October 28, 2011
The Copper Sign by Katia Fox
This was a pretty interesting book. For some reason I had it in my mind as a fantasy, but I'd actually probably consider it historical fiction. Regardless, it had a strong main character and a compelling storyline.
Ellenweore is a young girl who often works in the blacksmith shop with her father. Her mother is cruel to her and when Ellen catches her dallying with a local knight, she has to run for safety as she knows she'll be killed for the knowledge. Dressed as a boy she finds work in a blacksmith's shop who does a lot of sword smithing and apprentices herself on. She still remains as a boy though as women are not allowed to enter that field. But something happens there as well and through her life, despite being talented in smithing, Ellen doesn't seem to be able to stay in one place as long. Add to that a half brother who doesn't realize they're related and who wants Ellen all to himself, and things are surely complicated for her. All she dreams about is forging a sword for the King, but it seems unlikely that she will ever have a chance to do so with so many things going against her.
Ellen is an interesting character. Sometimes I liked her, sometimes I didn't. She had a tendency to be harsh for no particularly good reason (or at least a reason that wasn't explained fully) and at other times she could be extremely understanding. She also had some weaknesses despite being a strong female character so that made her realistic as well. The men in the novel varied, I liked Isaac despite his foolishness but the rest of the men seemed to undergo drastic personality changes and become something completely unlike what they had started out as. True this can happen in real life, but no to the extent it does in this book. The other side characters were nice though and Jean especially was a favorite for his stolid ways.
There are some elements in this book that are supposedly pulled right from history; however, I am no historian so I couldn't begin to say whether or not they are accurate. But it seemed ok to me. I do like that Fox chose to have a woman character doing out of gender things in a time where that was a little tougher to do. And its kind of a rag to riches story as well which is always charming. The translation (as this book was not originally in English) seemed to be just fine and the story came out clearly without anything seeming lost. There are some harsher elements in this story like death, rape, and miscarriage and while its not overly described it is not minimized either.
Definitely a good story with a strong female protagonist. If more of her works are translated I will keep a look out for Katia Fox.
The Copper Sign