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The Copper Sign

(Das kupferne Zeichen #1)

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  984 ratings  ·  97 reviews
“A vital, evocative novel with a female protagonist who not only forges swords but also our vision of the middle ages.” – Javier Sierra, author of The Secret Supper and The Lost Angel

England 1161: Ellen, a blacksmith’s daughter, wants to become a swordsmith, but for a girl this profession is unimaginable. Forced to run away from home, she disguises herself as a boy and win
Paperback, 650 pages
Published December 6th 2011 by Amazon Crossing (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  984 ratings  ·  97 reviews

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Lolly's Library
Research - 5 stars (at least as far as blacksmithing goes)
Execution - 1 star
Writing ability - 2 stars

Originally published in Germany in 2006, The Copper Sign was picked up and translated by's AmazonCrossing publishing imprint. Now, I don't know if it's the fault of the translator or if it's the fault of the original prose, but despite the book's history, it still reads as a self-published work. There's a good book in here and a competent editor would've brought it out. As it stands, t
Dec 16, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 STARS - This is a really good story for someone who has the patience to read a long book and take in a lot of information. But the book dragged, and the writing was dull - though I'm not sure much of that is due to the language lost in translation.

I have mixed feelings about this book because I was really intrigued by the storyline from Ellen's ambition to the hardships she has suffered to the romances she had experienced to the outcome at the end. But I also felt like I was reading a whole
Nov 09, 2011 rated it did not like it
I was really interested in this book and wanted to finish, but the content of the book is not what I would read.I skipped around a lot especially when the book focused on the "Bad guy" who was sexually obsessed with our main character. I felt so bad for this girl her life was just one tragedy after another. There was a point in the book she was living in a safe place with people who loved her but her need to be a blacksmith drove her into more bad situations. I just couldn't read about anything ...more
Sara Diane
Jan 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
I got this one because it sounded remotely interesting and it was on a great deal for the Kindle. I ended up returning it because the content was so slimy that I didn't want to touch it.

There is nothing elegant or even pretty about Fox's writing skill, and her storytelling leaves much to be desired. It's hard to pin down the main character's age, yet we have sex scenes right and left, including an incest-rape. Fox has no sense of pacing, skipping whole years and then rushing through the interest
Apr 26, 2012 added it
Didn't finish, so I won't officially rate it, but based on what I did read, it's a 2 out of 5. Some good descriptions of the setting and of sword-crafting, but the writing reads like a rough first draft. Alas.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
There was something about Fox's writing that I just didn't like, a certain lack of emotional depth and an overuse of exclamation points in the dialogue. When I read the author bio at the end, I realized that it had been translated from German, which made the strangeness of the text make a little more sense. But despite the writing style, this was a book that I had trouble putting down.

The Copper Sign tells the story of Eleanweore, the daughter of a common blacksmith, who is drawn to the art fro
Feb 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
There was something about Fox's writing that I just didn't like, a certain lack of emotional depth and an overuse of exclamation points in the dialogue. When I read the author bio at the end, I realized that it had been translated from German, which made the strangeness of the text make a little more sense. But despite the writing style, this was a book that I had trouble putting down.

The Copper Sign tells the story of Eleanweore, the daughter of a common blacksmith, who is drawn to the art fro
Jul 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Katie Fox's "The Copper Sign" reads like a graduate thesis in medieval blacksmithing - well-researched, extremely detailed, and undeniably boring. A friend had recommended this book as a good companion to Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth." I agree that it's a companion book in that both novels focus on craftsmen in the Middle Ages. I also agree that both books are door-stop heavy.

But the parallels end there.

"The Copper Sign" tells the lengthy tale of Ellen, a young English girl who wants
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
This review was first published in the Historical Novel Review.

When Ellen is forced to flee home, she must pretend to be a boy to pursue her life’s passion: to become a sword-smith. Her natural daring and tenacity bring her through innumerable obstacles and betrayal, and into the shop of a renowned blacksmith. Through her travels, both in England and on the Continent, she masters her trade and becomes acquainted with court life, complete with its high-living, politics, and intrigue. It is in cou
Mar 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm not sure how to place this book. Though the storyline of a young girl going against society and becoming a master swordsmith sounds like young-adult, the intrigues along the way are downright adult romance-novel material.

Storyline moves along nicely throughout, dates and place-names given on the chapter help the reader along. Dialogs are natural and unforced, with emotional color. Societal and culinary history add the flavors required to give the reader a feeling for the period. Descriptions
Amanda Kimball
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it

I'd give this between2 1/2 and 3 stars. I started this back in March when i didn't have anything else to read on a plane, and just picked it back up a few days ago. This novel is so richly filled with history and knowledge of the art of blacksmithing! Kati's Fox truly did her research and it truly paid off in her writing. As others have said, this book gets 5 stars for its research. From there, it loses a few stars. I felt as though it was a little long-winded and at times felt as though we ski
Paul Burnette
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books
Ellenweore, Allan, Ellen, an iron maiden, is a young girl who grows into a great swordsmith despite all the taboos regarding roles that were not available to women in the years between 1161 and 1183, in England, Normandy, and France. Risking discovery and possible execution as a witch, Ellenweore must disguise herself as a man in order to learn smithing, like Anne Swinfen’s Christoval Alvarez must do to practice medicine. Readers may look forward to learning all about iron working, smithies, and ...more
Dec 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
Complete disappointment by the end. Started out well, Ellen wants nothing more than to work in the smith wither her father and become a swordmaker in her own right. But she's a girl, and this is 1161, so that's not possible. At first, the story was interesting, with wanting to know if and how Ellen would achieve her dream but by the third time something bad happened and Ellen had to flee with nothing and start all over again - but always with some convenient miracle so it's not too hard - I was ...more
Michael Jones
3.5 stars. I'm glad I stuck with it. Our heroine goes through many great struggles and some of them really are accurate portrayals of some of the things in the 11th century life.

But I learned a lot about the making of swords, scabbard's, hilts, etc. and this book certainly brings you in touch with struggles that a woman would go through if she had wanted to be a swordsmith in those days.

The plot contains many interesting shifts and tight spots. Lots of diabolical intrigue. It was refreshing, t
Sandy Conley
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This was a very good read set. In the 1100's I recommend it.

The story grabbed me by the second page. I read the kindle edition on an iPad and added the audio file as I knew I would not have enough free time to read it. The main comment people make about this format is the editing but neither the audio or the printed text caused me to complain. It start with the main character a young girl and ends when she is in her thirties. Her success and defeats of her life time all have the feeling of possi
Dec 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
It was okay. It had a lot of potential but it just didn't quite make it. It could be several things. This was probably the author's first book. It definitely sounded like it while I was reading it. But it could also be the not so great translation? Reading the pages before the story, it looked like it was originally written in German. If that's the case, the way some of the book was translated seemed very elementary style but other times, it seemed fine and more grown up. If that makes any sense ...more
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-it
So excited, thanks Good Reads Giveaways! Made my day, winning a book is the best!
Received my copy today, thanks for the giveaway! Can't wait to start into this book.
I read this book and really enjoyed it. The story starts off with Ellen helping her father in the forge and he was saying how it was a shame she wasn't a boy who could work there for a living. The book follows Ellen through her life into her later years as an adult with a new life ahead of her. There are twists and turns in every cha
Cassidy Washburn
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
I will never find enough time in my day to descibe this book.... So much happened in it but it was definitely a good read. I do have to say that some parts were confusing like as to how old the characters were because many years passed throughout the entire book. Another thing that got confusing was who was who.... Many names were repeated throughout the book and I can understand why, but I only thought it was a bit confusing. Over all it was a good book. Lots of adventure, but I have to warn yo ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
The writing style was a little odd, but I put that down to the translation from the original German. On the plus side, the story held my interest strongly enough that I read it in one sitting. I enjoyed the author's detailed descriptions of middle ages era blacksmithing, which were fascinating. It was also interesting to see a woman's perspective on 12th c. European life and society. The characters were less than lovable, everyone kept dying (which is at least historically appropriate, although ...more
May 27, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: don-t-bother
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Syd Dickson
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
A book containing self flagellation, a girl in disguise, incestual rape, jousting, sword fighting, and more should be exciting. Somehow, this managed to include all of this and I still had to keep myself awake reading it. Also, all of the characters talked like they were doing their best robot impressions. I don't think anyone used a contraction during dialogue until the last chapter, it was very odd. "You are gorgeous and very interesting." was my favorite line, I laughed out loud. Everything w ...more
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it
In this books defense - it is a translation. At first I found it really difficult to read. The author gives way to much detail in times when it's not needed and the language is a bit simple. However, after I realized this book was translated into English I began to enjoy it a bit more. The author weaves a good story and the main character is likable. If you skim over some of the long descriptions it helps to make the story more fast paced and interesting. If you want a quick historical fiction r ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book was just okay for me...i bought it b/c it was 99 cents on Amazon and I thought I would give it a try. Some of the wording seemed strange to me, once I found out it had been translated into english I was able to tolerate the writing a little better. Aside from that I felt like multiple times the author was building up to a climax and then nothing... and that was frustrating. It took me awhile to finish this book because I kept getting bored with the was worth it for 99¢ but I ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is a 3 star in the begging but goes down to a 2 star in the end. I was really interested in the idea of the book, the writting however seemed juvenile. The way the story was told seemed geared for young adults, however there were sceens I would definitely not want a teenager to read. They also might be bogged down in the history and the details of smithing. Which as an adult I enjoyed the depth of research she obviously had to do. In the end the character became so self centered and re ...more
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book when I was in elementary school, and I really loved it! (If your thoughts right now equate to something like "How did a 9 year old get her hands on this and what were her parent doing"; I read my mom's copy in secret because she wouldn't let me read it. Which, in hindsight, is understandable)

One thing I especially liked was how detailed the process of making a sword was written in. It was super interesting, and Ellen learning about it was my favorite part of the book.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
2nd read: 3 stars
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this story it was love, war, failure success etc.
Rebecca H. Cooley
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

READ this book, I feel like I was taught a lot of things from this book. Well worth reading for all!
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born in 1964,
proud mom of three great kids
grew up in Germany and Southern France
studied french language and literature
graduated as translator and interpreter
worked in different companies
began research about medieval history in 1995
started writing historical fiction in 2000
first published in 2006

sold more than 400.000 copies

translated into english, spanish, russian and other languages...

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Das kupferne Zeichen (3 books)
  • The Silver Falcon (Das kupferne Zeichen, #2)
  • The Golden Throne  (Das kupferne Zeichen #3)

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