Spindle and Dagger Review

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About the Book

This rich literary novel follows Elen, who must live a precarious lie in order to survive among the medieval Welsh warband that killed her family.

Wales, 1109. Three years ago, a warband raided Elen’s home. Her baby sister could not escape the flames. Her older sister fought back and almost killed the warband’s leader, Owain ap Cadwgan, before being killed herself. Despite Elen’s own sexual assault at the hands of the raiders, she saw a chance to live and took it. She healed Owain’s wound and spun a lie: Owain ap Cadwgan, son of the king of Powys, cannot be killed, not by blade nor blow nor poison. Owain ap Cadwgan has the protection of Saint Elen, as long as he keeps her namesake safe from harm and near him always.

For three years, Elen has had plenty of food, clothes to wear, and a bed to sleep in that she shares with the man who brought that warband to her door. Then Owain abducts Nest, the wife of a Norman lord, and her three children, triggering full-out war. As war rages, and her careful lies threaten to unravel, Elen begins to look to Nest and see a different life — if she can decide, once and for all, where her loyalties lie. J. Anderson Coats’s evocative prose immerses the reader in a dark but ultimately affirming tale of power and survival.


I love a good historical fiction, especially one that takes me way back. Wales 1109 was a time of war, fear, and destruction. Spindle and Dagger takes us back to this time and gives insight into the horror Elen, the main character, had to face. Elen is a survivor, while she may not always be the most fearless individual, she still perseveres.

One thing that I often find hit or miss with historical fiction, especially one that takes you this far back in time, is readability. As soon as I started Spindle and Dagger I was struck with how “easy” (for lack of a better term) the story was to get into. The prose was simple yet elegant and I wasn’t struggling to find myself interested in the story, like how I sometimes feel with historical fiction.

The other aspect of this story that I greatly appreciated was the parts where I could gleam how much research the author did for this story. You could tell that this book had a great historical context even though it is a fictional story.

So in essence, if you like historical fiction and gorgeous covers then don’t hesitate and snag a copy of Spindle and Dagger!

About the Author

J. Anderson Coats has received two Junior Library Guild awards, two Washington State Book Awards, and earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, the Horn Book Review, and Shelf Awareness. Her newest book is The Green Children of Woolpit, a creepy middle-grade fantasy inspired by real historical events. She is also the author of R is for Rebel, The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, The Wicked and the Just, and the forthcoming Spindle and Dagger.

*I received an arc in exchange for an honest review*

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