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4.1 out of 5 stars52
4.1 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I can see where the author was trying to go with this good, a plucky heroine who has a dream that she wishes to fulfil, namely becoming a sword smith, a dream that she cannot fulfil due to her gender.

It should be a winner. Strong female lead, historical setting. But it all falls flat, the book contains cliché after cliché, The wicked lord who does her wrong, the flight from danger, the good man who she ends up with.

I found some parts of the plot to be trite and over done. I did manage to read it but I did not enjoy it, which is strange as I am a historical fiction fan. This one was a miss for me
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a young girl Ellenweore loved working in her father's smithy - and frequently wished she'd been born a boy. So when she's forced to leave home that's what she does, disguising herself in order to become a smith's apprentice. A new master and a move to Normandy not only hones Ellen/Alan's skills, but also tempers her ambition - to forge a sword for the king.

But Ellen faces a hard road ahead, filled with love, loss and knights both wicked and beloved. If it's hard for a woman smith to gain the recognition she deserves, it's nothing compared to just living some times.

A well-researched medieval tale with a strong female lead and everything you could ever wish to know about sword-smithing, I agree with other reviewers that there does seem to be something missing here. For all the research and detail there is very little atmosphere - which could be a translation issue. The plot is also a little lacklustre as Ellen traipses here and there, never really learning from her mistakes.

At the end I was left feeling indifferent. Yes, Ellen does develop into a stronger person, but I never really liked her, and I wasn't sure what all the point of it was. It's all just a bit humdrum - the true action happens off-stage, without having any true impact on the story. There are plenty of good - even excellent - historical novelists writing out there already. This book in this form sadly doesn't really compare.
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VINE VOICEon 10 February 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I struggled with this book. The heroine is a plucky lady, but that was about all. I felt it was far too long and dragged in a lot of places. It just seemed that the author lost her way in places. Not my favourite I am afraid. Also the font in the book was far too small, hence the reason a kindle.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This lengthy saga, which was translated from German as part of the Amazon Crossings programme, covers the life of Eleanweore for a period of a little over twenty years in the latter half of the 12th Century. Starting in East Anglia, Ellen is forced to flee from her home aged 12 and, initially disguised as a boy, she pursues her ambition of becoming a leading swordsmith. The adventure moves from Suffolk around various parts of France and then back to East Anglia.

I enjoyed this tale and got through this long book quite quickly as it grabbed my attention sufficiently that I really wanted to know what was going to happen to Ellen next. In some respects it is fairly simplistic as we have Thibault, a good, old fashioned villain who pops up to give Ellen trouble at intervals and in many ways it is a clear cut issue of black versus white or good versus evil. Personally I found the first half of the book more interesting than the second as there was quite a lot more action, and once Ellen is back in England, the pace seems to slow considerably. I did not find the very end of the book worked as well as most of the rest of this story. The author first gives us a fairly lengthy history lesson to set the final scene, which she does not feel the need to do elsewhere, then efficiently sets about tying up all the loose ends. However, it all seemed just a little bit too tidy for my taste.

I thought this was generally well translated from the original German, although from time to time little modernisms crept in which seemed just a little out of keeping. Ellen makes a convincing heroine and is a strong, ambitious woman, living at a time when there was strong and fairly widespread prejudice against women doing much apart from looking after the home and family. Although bad things, sometimes very bad things, happen to her, this is one of those stories where you know she is going to ultimately triumph. It certainly abounds with unlikely coincidences, although I did not feel that these features in any way detracted from the story.

I understand that the other two books in the trilogy, The Silver Falcon and The Golden Throne, will be translated in due course, and I look forward to reading them. The Silver Falcon at least picks up with the same characters which we got to know in The Copper Sign.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 December 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mid 12th Century England and 12-year-old Ellenweore helps her father in his smithy and has designs on becoming a sword smith, a trade only practiced by males. Seeing her mother in a compromising position with a local lord, Ellen is traumatised enough to run away. Disguised as a boy, she travels to Ipswich, gets a job as an apprentice smithy and ends up in France making swords. Her disguise compromised, she once again flees into the country where she is deflowered against her will, becomes a murder suspect, learns to be a goldsmith, falls in love, is saved by a 'knight in shining armour', and still harbours an ambition of making a sword for the king.

Originally issued in its native German, the first instalment of Katia Fox's Medieval trilogy is a rather cumbersome story of an unusual subject of the time; a female's attempt to be acknowledged as an equal and not just "subordinate to the man". Whilst the author is to be applauded for tackling something different, the product suffers as a result. Yes, her research into the world of the blacksmith and the period (it begins in July 1161 and goes through to the summer of 1183) is obviously in-depth, and the Norman knights such as Thomas de Coulonces and William Marshal existed, as do the places mentioned, but the book suffers from far too much elaboration and superfluous text. Maybe the translation was the problem, causing it to be longer than intended (630 pages make for a rather hefty book), and for it having some content that might have the reader questioning certain aspects. Was the phrase "shacked up with" in use 850 years ago? I also doubt whether words such as cookies and mum were around then. It might be the problem with modern English (and Fox could hardly have written this in the language of the time, otherwise it would have been impenetrable), but phrases and words like that should have been either changed to something that kept with the time or removed in an attempt to keep it authentic and doing away with the Americanisms. Diapers, indeed!

What could have made for a decent read is also spoilt by an absence of anything that transports you back to the time in question. There's nothing included that conveys the atmosphere. Descriptions of a blacksmith's workplace and the making of swords and scabbards are undoubtedly of the highest order but I didn't feel as if my imagination was taken back to the age, and that is one criteria historical novels need to do. Having said that, this isn't a book I can say I actually disliked, as there is much here that could have been turned into something worthwhile.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
1161. Ellensweore (Ellen) vows to become a swordsmith - aware of formidable obstacles ahead if to succeed in an exclusively man's world. 600+ pages chronicle her struggles over the next twenty two years - the challenges, disappointments, tragedies, triumphs. Always the excellence of her craftsmanship must be its own recommendation - copper sign the emblem on all her work.

An intriguing, unusual theme. The reader certainly ends up knowing far more about what being a swordsmith entails. Ellen herself comes over as resourceful and spirited, but the tale itself is curiously uninvolving. The translation has something to do with this, one often aware of awkwardnesses. The main weakness, though, is more basic. Everything requires a far firmer hand. Too many episodes simply jog along, various creaking contrivances then introduced to advance the plot. Cue for crazed OTT villain Thibault to turn up again - he only around to bully, rape, and generally create havoc.

One also wonders if impact would have been increased with an "I" narrative, everything described by Ellen herself - the style thus more direct instead of everything being reported.

A tale of great fortitude, but also of unnecessary length. Some moments shine. (I found myself caring what Ellen's hard taskmaster Donovan thought of her very first sword.)

Good in parts but overall disappointing. I wanted to like it more than I did.
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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This epic work of historical fiction tells the story of Ellen, a young girl who is desperate to be a blacksmith. Beginning at her childhood and following her for some 20 years the story is both engrossing and compelling. Along the way we are introduced to various lovers and her enemy, Thibault a twisted man who is obsessed with her. Since this is a translation it wouldn't be fair to comment on the writing style too much however the book is fast paced and exciting with the story wizzing along nicely. I found this book really exciting and was totally absorbed by it. I especially love the bit covering the tournaments and i must say that i never got bored whilst reading it and for a book as big as this one (some 600 pages) that to me is quite an achievement. The characters aren't anything special or unique, and there are definitely alot of cliches but for me this didn't prevent the book from being immensely fun and readable. Similarly the feminist slant to the work may grate on some peoples nerves however i don't feel like it was over done. Overall this is a fun book, impressive in scope and clearly well researched and anyone who enjoys hefty but not overly taxing historical fiction will love this. I believe this book is actually the first of a trilogy, and i personally would love to read more of this authors work.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a bit of an epic and centres around a girl, who disguises herself as a boy to train as a blacksmith/swordsmith. It tries to evoke the spirit of Ken Follet (in Pillars of the Earth) but is just too unbelievable. I enjoyed it, but there were points at which I just got frustrated with it.
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The main protagonist, Ellen, is the blacksmith's daughter in high medieval England. The story revolves around her desire to become a master swordmaker - unprecidented for a woman in this society.

Ellen is required to disguise herself as a boy in order to learn the basics of her trade but when she later reveals herself as a woman her troubles really get going.

The detail of daily life and metal crafting in the middle-ages is well0-researched and described in an entertaining manner - difficult (I imagine) to do. There is enough intrigue along the way to prevent the book from becoming too heavy, but the lack of excitement and true peril is disappointing as is the lack of reference to the importance of the church and religeon at this time.

Overall I do not think this book would appeal to anyone but those who enjoy historic romance for its own sake.
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on 19 December 2011
Not a literary review person, but just wanted to say I quite enjoyed it. I liked the character of Ellen. She is a plucky lady. Would be more than happy to read other stuff from same author.
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