Review: Spindle & Dagger by J. Anderson Coats

Wales in the twelfth century was a dangerous place for a woman, especially a woman with a secret.​

This is the story of Elen, a girl I slaughtered whose family at the hands of one Owain ap Cadwgan and his band of warriors.  Elen intends to survive.  She finds herself assaulted, but in a position to use her power to spin a lie and convince Owain that he has been blessed and cannot die while under her protection.  Clothed, fed, and living a lie, Elen finds herself well cared for, until Owain kidnaps the wife and children of a Norman warlord.  Elen’s lies seem to be on the brink of spinning out of control as war rages with the Normans. 

This is a meticulously researched and written novel that evokes the brutality of the world in the twelfth century.  Interesting action scenes pared with beautiful prose make this an enjoyable read for anyone who loves history and appreciates the gritty-ness of the time period.  Coats describes in brutal detail the challenges, battles, and sexual assaults that likely took place at the time.  This is not a book that is a watered-down accounting of Norman warlords in the twelfth century, this is the all-out, all-encompassing, and incredibly brutal novel that is, most likely, very close to the reality. 

The book has solid character development through the second half of the book, though I do agree with other reviewers that the overall pacing in the first half of the book is slow.  I do think that the writing makes up for this slow exposition through the exploration of the relationship between Elen and Nest, the kidnapped wife of Gerald of Windsor. 

Though this is a young adult novel, I would caution anyone under the age of 16 to read it due to its graphic violence.  It wouldn’t be a good historical fiction novel without violence, but this can get extreme at times.  My only other criticism is that the passage of time seems to be choppy and the scene structure can get in the way of the narrative, but this is a small complaint.

I really enjoyed this book and I would encourage historical fiction lovers to pick up a copy!  The book releases March 10th, 2020!  I originally requested this book because it has a beautiful cover and an intriguing premise!  

Thank you to Candlewick Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book, it was a privilege to read it and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  This is a freely given review.

Later this week I will be posting my review of not only The Breaking by K. S. Marsden, but a review of the two previous books in her The Northern Witch series!  You don’t want to miss this!

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