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The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just

by J. Anderson Coats

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Not too sure whether i liked this book or not... I liked parts of it but it was awfully violent - needlessly at times. The characters were well written and well thought out but some of the things they did were horrid. And i didnt feel like the characters - especially the main female characters - didnt develop enough for my liking. ( )
  pickleroad | Nov 10, 2016 |
Painful. Brutal. Honest. A "she said/she said" where what is not said is just as tragically important as what is said- and done. The two protagonists are each other's antagonist, acting and reacting equally. What is survival? Is how you achieve survival more important than survival itself? ( )
  DeborahJ2016 | Oct 26, 2016 |
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group
Pub. Date: 4/17/2012
eBook courtesy of NetGalley

***Does contain spoilers***

The Wicked and the Just takes place in Wales during the late 13th Century, a period of time during which the English were “expanding” into new territory and forcing the Welsh into being governed by the English King. As is usually the case with oppressed individuals being told their loyalty is now to a foreign King, events simmer under the noses of the English who govern the Welsh, in the town of Caernarvon in this case, until eventually erupting into an explosion.

This is the town a young girl/young woman, Cecily, goes to live in when her father is given a position there. She regards it as temporary, until her Uncle dies and she and her father can return to England to the house and land she believes are properly theirs. Thrust into a place where even the language is incomprehensible to her, she is at loose ends. Cecily is a character that is sometimes very hard to like—she can be kind one moment and then terrible the next. She doesn’t understand the politics behind why life is the way it is in Caernarvon, that the young woman who is her servant was once just as proud and free as Cecily but is now living at Cecily’s whim. Gwenhwyfar is the flip side of Cecily, Gwynhyfar the oppressed, Cecily the oppressor. Cecily’s age is unclear, but in the 13th century, girls were treated as women much earlier than they are now. Cecily is a girl trying hard to be a woman but not succeeding. She is selfish and mostly blind to the plight of those around her. If she does see some wrong, she will sometimes address it, but sometimes will not even question it.

Gwenhwyfar, on the other hand, has been forced into reality and adulthood very early on. She and her younger brother Gruffydd have only each other—their mother is slowly dying through the course of the book. Their father has already died fighting the insurgence against the English when they originally occupied Caernarvon. Gwenhwyfar, aka Gwinny, has known what it is like to be the one at the top of the rungs as well. She knows exactly what is going on in Caernarvon, and is frustrated and worried that her brother Gruffydd’s involvement in rebellious groups will more than likely get him killed, the same thing that happened to their father.

An extreme example of Cecily’s self-indulgent, childish whims is her treatment of Gruffydd when he comes to work at their home and she recognizes him as the one who “looked” at her when she and her father first came to town—how dare a Welshman look at her, someone as low as him, daring to look at her. She treats him terribly and he ends up being terrified of her—she literally holds his life in her hands if she decides to complain to her father of him. The situation is more complicated than she realizes, and sends her and Gwinny into a tailspin of back and forth attempts at revenge, mostly on the part of Cecily setting out the cruelest tasks she can think of for Gwinny.

Cecily never quite sees what is wrong with the system in Caernarvon, that they aren’t taxed and the Welsh are, the Welsh have to pay a toll to get into the market, the English don’t. The Welsh are punished for any crime, where the English can literally get away with murder, especially if the person they’ve murdered is a Welshman. The English men rape the women and get away with it, something made painfully clear to her, and a situation Gwinny saves her from when the man in question starts to court Cecily.

When the Welsh do revolt, it is a hideous, bloody, and terrifying time. Cecily escapes, most of the English do not. Ironically, she is rescued by Gwinny and Gruffydd, the tables are turned, and Cecily is their slave, though she is allowed to send someone to try to contact her cousin to come and get her.

It is this experience, finally, that forces Cecily to finally understand and see what the English have done to the Welsh. Gwinny knows that the English will return, but hopefully they will be people who “see” as Cecily does now.

Cecily is presented at the end of the book as a young woman who has changed and been forced to grow. It is sad that the situation around her had to reach such an extreme peak before she could change. Gwinny, in the sections from her point of view, calls her “the brat,” and she is absolutely correct. It makes it hard to like her, connect with her, or identify with her. I do think it would have been easier if the sections coming from different characters’ points of view had been indicated, those are the sections of the characters I felt for the most. These characters, from whose point of view we see so little, are easier to identify with and care for than Cecily is. When I saw the world through Gwinny’s eyes, it only casts Cecily in an even worse light.

I have read books where the protagonist isn’t necessarily a very nice person, but as a reader I would struggle and try to find some redeeming qualities somewhere. Cecily does have a few of those moments, but not enough of them to make me like her better at the end of the book, or even feel badly for the way she is treated by Gwinny. I kept hoping I would like her, that she would do something bold and daring, but I think in the end she is most likely an accurate portrayal of many of the girls in her situation. By the end, it was truly a puzzling question—who was wicked and who was just? It seems as though the answer is no one. If that was Coats’ intention, then the book was very successful at carrying the point across—I felt a little numb at the end of it. Horrified to know that this took place, sickened by the politics that brought it about, while admiring the fact that Coats managed to evoke those emotions so effectively.

Maybe I am out of touch with other books specifically aimed at this age with similar content, and I know children are exposed to a much wider spectrum of violence that I was at 12, but I question the recommend age given in the book. If this were a movie, I think it could very possibly, given some of the situations (rape, beatings, hangings, the revolution at the end), be rated R. This is largely due to the level of description. I do know that I have read other books aimed at this age range that depicted similar types of events but not in such detail. I don’t disagree with the detail at all, just the recommended age.
( )
  waclements7 | Oct 27, 2015 |
This book is about two girls with different backgrounds that meet under pretty normal circumstances in medieval Wales (mid 1200s give or take). Cecily goes with her father to Wales to find a new way to maintain themselves since her uncle reclaimed his inheritance. While not as rich as the other families in the area she still finds a way to be super snotty and obnoxious about being better than the dirty vicious Welshman. She particularly singles out Gwenhyfar a Welsh maid in her new home. Gwenyfar or Gwennie if you must, absolutely hates working for Cecily but has to in order to maintain her insane mother and brother (who also happens to get singled out by Cecily as well). Oddly enough both girls have their fair share of injustices and eventually come to an understanding of each other’s lives by the end of the novel.
I usually don’t really read many YA historical fiction because they involve wuv twiangos that I find cheesy and stupido or they’re just poorly written. The Wicked and the Just is an exception to this trend. It’s got witty dialogue and surprisingly it’s not (subconsciously I suppose) modernized for the reader’s benefit which I really liked. I guess the reason I wasn’t too into it was because it was more of a narrative story than one with a huge plot and rising action in every turn but it was an extremely well written narrative to the point I could even imagine what the setting was like without having to do further research which other authors fail to do most times because they get entangled with the cons I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph.
I liked the protagonists of the novel yet at the same time I hated them. When this happens it usually means that it’s a really good book. It shows how human and to an extent relatable they are. Cecily’s snarky and sarcastic dialogue made me love her yet it was also her downfall and Gwennie’s high and mighty attitude made me hate her yet by the end it made me sympathize with her. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for sure.
Because this is more of a narrative it was extremely slow at the start but it progressively got interesting…But there was no real “action” until maybe the last 5 chapters. I would still suggest reading this if only just one time. ( )
  Jessika.C | Jun 23, 2014 |
Really good Medieval history, set in 13th century Wales. YA, so a fast read, and just as focused on Cecily and Gwinny's animosity and hopes and dreams as on the larger historical backdrop. Reading on kindle, the alternating perspectives were a little tough to pick up, but that was a formatting issue I think.

A bit of a bleak book, though. ( )
  ewillse | Mar 23, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547688377, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:17 -0400)

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.

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