Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house. Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl. While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.
The Wicked and the Just
Cecily and Gwenhwyfar both had some major flaws, enough to make them somewhat unlikable to me. There were times when they would start to change and turn things around, but then they'd go back to where they started. I kept waiting for the two to move past their prejudices instilled by the different backgrounds they had and create a bond, but it never really happened. There wasn't as much character development for either character as I would've liked to see.
On the other hand, I really loved how J. Anderson Coats dropped you in the middle of this time period and this place and was unforgiving with it. Slang and terms and the Welsh language were all used. If you didn't understand something, it was rarely explained. It really helped immerse me into the setting. She was also very descriptive, so I could easily imagine everything going on and I had to figure out what different things meant for myself.
Coats is also an excellent writer, though it was hard to tell at times if this was a middle grade or a young adult book. The characters could be as petty and bratty as a character I would expect to read about in an MG book, but some of the descriptions and words and ideas were more like a YA book. That was a bit of an issue, but otherwise, it was just good writing that I enjoyed.
The story was really interesting, covering a topic I knew nothing about. I'd known there was some issues between the Welsh and the British, but I hadn't known any details or times or places. The reality was much darker and more intense than I would've realized. The treatment on both sides was nasty and disturbing. It was a learning experience as well as being entertained.
Overall, The Wicked and the Just was a really good book, but I wasn't as satisfied as I wanted to be with it. However, this is definitely a book for those who love historical fiction and rebellions.
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.