The Copper Sign

Written by Katia Fox Lee Chadeayne (trans.)
Review by Justin M. Lindsay

When Ellen is forced to flee home, she must pretend to be a boy to pursue her life’s passion: to become a sword-smith. Her natural daring and tenacity bring her through innumerable obstacles and betrayal, and into the shop of a renowned blacksmith. Through her travels, both in England and on the Continent, she masters her trade and becomes acquainted with court life, complete with its high-living, politics, and intrigue. It is in court that she meets her love — and her mortal enemy.

The Copper Sign, set in the 12th century, has all the makings of an epic novel (including its length). It is rich in detail. The marketplaces, castles, and countryside are fleshed out and feel real. Fox has certainly done her research. Nowhere is this better shown than in her detailed description of sword-smithing, gold-smithing, and scabbard-making. By the end you’ll feel as though you might be able to make a sword yourself.

I struggled with some aspects of this book, including the stilted dialogue. It is a debut novel, and it shows in its earnestness and lack of subtlety. Fox leaves nothing to the reader’s imagination, including graphic sex and rape scenes, one only ten pages in. She explains every twist and turn and development, which left me frustrated and often rolling my eyes. Anachronistic phrases such as ‘heartthrob’ and ‘turned him on’ threatened to kick me out of the novel. The antagonist keeps reappearing in chances of fate that defy credulity, and the supposed love interest, William, is deplorable.

Nevertheless, I’ll peek at the sequel, The Silver Falcon, in the hopes that Fox will have come to trust the reader and avail herself of a strict editor.