Elen is an interesting character to follow. Told exclusively from her point of view, we quickly understand the precarious position that she is in. Three years prior to the start of the book, Elen's family were killed in a raid. The leader of the warband was injured, and Elen, not wanting to die, took a chance and healed him. Then she spun a lie, one that has kept her safe up to now: "Owain ap Cadwgan, son of the king of Powys, cannot be killed, not by blade nor blow nor poison. Owain ap Cadwgan has the protection of Saint Elen, as long as he keeps her namesake safe from harm and near him always." Elen lives her life daily praying for survival, that the truth will not come out.
As a result of this lie, Owain is reckless. He believes nothing can harm him. The code of ethics the warbands live by do not apply to him. This recklessness causes great fear for Elen because she relies solely on the warband for protection, yet if this lie is revealed, they will not spare her. When Owain abducts Nest, the wife of a neighboring lord, Elen's lies begin to unravel.
I like Nest. Elen is drawn to her. She sees Nest as regal and everything Elen's own life could have been if not for the raid. A friendship develops between the two. For the first time since Elen told the lie, she begins to feel hope for the future and to see a life for herself beyond the day to day survival.
Overall I enjoyed Spindle and Dagger. Elen is stronger than she believes, and her development throughout the book is interesting to read. I love Coats's attention to detail. The author doesn't attempt to romanticize the era, but instead shows the brutality of it through Elen's eyes. If you enjoy immersive stories and beautifully written literary fiction, I highly recommend it.
- Strong female lead