cover image The Wicked and the Just

The Wicked and the Just

J. Anderson Coats. Harcourt, $16.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-547-68837-4

Cecily is furious when her father uproots her to begin a new life in Caernarvon (occupied Wales), where he will be a burgess, keeping order on behalf of the English king. The year is 1293, and tensions between the English and the Welsh are high. When Cecily arrives in Caernarvon, she behaves haughtily, attempting to act as the lady of the house in place of her late mother. Welsh housemaid “Gwinny” hates her immediately, and the girls’ battles and mutual resentment mirror the larger problems between their respective countries. Coats’s debut shifts gracefully between the two girls’ perspectives, finding empathy for both—no small feat when it comes to Cecily, who is naïve and sometimes downright cruel. She begins to recognize the injustices around her (including several of her own doing), while Gwinny struggles to keep her gravely ill mother and younger brother alive. Addressing the difference between vengeance and justice, the novel is steeped in the details and dialect of the Middle Ages, depicting barbaric events and dramatic inequalities. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Apr.)