Tuesday, August 7, 2012

tara recommends (with some reservation) The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

I love books and will happily read almost anything that comes my way, but I have always been drawn to historical fiction.  There is nothing quite like stepping into the past through a well-crafted story.  Whether it is The Witch of Blackbird Pond or Bud, Not Buddy – a new era is just a few pages away. 

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up The Wicked and the Just, but if there is anything better than historical fiction, for me it is European historical fiction – so, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  Set in 13th century English-occupied Wales, Cecily and her father move from England to enjoy the opportunities given to those willing to settle in a land still socially unstable, where relationships between the English and Welsh are uneven and strained.

This story presents a well-developed picture by alternating voices between two girls – one Welsh and the other English.  Their voices counterbalance the attitudes of the time well and by using some Old-English and Welsh language you feel immersed in their world (sometimes, I was a bit distracted by the unfamiliar words, but overall it made the story more real).

Cecily opens the story as an entitled and unhappy girl who has been forced to moved from her home and is trying to make the best of it in her own way.  Because she has been taught that she is better than the people of Wales, she comes across as cocky, naïve, and sometimes just mean.  As she interacts with Gwenhyfar, the servant girl (who also shows a strong will and spitefulness), a recurring theme of “justice for those who deserve it” emerges.

I liked the historical feel of the story.  The unique relationship between the two girls was fun to explore and the fact that neither girl was particularly likeable at the beginning made them seem more real as the book ends.

As a caution, this story is not a light one and contains some strong language and adult situations (including murder, rape and other sexual situations) that would make me hesitant to recommend it to anyone under a mature 16.

The Wicked and the Just
by J. Anderson Coats
published by Harcourt Children's Books 
April 2012
Recommended for young adult readers


  1. Intrigued by the premise of two young women in humbled circumstances trying, with varying degrees of success at times, to fit into a new situation, I started this book, and almost immediately the voices of Cecily and Gwenhyfar drew me into the story. While neither is wholly likable, they are both sympathetic characters, and I found myself alternately commiserating with and despising them. What I liked most was the restraint the author showed in the characters' development. Their transformations throughout the book were authentic and promised that change would continue beyond the final page.

  2. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

  3. Since the start of the book, I found that it was very hard to tell who the character was while changing back and forth between the two girls. The fonts were so similar, and that was the only way to tell the difference. But, after a while, I learned to tell--by the way they both spoke--who was talking. I thought that both of the girls were annoying the whole time. However, I really enjoyed the book. I would be a little careful when suggesting it to my friends though . . . it does have some "iffy" parts . . .