Book Review: The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coats

12180253Title: The Wicked and The Just
Author: J. Anderson Coats
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Mystery
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 17th 2012
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

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.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction novels, then you’ll absolutely love The Wicked and The Just. Set in 13th century Wales, this book is a well-researched, vivid account of daily life for the rich and the poor in Wales when it was occupied by England. What makes this book brilliant and unique is it’s historical correctness, and its main characters. This book is told from the alternating points of view of rich English girl Cecily and her servant, Welsch Gwen.

Cecily is a stuck up brat. She’s not entirely terrible, because she doesn’t intend to hurt people’s feelings by treating everyone she comes across as her servant, but it’s close. I had the feeling that more often than not she was just too preoccupied to worry about other people’s feelings. But Cecily is also pretty hilarious, although she doesn’t try to be. She’s clumsy, downright idiotic at times, and her idea of right and wrong is so messed up I couldn’t help but laugh at her expense. She’s not a likeable character, but I applaud the author for choosing an unlikeable heroine. I didn’t grow to like her by the end, but that still didn’t take out how good this book was, or how much I enjoyed the story. It wouldn’t have been the same if the main character had been someone I could easily like. It’s brave when authors use unlikeable protagonists, but it’s astonishing when they succeed in writing an awesome book featuring said protagonist.

The other main character, Gwen, is the polar opposite. Forced to work for every penny, focused on surviving life day by day, she is hardened by poverty, and has a grim and bitter look on life. But who can blame her? When she’s forced to work as a servant for the stuck up English girl, Cecily, Gwen’s life goes from bad to worse. When the girl’s life begins to interweave, my initial thoughts were they’d become friends. Although they learn to accept each other somewhat along the way, they never make it to friendship and I’m actually relieved. It would’ve been a bit too far-stretched. And not every book needs a happy ending where everyone’s besties and the bad guys have been defeated.

What I enjoyed most about this book besides the story, which is surprising and interesting and has a large number of twists and turns that keep up the pace, is the writing style. It’s spot on. Never too descriptive, never too lyrical, but always spot on. Then why the four and not five stars? At times, I felt like the story dragged on a bit. I would’ve liked more action and drama. But overall, this is a great read, with awesome characters and a historical setting that’s not overused at all.

Comments

  1. Historical fiction is my favorite, and I’ve had this on my list for a while. Thanks — great review!

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