The Wicked and the Just (J. Anderson Coats) isn’t the sort of book that I normally pick up because it doesn’t tick any of the boxes that I look for in a novel. I like my books to have:
- Magic, and lots of it.
- Action, especially explosions.
- Madcap adventures between lovable friends.
- Lots and lots of jokes.
- Sassy yet kindhearted protagonists.
- Happy endings.
So, um, spoiler alert, but The Wicked and the Just doesn’t really have any of that. So what motivated me to pick it up?
Extreme niche geekery, that’s what. The Wicked and the Just is set in Wales and even showcases the Welsh language a bit. I am such a geek about the Welsh language. That’s why my book is set in Wales. Because I wanted an excuse to write stuff in Welsh. The Wicked and the Just is the sort of book that I ordinarily wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, but I went after it like an extreme couponer going after a three-for-one deal because Cymru am byth.
But enough of my geekery. Let’s discuss The Wicked and the Just, shall we?
What The Wicked and the Just is about:
The Wicked and the Just alternates between two protagonists. Cecily is the daughter of an English lord who’s none too pleased to have been relocated to Caernarfon, Wales, because her father’s been tasked with suppressing the recently-conquered Welsh. Meanwhile, Gwenhwyfar (aka Gwinny) was all set to become the lady of Caernarfon but is now forced to be a servant to Cecily—who, by the way, is an insufferable brat like 98% of the time. The two girls struggle to acclimate to their new circumstances while sociopolitical tensions between the occupying English and native Welsh rise around them—and eventually break, with devastating consequences for both girls.
My thoughts on The Wicked and the Just:
First off, The Wicked and the Just makes you feel all the things. All the things. I had a book hangover for like three days, in part because this books is so severe. It’s a grim story, but it’s accurate—and it feels quite timely as well, since the real villains in The Wicked and the Just are colonialism, systemic injustice, and blindness to privilege. When those things are your enemies, you’re not going to have a neat and tidy ending.
I had a really really really hard time feeling any sympathy for Cecily because she was so epically blind to her own privilege. She had her troubles, that was true, but her problems weren’t anywhere near as bad as Gwinny’s. In fact, Cecily’s privileged attitude caused a bunch of Gwinny’s problems. I actually found myself screaming, “WOULD YOU JUST WAKE UP???” at her at one point…not a proud moment, but I’ve yelled worse things at books.
Cecily wasn’t exactly woke af by the end of the book, but her alarm clock was definitely ringing. Before you can see whether or not she hits snooze, though, the book ends. You don’t often see this level of ambiguity in YA, and I thought it was really neat (but also, let’s be real, frustrating as h*ck).
As for Gwinny, well, I’m hardcore Team Gwinny. I was all ready for her to get revenge, and when she finally got it, I kind of wanted her to get some more. I’m not sure what that really says about me…it’s probably something bad. But come on! She suffered, and she was so justifiably angry about it. I wanted her to get even, I really did. But the complex, ambiguous circumstances and threat of English retaliation meant that she couldn’t go as hardcore as she wanted to.
If you want to feel some justified rage, complicated emotions, and a lot of pain—and indulge in some little-known history—then The Wicked and the Just is for you.
Also, side note:
I recently tweeted that I was reading this book and the author thanked me for the shout-out. The actual author. Of a book I actually read. NOTICED ME. OH MY GOD. I want to rush up to her and scream, “Your book is set in Wales? MY BOOK IS SET IN WALES! Your book showcases the Welsh language? MY BOOK SHOWCASES THE WELSH LANGUAGE! Your book discusses the negative cultural and socioeconomic effects of English rule on the Welsh people and their collective identity? MY BOOK HAS LIKE TWO VAGUE ALLUSIONS TO THE NEGATIVE CULTURAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC EFFECTS OF ENGLISH RULE ON THE WELSH PEOPLE AND THEIR COLLECTIVE IDENTITY! OH MY GOD!”
(Also, another side note—her Welsh character is named Gwinny (Gwenhwyfar), and my Welsh character is named Winnie (Winnifred). And they’re both blonde. How weird is that? They’re basically twins, except that Winnie isn’t 1000% down to murder every English person within a hundred miles.)
However, that’s the sort of behavior that people find frightening and off-putting, so I’m keeping my wild screeching to myself. Just know, J. Anderson Coats, that you made. My. Day.
Have you read The Wicked and the Just? What did you think?