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Spindle and Dagger

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3.46  ·  Rating details ·  268 ratings  ·  106 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 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
...more
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Published March 10th 2020 by Candlewick
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Average rating 3.46  · 
Rating details
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Tatiana
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 account
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Celia McMahon
Feb 18, 2020 marked it as to-read
Far too many typos in the e-galley. I’ll pick up up again when the final version is published.
Haley~
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was okay. Not bad but not great. It was short and simple, not much world building or depth to it. I think the author writes Elen’s trauma really well, I liked that. But honestly I feel like the book didn’t really have a point? Not much is resolved? Trying to say this without spoilers— Elen gets to a place the end. But none of what’s going on in the background is resolved? I mean I guess Elen doesn’t really care about that. But eh.
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 Clare’s 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 leader’s life and cr
...more
Kelly
Mar 22, 2020 marked it as dnf
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
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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.
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Chelsie
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 2.5 stars
Trigger Warnings for this book: rape/sexual assault, kidnapping

I don't know why, but I could've sworn this was more of a fantasy book. It's not at all. It's 100% historical fiction, which is probably the genre I read the least because it simply doesn't interest me. Please keep that in mind as you read my thoughts on this book.

So, brief summary. The year is 1109. Elen's family was murdered 3 years ago by Owain's warband. In order to avoid the same fate, she convinces him that if
...more
Stephenie
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 hopef
...more
Caity
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed the way the author used history to frame the story. The main characters were well written and showed both how women were undervalued and how they could use the influence they had to change their lives. Overall it was an engaging read.
Elizabeth Kenning
May 15, 2021 rated it did not like it
Well I almost made it halfway. This book was so hard to read, with the main character having frequent flashbacks that blend with the present in a jarring, confusing way.

The main character herself was very bland. What was her motivation? Vengeance? Self-preservation? Apathy? Who knows. Who cares.
Sionna
Mar 18, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
The review copy I was given has so many typos-- mostly the first few letters of a word missing, so I'll wait to read the finished copy. It seems interesting?? The 5 or so pages I read, but I'm spending a lot of time decoding words. ...more
Shay
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a Celtic history freak, this was spectacular. Its not often we get Welsh tales and stories, so having a story not based in just Ireland or Scotland was amazing!

The warbands were done really well, and the author did a good job playing on the beliefs and superstitions of the time.

I also really enjoyed the trip to Ireland, it all felt pretty on par. Obviously it was not perfect, but how could it be with what happened to the Guals. Much of what we know of them is twisted and by word of mouth.

But
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Bee
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Bee
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. ...more
Laurie
I received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

2.5

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 t
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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
...more
Emma
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
...more
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 an
...more
Kat
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
I REALLY wanted to get into this one!

Unfortunately the writing style completely left me in the dust. At the front of the book, there is a pronunciation guide that is supposed to help with the reading process. But it just wasn’t enough for me.

I didn’t realize that the entire book was going to be set with a heavy, yet true, Welsh presence, so as I was trying to get into the story, I saw myself distracted by the writing itself.

While the plot and characters were intriguing and created a world I want
...more
Dorothy Winsor
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh holy moly, this was good. It’s 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 wh ...more
Mair
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like to watch characters fold themselves like cards repeatedly due to mental trauma
Well...I will start the review by saying that I am not sure why this book is marked as YA. Is it because, apart from one instance, there isn't any death shown? Perhaps the accessible language? I hope so, because the tag really only applies if you squint so hard you can only see "isn't death" and "-ssible language".

So what makes this book so dark? Enjoying the story through the eyes of a person suffering from severe PTSD and a sprinkle of Stockholm syndrome on top is a start. This is the first bo
...more
J.L. Slipak
Jan 06, 2021 rated it did not like it
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 spu
...more
Tamara
*I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

3.5 stars.

This book was rooted in history and a number of the characters were actual people, which made it even more interesting to read. But I am so grateful to not have lived in Wales during the 12th Century. I'm fairly certain that some of my ancestors did, though. I appreciated the brief Welsh pronunciation guide at the beginning of the book, but I constantly struggled with y and w. (And since it was an ebo
...more
Katie P.
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 ch
...more
Amanda
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy for review.

I went into this thinking it would lean slightly on the fairytale end but it's pretty solidly historical fiction. I liked this enough to read it all in one day. The characters were fine. Seeing as how they are ripped from history, most felt true to the source. I, however, know pretty much nothing of medieval Welsh history. There is a decent amount of action, given that we mainly follow Owain and his teulu (war band). They
...more
Ricki_Reads
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 an ...more
Stephanie Tournas
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Seventeen year old Elen belongs to the warbander Owain, who murdered her family three years ago. In order to survive the assault, she ministered to his injury, and told him that she could keep him from harm as long as she was safe, due to her prayerful relationship with her saintly namesake, Saint Elen. In this setting of warring violent micro-kingdoms in twelfth century Wales, Elen is as safe as anyone can be. But she cannot stop reliving the horrific slaughter of her family at the hands of Owa ...more
Kara ✨
May 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erik
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 a ...more
Thindbooks
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 12
...more
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J. Anderson Coats has received two Junior Library Guild awards and earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, the Horn Book Review, and Shelf Awareness. Her newest books are Spindle and Dagger, a historical YA set in medieval Wales that deals with power dynamics and complicated relationships, and The Green Children of Woolpit, a creepy middle-grade fantasy inspired by real histori ...more

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