I don’t remember who first told me about the author Naomi Novik. Perhaps, like one of the heroines from her novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver, her name came to me to on a breath of magic, a summer whisper during a paddle or hike in northern Michigan’s endless rivers and forests with trees hanging over me, edging ever closer.
Kingly white pines or witchy cedar, stubby and plentiful, stretching into swamp, would have surrounded me. Maybe mud sucked at my boots, choking the boardwalks meant to ease a rambler’s journey, or the river overflowed from winter’s runoff, making it impossible to tell where the water ended and woods began.
During those times, it would have been easy to picture a hovel waiting at the end of a brambly, hidden pathway and a voice muttering Naomi Novik’s name like an incantation. Then a portal would have appeared, tumbling into one of Ms. Novik’s enchanting stories, some as close to perfection as I have ever read.
But to whoever gave me her name, I owe a debt of literary gratitude. Since I first opened Uprooted in July and fell into the deceptively simple tale of a girl. a wizard, and an ancient evil lurking in the forest, I have devoured five of Ms. Novik’s books.
Three were about the dragon Temeraire and his Captain Lawrence and their adventures during the Napoleonic War. And now, just this morning, I have finished Spinning Silver, drawing out each word, repeating passages, simply because I didn’t want it to end, hoping that a drop of its magic would somehow drip around me, saturating a portion of my world so that the story would go on and on.
Because, like all exceptional storytellers, Ms. Novik creates a world in which the reader lives and breathes. And, although I have enjoyed everything she has written, Uprooted and Spinning Silver particularly resonated with me, probably due to the strong female protagonists and an old-world, fairy-tale aura, influenced by Ms. Novik’s Polish heritage. It is a background that my husband shares and thus has touched my life, making me recognize the Polish words in Ms. Novik’s writing, such as chrusciki or angel wings, a pastry light as air.
So now I wait for Ms. Novik to spin her magic once again. In the meantime, I have six more Temeraire novels waiting to fill my winter with the beating of dragon wings and transport me back in time to when Napoleon pushed at borders, insatiable in his desire for land, just as my desire for a good book will never end. I will always be listening for that whispered name with promises of a new author to discover and a fresh world to explore.