Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Wicked and The Just (YA)

The Wicked and The Just. J. Anderson Coats. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages. 

Tonight at supper, over capon and relish, my father ruined my life. He smiled big, scrubbed his lips with the end of his cloak, and said, "We're moving house." 

I think there is a good chance you will like The Wicked and the Just more than I did. I seem to be in the minority on this one. Apparently I liked all the wrong characters, disliked all the wrong characters, and got my sympathies misplaced. If you happen to believe that there is one right way to read a novel. (I'm not saying that I do, just that some do.)

The Wicked and the Just is set in Wales in 1294. One of our narrators is Cecily, who provides the "English" perspective; the other narrator is Gwenhwyfar, who provides the Welsh perspective. I think I might be the only reader who sympathized more with Cecily and preferred her narrative. Did I love Cecily? No, not exactly. Did I like her? A little. Do I find her perfect and without fault? Hardly! How did I feel about Gwen? Well, I'm in the minority, but I did NOT like her at all, not even a little bit. I really, really, really did not like her narrative. Especially towards the end, after IT happens. I really HATED her. I did.

The King is encouraging the English to move to Wales and settle it. Cecily's father feels his chances are better in Wales than England--he can live cheaper, have better status and opportunity, etc. (He does not have his own estate to inherit or manage because he is a younger son.) The Welsh are not happy to be "managed" or "governed" by the English. They do not "enjoy" the rules and regulations the English put in place. They do not like the added-burden of having the English around. The past few years have been hard ones--famine, I believe--and having the English around telling them how to sell and trade, when to sell and trade, and deciding what is "fair" is too much. The English have the first and last word on what justice looks like, and there are differences depending on if you're Welsh or English. The English are treated preferentially. No doubt about it.


The novel is working towards a VIOLENT response to the injustice. There will be blood spilled. A LOT of blood. For the Welsh "rebels" will band together, form an uprising, and slaughter the English. Yes, slaughter. There will be bodies everywhere. Not just a few of the leaders, not just the government, not just the men. But of everyone. Why did they have to die? Because they were there, because they were English. Did it matter how they lived? What kind of person they were? No. Of course not. Everyone must die. The English must be "taught" a lesson. Cecily witnesses the violent slaughter of her father. It is horrific. And by my reckoning, that was not JUSTICE. The slaughter of a whole town is NOT JUSTICE. It is murder. How do two wrongs make a right? Ever?!  So what does this mean for Cecily? Don't expect mercy or compassion from the so-called heroine, Gwen. You won't find it. 

The character I happened to like best of all--better than Cecily, better than Gwen--is Gruffydd.

Read The Wicked and the Just
  • If you enjoy historical fiction set in medieval times
  • If you enjoy reading about peasant revolutions and uprisings
  • If you are looking for fiction set in Wales
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Linda 10:46 AM  

I think I'd like this one. Great review!

Ms. Yingling 1:07 PM  

I just got a copy of this and have to admit I was a little reluctant to read it. May be just the thing for this (finally!) rainy-ish afternoon!

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