Review: The Wicked and the Just

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Wicked and the JustThe Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on April 17, 2012
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 345
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

This powerful historical fiction debut, set in medieval Wales, follows Cecily whose family is lured by cheap land and the duty of all Englishman to help keep down the “vicious” Welshmen, and Gwenhwyfar, a Welsh girl who must wait hand and foot on her new English mistress. As issues of prejudice, heritage, and occupation come to a head, both girls have to find a way to survive.

First Sentence: “Tonight at supper, over capon and relish, my father ruined my life.”

The first thing that struck me about this book was what a complete brat Cecily is. I guess this should not have been surprising with a name like Cecily (literary reference: The Importance of Being Earnest). The book begins with her complaints about having to move to Wales (god forbid!), where there will be a bunch of savages and not a single marriage prospect. Admittedly, moving is a huge deal when you’re young and will have to leave behind everything you know, but it is does not make you exactly “like the saints who were sent into the desert to be killed by infidels.”

Of course, the second chapter comes from the viewpoint of a Welsh girl who has to serve this English family. After that first chapter, it is so satisfying that this girl calls her a brat. Spot on! Gwenyfar and I spent at least half of the book wanting to do nothing more than slap Cecily silly. Thankfully, she does grow as a person somewhat throughout the book.

However, she doesn’t necessarily make as much progress as I was expecting. The way things play out is likely more realistic. Having to read so many pages from her insufferable perspective was definitely a pain, and I wondered why Coats set the book up that way. Eventually, I did figure it out, and felt kind of dumb for not having caught on earlier. Oh well. Cecily’s character being the way it is shows starkly just how terrible the situation in Wales is, if even she can feel pity for the locals.

Except for the narrators, I loved The Wicked and the Just. The historical period and subject covered, that of the English domination of Wales, is one I have never encountered in fiction before. Getting to learn something from fiction is always a pleasure. Who says you can only learn from non-fiction? To those people, I say PSHAW.

Unlike a lot of YA fiction, Coats focuses on social issues and family relationships, rather than romance. There are some elements of romance, but they definitely take a back seat, and aren’t even necessarily romantic, so much as part of the social order. I definitely recommend this for readers in search of realistic, well-written historical fiction.

Favorite Quote:

“God save me ere I have any babies. They are grabby, clingy creatures who steal your figure and always want a ribbon or a wooden sword. And who sometimes make you die bearing them.”

3 responses to “Review: The Wicked and the Just”

  1. YES! I wanted to deck Cecily most of the time while reading this. And okay, while she makes some character growth, I was like yeah, she’s still annoying.

    And Gwen (shortened because I legit can’t spell her full name) I loved her and that she was a survivor and taking care of family. I definitely had a lot of understanding for her resentment.

    AND THE BEST PART? ALL OF THE HISTORY. I am such a nerd for historical fiction. And like you? I like learning things while I read. Yay learning. 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Agreed with all of that. I just don’t know why Gwen couldn’t have had more of the story. It was legit like 80% Cecily. I would have been happier if I’d spent less of the story wanting to bitch slap someone. Increase it to 50/50 and this probably would have gotten a 4.5/5.

      I think I respect somewhat that Cecily didn’t grow too much as a character, because that’s what someone would do irl, let’s be honest. BUT it was not nearly so much fun to read. haha.

    • Christina says:

      Also, she’s another one of these characters that thinks she’s a great person, but totally is not. I HATE that. Like, fine, be a bitch, but own it. Then I’ll think you’re sassy and great.

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