Spin by Nina Allan

May 28, 2013

As a fan of Greek mythology it’s always of interest to see modern interpretations of the ancient myths. Spin is based loosely on the legend of Arachne and her defiance of Athena. Arachne boasted that her skill was greater than that of the goddess.  She refused to acknowledge that her knowledge came, in part at least, from the gods. Taking the themes from this story Nina Allan has given this ancient tale a modern twist.

Layla Vargas is a normal girl who has grown up with just her father on the Greek coast. The one thing that sets her apart from all others is her ability as a weaver. Her talent to create vibrant, colourful images from the silk her father manufactures is so good that it has prompted a change. Layla is moving to the city, to start a new life, taking a chance to control her own destiny. Everything appears to be going perfectly but who exactly is the mysterious old woman that keeps cropping up when Layla least expects it?

On a deeper level this story explores the nature of what it means to be a creator, what it means to bring something new into the world. How does the creative process and that intangible spark of talent blend together to make something new. Does the act of creation come from within or is there some unknown power guiding us? Through Layla’s work, we get glimpses of this as she turns her artistic vision into something tangible.

There is a nice open-ended quality to the final pages of Spin. You’re left in little doubt that all you’ve witnessed is just the beginning of a much larger story.

At first glance, Spin may appear to be a straight fantasy novel, but Nina Allan has also blended in a few nice science fiction flourishes. Set in a near-future version of Greece there are a couple of subtle sci-fi elements, handled very delicately, which add some extra depth to the story.

I’m fortunate enough to have travelled on the Greek mainland and also some of the islands and, even though the author freely admits she has taken some liberties with geography, she has perfectly captured the sights and sounds of this wonderful part of the world. It’s so easy to picture the quiet coastal villages or the bustle of the city streets.

I read Spin straight through in a single sitting. It’s not a huge novella, but it is thoroughly captivating. What impressed me was the evocative, sensory quality to the writing. Allan truly brings Layla and her journey vividly to life. This is a beautiful story filled with some wondrous moments. I always enjoy that moment when you discover an author’s writing for the first time. Spin is a perfect introduction to Nina Allan’s work. I will most definitely be seeking out more.

Published by TTA Press and available now.


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