The Wicked and the Just

by J. Anderson Coats

Cecily is the only child of an Englishman who has been granted a burgage in Caernarvon,... read more

Cecily is the only child of an Englishman who has been granted a burgage in Caernarvon, a walled settlement in Wales, at the end of the thirteenth century. Cecily detests Caernarvon, finding the people backwards and sometimes downright threatening. She longs to return to her life of leisure in northern England. Gwenhyfar, a maid in Cecily’s household, seethes with quiet rage at the English invaders. In contrast to Cecily’s whining, her voice is clipped and terse as she reveals the destitute conditions under which she lives and the oppression and fear that define life for her and the other Welsh. Moving back and forth between these distinct first-person voices, author J. Anderson Coats develops two credible characters who, by circumstances, are enemies. Neither understands the other’s perspective, and their encounters, riveting and tension-filled, further illuminate the terrible imbalance of power between them. That power shifts after Welsh raiders storm Caernarvon and slay many of the English—an attack that is shocking yet no less brutal than what the Welsh have already endured. Coats’s vivid novel is authentically harsh, although Cecily offers moments of rueful comic relief in her inability to see the reality around her until she has no choice. The two protagonists are admirably complex and equally affecting by story’s end. A historical note provides additional information about the place and the political tensions in the story, both of which were real. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013

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