Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wicked and The Just by J. Anderson Coates

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coates
Publisher: Harcourt
Publish Date:  April 17, 2012
ISBN:  978-0547688374
Pages:  352

I received this ARC as an e-book from www.netgalley.com.

I know what you're all thinking - 'Seriously, this book isn't out until APRIL?!'  Seriously.  BUT I believe that this book is good enough that you need to pre-order it NOW.  You'll thank me in April.

The story is told from the point of view of two very different girls.  There's Cecily who's English and Gwenhwyfar (Gwinny) who's Welsh.  It's set during the time that the English tried to rule Wales, so about 1293 (I believe).

Cecily's father was once the lord of Edgely Manor.  But that has come to an end and now his brother has taken his rightful place and his wife has died, so he needs to make his fortune elsewhere.  So he moves himself and Cecily to Caernarvon, Wales; where just by moving there to keep down the horrid Welsh, he can have a house and be a respected member of the community...within the walls anyway.  Cecily hates it and wants to go home...and if she can't go home, she wants to be the lady of the house.  But neither is happening.

The house is run by a Welsh woman who understands the society they're living in, within and without the walls of the city.  She also oversees Gwinny who is the maid.  Gwinny was to be the lady of the house.  The same house that Cecily now lives in.  Gwinny's forced to wait on Cecily, who she refers to as 'The Brat'. 

The English believe that the Welsh are like animals and speak a nonsense language, just because they don't understand their customs or language.  Sound familiar?  The Welsh aren't taking being trampled very well.  Few Welsh are allowed inside the city walls, mostly only for work.  They aren't paid well and are chosen more frequently and quickly if they have enough money to bribe the officials.  Gwinny's beloved and her brother are both always looking for work.  At one point Gwinny's brother begins working for Cecily's father.  Unfortunately, Cecily feels he has been inappropriately looking at her and begins to give him trouble.  Inside and outside the city walls, tensions are rising and plans are afoot.

Cecily and Gwinny are, by turns, almost friends and bitter enemies.  There are times when Gwinny thinks that The Brat might turn out alright, but then Cecily will do something high-handed and end that thought.

Then one day the Welsh revolt.  The two girls and their families clash and the tables are suddenly turned.  The only thing that saves Cecily is a kindness she did for Gwinny's brother, Griffith, that no one but him knows about.

I do love historical fiction and this is a series of events that I knew nothing about, so it was wonderful to read about.  Ms. Coates doesn't sugarcoat the nastiness that the English and Welsh do to one another or how nasty the girls can be...which is often as bad as the men of the time.  I think that Ms. Coates has a winner on her hands and I can't wait for all of you to read it!  In the meantime, go check out the author at www.jandersoncoates.com/blog

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