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March 25, 2020

Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats ~ a Review

by MK French

Elen had survived her family's destruction at the hands of Owain ap Cadwgan by claiming that as long as he keeps her safe with him, Saint Elen would prevent his death. In the three years that followed, she had survived. Now it's 1109 in Wales and Owain kidnapped Nest, the wife of a Norman lord, and her three children. This is the start of all-out war, and Elen's careful survival is coming apart. Now she has to figure out who she is truly loyal to: the one that led to the murder of her family and her assault, or to the one person that showed her kindness and wants what's best for her.

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March 2020; Candlewick; 978-1536207774
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); historical fiction
This is a vivid picture of how to live in Medieval era Wales, and in the afterward it's explained that the novel is fleshing out the barest hint of historical reference to the real Nest and Owain ap Cadwgan. The life of Wales was a harsh one in that time, as different territories had different rulers. England was a tangled mess of rulers as well, so warbands in Wales was a real aspect of trying to control territory. This led to chaos, especially if the head of warbands didn't rein in their next in command. With Elen's lies, Owain believes himself invincible. He breaks traditional hospitality rules of the warbands and hostages, disobeys his father the King, and takes no one else's counsel.

Women at this point in time generally were considered no more than wives or daughters, and rarely were allowed to take on power in their own right. This is why Elen had to lie to Owain to secure her place with him, even though it wasn't an actual place. She wants to live, and that forces her into an odd place that isn't formally delineated. Nest, regal even in captivity, is a strong figure and clever enough to try to see her own way out. Elen finds kinship with her, and for the first time allows herself to dream of more than surviving the day. I enjoyed the friendship the two of them forged, and that Elen was stronger than she gave herself credit for. Not to spoil the ending of the book, but her journey was full of surprises until she finds a place where she can feel truly safe. I grew to like her over the course of the novel, and she certainly deserved to find that happiness.

Buy Spindle and Dagger at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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