My review follows and I think you will find that this is the best I have read in a while. My Goodread's review is after the NetGalley review. Finally, satisfaction.
It has been quite a while since I have read historical fiction as good as The Wicked and the Just. J. Anderson Coats has certainly done her research for this tale of Wales in the 13th century. Conquered by Britain, and ruled by a distant king, the people of Wales are little more than slaves to the British men King Henry has sent to manage his new land. Cecily and her father arrive in Caernarvon, a newly built walled city in Wales, where he will serve as a burgess appointed by the king. Cecily is less than happy to be in Wales, and longs for the day when she can return to to a home that no longer belongs to her or her father. Spiteful and bitter, Cecily's anger finds an easy target: the incompetent servant Gwynhwyfar. Gwinny is easy for Cecily to despise- she is Welsh. It is not long after her arrival, however, that Cecily begins to understand that there are not clear boundaries between the wicked and the just, or the British and the Welsh. Told alternately in both the voices of Cecily and Gwynhwyfar, readers will find their sympathies changing as the characters reveal more of their pasts and learn more about each other. While full of fascinating history about a lilttle known part of Great Britain's timeline, The Wicked and the Just is anything but dry. It is, rather, an exploration of the human heart as it is molded, stomped and stabbed by the circumstances of human nature. The story of two young women from different backgrounds is compelling and honest, and readers will read late into the night to find the resolution that must come for two who seem so different, yet are really much the same. Coats' novel is a masterpiece for young adult readers, but will appeal to adults as well. It is highly recommended.
I loved this book for so many reasons. I loved the history of Wales and the masterful way that the hatred, mistrust, and misunderstanding of Brits and Welsh was portrayed through the eyes of two young women who were more alike than they knew. I loved the title. Who is sure of what is wicked and what is just? Within pages, my sympathies changed from one character to another. I loved that this was real, never subtle, always honest in what life brings. I loved the ending, and I love thinking about the new Caernarvon Cecily and Gwinny built. A must- read book for 2012, and a Printz contender in my mind.