The wicked and the just by J.Anderson Coats
Harcourt, 2012. ISBN 9780547688374. Hardback.
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Historical. Middle Ages. 2013 ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults. Kirkus Best Teen Book of 2012. Cecily's father has taken her to Wales in search of cheap land. Gwenhwyfar works as a servant in the house where she thought she would be lady of the manor. Instead Cecily takes over and her treatment of Gwenny is not kind. Indeed Gwenny describes her as a brat. Tensions are rising as the impoverished Welsh struggle to keep alive in their land.
Told in alternating viewpoints by Cecily and Gwenhwyfar, this is a poignant, thought provoking examination of two characters set against the violence of Welsh oppression in the Middle Ages. I learnt much about each character, their needs and thoughts as I read this book as well as the period in history. It is not a quick escapist read, there are no mythical creatures or strong romance, just the story of two young women who are struggling to survive, each in her own way. Cecily is often very selfish and thoughtless, although she does have a sense of justice. Gwenny' plight as a servant who is struggling to keep her mother alive and look after her brother is heart rending.
It is a wonderful piece of writing that will stay with me for a long time. I was left wishing that I could follow Cecily and Gwenny on the next stage of their coming of age, at the same time knowing that the times would make it extremely difficult for both of them.