Book Review: The Copper Sign

The Copper Sign, by Katia Fox

I can’t recall if this book was free or 0.99, but in either case, it’s a rip off. I like the cover of the book and that’s it.

The story is set in 12th century England and Normandy and follows the adventures of Ellen who is a blacksmith. Yes. Not just a blacksmith, but the most talented and awesome swordsmith ever to set foot anywhere ever in the world. She spends a few years disguised as a boy.

For a while, I was uncertain about how much a bad translation was affecting my reading of this book. (This novel was originally written in German.) As noted, the story is set in the 1100’s so I was utterly thrown by 20th century English idioms like this: “She’s pretty cute. Are you getting it on with her?”

The book is full of problems like this. I didn’t expect the story to be written in Middle English for heaven’s sake, but there was no attempt to give even the slightest flavor of historically appropriate language and patterns of thought. That, I decided, must be the fault of the translator, because, surely, the author didn’t plunk 21st century characters into the backdrop of the 12th century and go on her merry way with the tale.

I think I am wrong about that. When the book opens the protagonist (Ellen) is quite young. For that reason, and for quite a bit, I was not bothered by the unsophisticated world view of the narrative. Unfortunately, as Ellen grows up, there is no change in the character’s perceptions of anything. She’s mentally 8 years old her whole fucking life.

Sadly, in the English language version, this story is completely ridiculous. The author writes with no sophistication whatsoever. The story is historically, socially, legally and culturally inaccurate and there is zero nuance in any respect. Ellen is a classic “Mary Sue” character who overcomes obstacles and perils as if by magic, gathering friends everywhere. The villain is cardboard and might as well be twirling a mustache. In case you’re wondering, yes, he’s sexually perverted because 1) he’s a rapist and 2) when told Ellen is his half-sister, he doesn’t care. He still lusts after that magic hoo-haw.

The hero, of course, is a noble Gary Sue. blah blah blah.

This author desperately needs an editor and about 20 more drafts. And what a shame, because the story is ambitious. In the hands of a writer who has labored at her craft, as this author has not, the story would be wonderful. But isn’t. It’s awful.

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