own Voices (If I Was Your Girl), Listicle (this), Birthday (A Prince on Paper)