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Spindle and Dagger

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  60 ratings  ·  45 reviews
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 Elens home. Her baby sister could not escape the flames. Her older sister fought back and almost killed the warbands leader, Owain ap Cadwgan, before being killed herself. Despite
Published March 10th 2020 by Candlewick
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
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Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Glad to see that at least some YA authors try to write historical fiction that is not a dumb romance-filled, factually incorrect fluff.

Spindle and Dagger joins a throng of novels that aim to give voice to the women in a history written by men. This story is based on the legend of so called "Helen of Wales" - Nest, wife of one Welsh lord kidnapped with her children by another one - Owain. Nest's narrative is open to interpretation and is compiled of differing, often contradictory
Celia McMahon
Feb 18, 2020 marked it as to-read
Far too many typos in the e-galley. Ill pick up up again when the final version is published. ...more
Melissa Mitchell
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I will make my own chaos. I will bring down this whole miserable castle works around Clares wretched Norman ears, and I will leave Owain and his lads to come out of it however they can.

Spindle and Dagger is a thrilling historical novel that follows a young woman who has learned to survive through whatever means necessary. The story begins with Elen in Wales, 1109, three years after a warband raided her home and killed her family. To survive the raid, she saved the warband leaders life and
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

I was pretty darn stoked to read a book set in 1109. I mean it even looks cool typed out, does it not? Plus, it's just not a time period I know a ton about and I love to learn cool stuff about old times! And it really is a neat book. Elen is in Wales in the early twelfth century, and obviously things are less on the comfy side and more on the brutal. Her whole family has been slain, and
Leah M
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review, provided willingly.

My rating would have been higher, except the first thing I noticed about this story was the excessive amount of typos. There were at least 5 typos per Kindle page, although most had more. The beginning of scene/chapters had entire words, or possibly full sentences missing. It forced me to puzzle out what I was reading, slowed me down, frustrated me to no end, and consistently took me out of the story.
It's 12 century Wales, grim, gritty and dangerous at times... The main character Elen is around 17 at the start of this story, so it has been about 3 years since her home was raided and her family killed. As the story goes on, there are scenes that flashback on what happened on that day, the lie she told and the reason why she is still alive and now comforting the enemy, Owain.

During a dramatic turn of events, and an unlikely friendship, Elen grows from feckless and idle to courageous and
Mar 22, 2020 marked it as to-read
My arc has a problem. I've never seen so many typos and/or missing words. Only a couple pages in and I was already frustrated. Here are a few examples from the first few paragraphs only:

"O and share a big meal and get rosy with ale and dance caroles and hear the news."
"there were three drunken stghts"
"I also nd the toy mouse..."
"during his rst raid"
"e toy mouse's paws are coming unstitched"
"and both of us inch" instead of flinch...
"I stu the toy into my rucksack along with my sewing kit so
Laurie (AFozenBookParadise)
I received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


The copy I received was littered with typos which often brought me out of the story and made it hard to follow at points, however, I still found the protagonist very plain. This book had a lot of potentials I found the idea around the main character possibly being a saint and being mistaken for her miracles was interesting, but she MC was quite boring. She didn't really do much other than follow the warlord around and I wanted
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-publisher
Wales, 1109: When Elen's home was raided by a warband three years ago her younger sister died in the ensuing fires. Her older sister was cut down just short of killing the warband's leader, Owain ap Cadwgan. Despite the violence and her own sexual assault, Elen survived, healing Owain ap Cadwgan's wounds and weaving a tale of protection.

She tells all who will listen that Owain ap Cadwgan cannot be killed--not by blade, blow, or poison--so long as Saint Elen protects him, so long as he keeps her
Kayla (krakentoagoodbook)
I won an ARC of Spindle and Dagger in a giveaway from the author - thank you! All opinions are my own.

Spindle and Dagger is a YA historical fiction novel where the setting and the writing both remind me of Juliet Marillier's books. The book begins after Elen's home was raided and her family killed (we're given more details about this event throughout the book). Elen survived the raid by healing Owain, the leader of the warband. As part of this healing, she pretended that Saint Elen helped him
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wales in 1109 was a dangerous place for a woman, especially a woman with a secret.

This is the story of Elen, a girl whose family was slaughtered 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
Spindle and Dagger is a YA historical fiction novel set in 12th century Wales. In the tale, readers follow Elen, a teenage girl in a warband lead by the King's son, Owain. Owain believes that Elen is the physical embodiment of the Saint Elen and protects him from mortal danger. Elen spun this tale after the warband raided her tiny hamlet, killing both her sisters. She lived only because she was able to save Owain. She continues to live as long as Owain lives. It is a precarious life she leads ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A testament to good writing is that you feel a genuine empathy and attachment to the characters. You get upset when bad things happen to them and you feel joy when things go well. That is how I felt regarding the main characters in J. Anderson Coats new novel Spindle and Dagger. Set in 11th century Wales, the story follows Elen a Welsh peasant whose family a few years before had been slaughtered in front of her by the soldiers of a Welsh Prince. She herself is then raped by the same soldiers and ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
*This book was provided by the publisher to give an honest review*

If you love bloody, historical fiction with fierce heroines then this book is for you!

This was an enjoyable and short read. I don't read much historical fiction but the author wrote the story well of a girl named Elen who spun a lie that Owain will get protection from Saint Elen if he keeps her name safe. The writing was different and not in a bad way. You can tell the author made it understandable for readers but also put some
Rachel Feeck
A quiet story one girl become woman finding a place for herself admist unglorious medieval realities.

When raiders slaughtered Elens family, she traded desperate promises for a chance to live. Owain ap Cadwgan would never fall to the sword, so long as he kept the blessing of Saint Elen by protecting her the girl who bore her name. So says Elen, and to her relief, Owain believes. But as the years pass, Elen begins to wonder if it would have been better to have never made the bargain at all.

Zoe L.
Mar 02, 2020 added it
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
Bethany Swafford
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
After a warband burned her home, killed her family, and assaulted her, Elen did what she had to do to protect herself. She healed Owain ap Cadwagan and spun a lie that said Saint Elen would keep the man safe from harm as long as the saint's namesake (Elen herself) was kept safe and close. She has a kind of life but after three years, she begins to envision a new life for herself.

I'm not going to lie. Parts of this story were difficult to get through. The language is more modern than I would have
This book would be great for anyone who likes historical fiction, war, kings and queens, and vengeance. What I personally liked about this book was the relationships Elen created, and how even though she was in tricky, anxiety-inducing situations, she still managed to figure out how to overcome the situation. I also really enjoyed reading about Wales in the 1100s. I have never had the pleasure of doing so! And, the cover is gorgeous. I love the colors and how it is laid out.

The only thing I did
Jessica Harrison
3.5 Stars

Spindle and Dagger is a dark tale. Its set in a violent time of history where death, destruction and rape (never described in detail) were more common than not think Outlander but set 600 years prior. If any of these elements are triggers for you, then you should not read this book.

Even though its told in first person, Spindle and Dagger almost feels like a nonfiction work. Although historians believe Owain probably did abduct Nest, Elens story is fictional. Perhaps this is why it took
S. Smith
In the violent world of 12th century Britain few places are safe, as teenage Elen learns when her homestead is attacked by a Welsh warband and her family is slaughtered. She survives the horror by quick thinking and a lie, claiming that her success in healing wounds sustained by the young warlord was due to her mystical connection with Saint Elen, who will continue to protect the warrior so long as he keeps earthly Elen close and safe. Her warrior acquiesces and she becomes his companion, but ...more
The Kawaii Slartibartfast
I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked this one! It's the story of Elen whose family is attacked and killed by Invaders. She heals one of them and claims that he can't die as long as he's under her protection.

She has to keep up this like to save herself and while grieving the loss of her family.

Elen's tactics and cunning are really interesting to read about admidst the action. Sometimes it seemed to drag a little but if you keep at
Dorothy Winsor
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh holy moly, this was good. Its historical fiction set in early 12th century Wales. Elen, the central character, had the bad luck to live in the path of a warband which slaughtered her family and took her with them after she healed their leader. She convinces him she did it through the intercession of her namesake saint, and that she can keep him safe if no harm comes to her. This book takes place three years down the line and chronicles how she searches for the means to escape when the man who ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 if you are putting a gun to my head with the stars.

Spindle and Dagger is a solid alternative history book for those looking for a YA novel that falls on the younger side on the YA spectrum

The female lead is definitely a strong character and the history is well research and grounded. The narrative and dialogue is done well and make the story fun, albeit it can be off in pacing at times.

However, the YA space is in need of YA books that fall on this side of the YA category. It is refreshing to
Samantha Hastings
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A unique and thought-provoking read told by a young woman trying to survive in Wales in 1109. Elens home and family were destroyed by a warband. For three years, shes managed to survive by claiming the leader of the warband, Oswain, is blessed by St. Elen and wont be harmed while Elen is near. Oswain kidnaps and rapes the wife of a rival and takes her children. Elen has to decide if shes willing to risk more than surviving. (Elen has been sexually assaulted as well, but the details arent ...more
Brynn Gibson
I was super excited to receive this free advanced digital copy of Spindle and Dagger. It has words or phrases written in Welch. There is a glossary at the front to help explain it also. I'm not giving up, but there are soooo many typos. Between the missing letters and the dialect, it's hard to stay in the story. I want to continue it, but this may be a scenario where I will wait for the finished copy.
Brynn Gibson
Mar 04, 2020 marked it as to-read
I was super excited to receive this free advanced digital copy of Spindle and Dagger. It has words or phrases written in Welch. There is a glossary at the front to help explain it also. I'm not giving up, but there are soooo many typos. Between the missing letters and the dialect, it's hard to stay in the story. I want to continue it, but this may be a scenario where I will wait for the finished copy.
Katie Sholty
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me a copy of Spindle and Dagger in exchange for an honest review.

Spindle and Dagger is a sweeping Welsh tale that pulls you into Elen's tale, as she fights to find a better place in her harsh reality. The research that J. Anderson Coats did to write this comes to life in her rich writing style. This book is great for fans of, Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young..
Tayler Hill
Spindle and Dagger
I love old UK so I was excited for this book, but it fell a bit flat for me. I liked the plot, but thought the plot could have been executed better with more details and I liked the wide variety of characters but the main female character annoyed me at times with her contradictions. The ending was predictable. I also got an e-arc from Net Galley and it was full of typos which made reading it not as pleasant.
Nov 10, 2019 marked it as to-read
This book reminds me so much of Juliet Marillier, who I love with all my heart, so, of course, I'm excited about it.

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Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent historical fiction, well researched and engrossing.
I loved the strong MC and the realistic descriptions of the historical background.
It's a story that can be brutal at time but also fascinating.
A good read, recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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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 ...more

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