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.
I'm not sure what I expected from this story, but it's most certainly not the impressive two sided view of a difficult piece of medieval history which I came away with.
To begin with I was impressed with Coats use of voice. Cecily is 100% relatable teen with a 1290's vocabulary and slang.
Tonight at supper, over capon and relish, my father ruined my life.Her use of language and voice swept me up into a time and place which would otherwise be difficult to imagine. Middle Ages Wales is not part of the average teens, or adults, for that matter, history background; but Coats made it easily and quickly accessible with her no-nonsense writing.
He smiled big, scrubbed his lips with the end of his cloak, an said, "We're moving house."
"Thank the Blessed Virgin!" I sat up straighter and smoothed my kirtle. "I'm weary to thimbles of Coventry. Will we be back at Edgeley Hall in time for the Maypole?"
"No, sweeting. We're not going back to Edgeley. We're moving to Caernarvon."
"What in God's name is that?"
"It's a town in Wales."
I'm in my chamber now. I will never speak to him again.
Unless he buys me a new pelisson for the journey.
As the story unfolds, and the players develop, I was impressed by how unlikeable both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar became. The back and forth between them, with occasional flashes of understanding and camaraderie but with a constant jostling for superiority and control so beautifully illustrated the greater problem between the Welsh and English that I absolutely didn't care that I wasn't really rooting for either of them. I was so fascinated by their complex relationship, I was completely undisturbed by my lack of caring for pretty much all the characters other than the dog Salvo and Mistress Tipley. An unusual prospect I would normally bemoan in a book, however it served a purpose, and it worked. My wavering dislike for both parties, mixed with understanding and the occasional redeeming moment kept me very unbiased about the outcome (Well, except for when it came to Salvo. Seriously, damn dog broke my heart.), which in the end made this book the perfect telling of a historical moment.
The best part is, by introducing these people to the telling, lacing through their petty, and not so petty issues, their relationships and their disappointments, Coats has taken a dry piece of very old history and given it life. I would imagine The Wicked and the Just will inspire a number of teens, and likely adults, to dig a bit deeper into obscure Welsh/English history, and that is always a score as far as I'm concerned.
If you're looking to mix up your reading, step away from the love triangles and whet your palette on some history then look no further.
The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats
Published by Houghton Mifflin, April 17, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
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