Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats The Wicked and the Just
By J. Anderson Coats

To Sum It Up:

Cecily d’Edgeley is miserable over the thought of having to move to Caernarvon, in English-occupied Wales, where her father hopes to find a place among the other English nobles there. While Cecily pines away for the life she knew back at her beloved Edgeley Hall, Gwenhwyfar wages a daily battle to keep her family alive. The English have taken everything from her and her people, and having to act as a servant to a spoiled brat like Cecily so she can put food on the table further fuels Gwenhwyfar’s hatred of the English. Rebellion is simmering in Caernarvon, though, and it may not be long before the Welsh reclaim what belongs to them.


The Wicked and the Just has the distinction of being a novel that I rather enjoyed reading despite finding both main characters on the disagreeable side. This doesn’t happen often because my opinion of the protagonist, or in this case, protagonists, usually makes or breaks a book for me. Credit J. Anderson Coats’s powerful storytelling with making me forget that I disliked both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar.

From the beginning of the novel, I knew Cecily and I weren’t going to get along. She’s spoiled, pouty, and always conniving to wangle a present out of her father. This is a girl who complains about her uncle’s return from the Crusades alive; if only he’d died, then Cecily’s father, the younger of the two brothers, would still preside over Edgeley Hall. Once in Caernarvon, she views the Welsh with nothing but disdain, and she goes out of her way to show Gwenhwyfar and her brother, Gruffydd, that she’s their better. Reading about a character who I frequently wanted to scream at did pose a challenge, and if the whole book had been written from Cecily’s point of view, I would have had a very tough time getting through it.

At first I had a neutral opinion of the novel’s other narrator, Gwenhwyfar. She didn’t immediately elicit the strong dislike Cecily did, but I didn’t warm to her as a heroine, either. If anything, I felt sorry for Gwenhwyfar and how terribly harsh her life was, especially when juxtaposed with Cecily’s. The English executed Gwenhwyfar’s father, and now she and her brother work for whatever measly wages they can to support themselves and take care of their sickly mother. I was all right with Gwenhwyfar until, without going into too much detail about the book’s turning point, Cecily found herself in dire circumstances. I know I’ve taken her to task for her selfishness and treatment of those she considers beneath her, but her sudden reversal of fortune quite shocked me. Gwenhwyfar, believing that Cecily has gotten exactly what she deserves, is only too happy to make Cecily feel her losses even more keenly. While I understood where Gwenhwyfar's aversion to showing compassion to a girl who wasn't kind to her came from, I was still disappointed to see Gwenhwyfar, who knew misery only too well, so eager to rub salt in Cecily’s wounds. But then, I think the book’s lack of a clear-cut heroine is one of the reasons why I liked the book in the end. Both characters were flawed and I saw this as a plus, lending this work of historical fiction an added sense of realism.

The Wicked and the Just is short on action until almost the end, when it explodes. The first three-quarters or so of the novel read more like a character study, so the story does take quite some time to unfold. For me, the most fascinating aspect of the book was its portrayal of medieval life and how brutal it could be, a reminder that there was more to the Middle Ages than minstrels and jousting tournaments. It was Caernarvon’s story that captured my interest here, and I highly recommend reading the excellent Historical Note at the end of the book, which provides some background on the real-life events in Caernarvon.

All in All:

I wasn’t a fan of the characters, but I really liked the story and the setting. I love reading about the Middle Ages, and The Wicked and the Just was a solid medieval read.


  1. I haven't read anything with a medieval setting in an age, will have to check this out...just wish the characters sounded more compelling.

    1. I'm a big Middle Ages geek (if there is such a thing, lol), and my keen interest in that time period is what mostly got me through the book. The two MCs- meh.

  2. You know, I dont think I have ever read a medieval book... Maybe something in school,but nothing that i can recall. Ill look into getting this one, to give it a shot

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    1. I loved the story of Robin Hood as a kid, and that's what got me interested in medieval times. I still love reading about them today.

  3. I've never heard of this book till now but I do enjoy a good medieval story!! Like you though, my feelings for the MC(s) can make or break a book so I'm wondering if I could get past that in this instance too. Thanks for putting it on my radar in any case & thanks for another amazing review!!

    1. I thought the attention to period detail was very well done, and despite not liking the two MCs, I was quite invested in seeing what happened to them.


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