Apr 20, 2015

Welsh Week: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats - Review and Giveaway

The Wicked and the Just
By J. Anderson Coats

According to Cecily d’Edgely, life can’t get much worse. Her uncle has returned from the crusades and is now lord of the manor that is rightfully hers, meaning she is stuck in Coventry. She feels like her life is over. That is, until her father tells her they’ll be moving to a town called Caernarvon. In Wales.

Upon arriving in the Welsh town, Cecily soon finds out that town life is very different from what she is used to. Add the fact that Welsh walk around, infidels who are probably ready to murder her at any moment, and you’ve got the new definition of Hell. Gwenhwyfar, Gwinny for the English, is such a Welsh. She works at Cecily’s new house, simply trying to get by.

The story follows both women, one English and one Welsh, as they go about their lives in the 13th century town. There simply couldn’t be a bigger difference between the two kinds of people. The English are privileged, the Welsh are shunned from society. So, this raises a question. Can there ever be true justice in the town of Caernarvon?

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Review by Eline*

When I first read the description of this book I thought two girls, money and drama sounded a bit cliché. Have I ever been so wrong.

Cecily is probably the most arrogant and spoiled character I have read a book about, and yet somehow I didn’t mind at all. Growing up as close to nobility as you can get, she is used to being catered for and getting everything she wants in the blink of an eye. Nobody has ever told her no, simply because nobody ever had to, and this clearly shows in her character. Gwinny is a bit of a mystery. She is sarcastic and witty and refuses to let the brat, as she refers to Cecily, get in her way. It isn’t until later that we start to uncover more about this mysterious girl, both about her personality and her past, and it all starts to make sense. She works hard and earns as much money as she possibly can, simply to be able to pay her taxes and take care of her mother and brother. No matter how much time she spends around the English, though, she remains Welsh and she is proud of it.

The thing I found absolutely fascinating about this book is the way the feud between the English and the Welsh is portrayed. There is a clear hatred between them, and through following characters on both sides, you get some valuable insights into what life must have been like in Wales in the 13th century. The story is historically correct and well researched, making it feel really authentic.

Another thing that truly speaks in favor of this book is the title. When you first look at it, it doesn’t say much. When you start reading, you will think at first that Cecily is the Just and Gwinny is the Wicked. Then we hear Gwinny’s side of the story, and the roles start to reverse. This goes back and forth until both characters start showing signs of being both. Cecily is not completely Just, nor is she completely Wicked, and the same goes for Gwinny. Thinking of the title whilst reading this book truly added another dimension for me, and I’m glad I didn’t just start reading without checking the title first.

The last thing that truly made this book for me were the other characters. A town isn’t a town without people in it, and these people sure know how to make themselves be heard. From the neighbor who just keeps on having kids to the annoyingly sweet daughter of one of the founding families, all the side characters truly had their own personality and purpose. The interaction between them and Cecily brought out the best and the worst in her, and I don’t think we would have seen any of these hidden layers of her personality had there not been such an amazing set of characters for her to interact with. 

All in all, The Wicked and the Just was a fascinating and mesmerizing read. Even I was being able to follow exactly what was going on, and I know literally nothing about Wales or 13th century England. All of it was new to me, and the book felt like a history lesson from that one amazing teacher everybody has had at some point. The story made me fall in love with Wales, which I did not expect to ever happen, and I would definitely classify this as an under-hyped book. I recommend this to anybody who likes history even in the slightest, or anybody who enjoys a book revolving around the term justice and likes to question what it actually means.

*This review has been written by our new reviewer Eline, who's 15 years old and lives in Haarlem (The Netherlands)

Author information

J. Anderson Coats owns 194 books about the middle ages.  This doesn’t seem like very many unless you consider the fact that she’s never had a real job.
Jillian grew up in a houseful of books alongside two cats and an older brother.  Her mother, a librarian, exposed her to the beauty and diversity of the written word.  Her father, a scientist, taught her to question it.  Both of them encouraged her to write, even when her stories were written in crayon and featured nothing but ponies.
At age thirteen, Jillian finished her first novel.  It was pretty bad, but fortunately no one told her that.  By the time she graduated from high school, she’d written six other novels, including one massive 500,000-word doorstop book with a sweeping, complicated plot and way too many characters.  None of these books was very good, but she loved every single one and learned something new with each.
Jillian studied history at Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated magna cum laude with departmental honors.  She also holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Drexel University and a master’s degree in history from the University of Washington.  She loves the smell of old books, and she’d set up camp in the archives if they didn’t keep locking the door at night.
Currently, Jillian lives in the Pacific northwest in a hundred-year-old house with her husband, teenage son, and a cat with thumbs.
 
Giveaway

Enter this giveaway to win a paperback copy of The Wicked and the Just, good luck! 

19 comments:

  1. What a great review! The book sounds really interesting.

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  2. Sometimes I'm just, sometimes wicked. Life can't let one be just one all the time.

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  3. I'm a mix of both when I need to be.

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  4. A bit of both but probably more wicked than I should be!

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  5. What are you, wicked or just and why? ......... oh l can be wicked, VERY wicked if l try

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  6. Both, but I guess my job makes me more 'just'.

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  7. A little bit of both! Without wickedness things would be so boring!
    Mary Loki

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  8. I think I'm mostly just but there are times when my boys definitely think I'm wicked!

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  9. I'm a bit of both- it's a survival technique :D

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  10. I'm a bit of both because I'm human, but I like to think I'm more Just than Wicked :)

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. A little of both ;) But I'd like to think more just!

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