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The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
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Originally posted on Small Review blog.

Why I considered DNF-ing

The beginning of this book is so slow. Not much happens, and I'm very impatient. It's all written with a bunch of old-timey words thrown in and while this definitely did help establish the historical backdrop, sometimes I had absolutely no clue what was being said.

The book opens with Cecily's first person POV, and she is a complete brat. She's always thinking something awful about the people around her, she pouts, throws fits, and seriously needs someone to shove her off her high horse. She isn't even nice to her father (though, to be fair, he isn't all that great himself).

Then, without warning, the narrative switched in the next chapter to Gwinny's POV. And she's worse than Cecily! Her sentences are fragmented and weird. I imagine this is to reflect her lack of fluency in English? (She's Welsh). Or maybe not? I'm not sure, but it turned me off because it made her sound dumb. Her barely contained RAGE made it very uncomfortable being in her head.

So why didn't I DNF?

Despite all that, I found myself sucked into the book. I hesitate to say "story," because this isn't the kind of book where there is a neat plot-problem-resolution. Usually I prefer clearly structured books over the looser "slice of life" approach of The Wicked and the Just, but J. Anderson Coats' writing was so vivid that I was completely absorbed in even the mundane day-to-day events.

Little things like how parents related to their children, the social structures, clothing, chores, laws, and on and on were all described in great detail. There was a flood of information, but it never once felt like a lesson. There weren't long lectures about any of this stuff. Instead, J. Anderson Coats really throws the reader into the middle of life back then and expects you to sink or swim.

I imagine non-historical fiction fans might be bored stiff, but I was entranced. The Wicked and the Just is everything I hope for when reading historical fiction. This really is a gem of a book for fans of Historical fiction with a capital H.

I learned a ton of things about the late 1200s and the relations between the recently conquered Welsh and the conquering English. Events are seen from both sides through the contrasting narrators, and in the end I can sympathize equally with the Welsh and the English.

Also, those characters I didn't like at first?

They grew on me. I can't say that I like them in that "I want to be friends" kind of way (though Cecily is definitely sitting at my lunch table so we can have a wicked gossip session), but I respect, sympathize, and care very much about them. They truly came alive off the page and I cheered along with their triumphs while their sorrows stabbed me in the gut.

Gwinny's narrative did smooth out as the book went on, and though it was never entirely "normal," I didn't have any trouble connecting with her. I liked seeing her dance around a maybe-friendship-maybe-not with Cecily and the love she had for her brother was achingly bittersweet.

Cecily's chapters remained my favorites. I loved being in her awful little head and she made me laugh out loud a number of times at the brilliantly hilarious thoughts she related. She may not be nice, but she is brutally honest and I always find that refreshing in a character. She also has a strict sense of justice that I appreciated immensely.

What about the body count?

One of the big things that grabbed my attention was the promise of a body count. Is it just me, or does the prospect of a body count instantly make things more interesting? I interpreted that to mean there would be a killer on the loose and there would be some sort of mystery to solve. I'm not really sure where I got that idea from, and really it couldn't be further from the truth.

There IS a body count, and it is gruesomely high, but it has nothing to do with any serial killings or mysteries. Even though I was disappointed I didn't get a murder mystery, that disappointment was soon forgotten because what did happen made my jaw drop to the ground in shock. Which is definitely a good thing.

But you're going to have to wait until after page 300 for the explosions of death to start. (Not literal explosions.) Oh, and a warning to animal lovers: (view spoiler).

A note on that title

Aside from taking a look at an event in history, I wondered what the point of this book really was. If you want to get really analytical, then there's a ton of fodder here in the form of explorations of relationships, social class, war, subjugation, and so on.

But at its root, I think the title really sums it up perfectly: this book is about justice and the wickedness in life that warrants it.

I really liked how this theme was integrated throughout the book. It gave the whole story a spine of steel and made me give out major respect points to various characters. It also helped highlight how harsh the times were and how horrible people can be to one another.

Bottom line

I can't wait to read another book by J. Anderson Coats! The Wicked and the Just is a standalone (though there could easily be a sequel, and I would so read that!), but I'm crossing my fingers she writes another book soon, preferably another historical fiction. This is a book worth noting.

Originally posted on Small Review blog.
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Reading Progress

September 27, 2011 – Shelved
September 27, 2011 – Shelved as: pub-hmh
September 27, 2011 – Shelved as: g-historical-fiction
September 27, 2011 – Shelved as: published-2012
March 23, 2012 – Shelved as: pages-300s
April 11, 2012 – Started Reading
April 11, 2012 –
page 20
5.8% "This girl is awful, but in a good way."
April 12, 2012 –
page 61
April 15, 2012 –
page 164
47.54% "Argh, I don't want to stop! Stupid life stuff making me do things like laundry when I should be reading."
April 15, 2012 –
page 169
48.99% ""Emmaline begs me to come over and see them off with her...I can think of no sight more welcome than that of those two vexing shrews growing smaller on the horizon, so I agree."\n \n Ha! I love this awful girl!"
April 15, 2012 –
page 169
48.99% ""It's Mistress Glover's hundredth child. Like as not she just has to sneeze for the baby to come out. Emmaline takes my elbow. 'Mayhap we'll be allowed to hold the baby!' Mayhap I'll be allowed to hide in the garden shed."\n \n LOVE her! If it weren't after 1 in the morning and my eyes weren't starting to cross I'd finish this tonight and start Google-stalking for the release of J. Anderson Coats' next book."
April 15, 2012 –
page 228
April 16, 2012 – Finished Reading
October 11, 2015 – Shelved as: 2012-read
May 1, 2016 – Shelved as: library-own-e
May 1, 2016 – Shelved as: library-own-2016
December 4, 2016 – Shelved as: library-own-read
February 25, 2017 – Shelved as: wishlist-print

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Alison (AlisonCanRead) What do you think so far?

Small Review It's definitely one of those books where I don't like any of the characters, but I feel almost addicted to reading. I'm waiting for the body count to show up.

Alison (AlisonCanRead) I felt exactly the same way. And the body count definitely shows up.

Small Review :D Good!

Gina (My Precious Blog) So many good books, just not enough time to read them all!

Mackenzie (Oh, For the Love of Books!) Ok, you're really making me want to pick it up again XD I guess I'll have to give it another chance eventually. My main problem was also your problem: lack of direction. I didn't feel there was a "plot" and thats what initially turned me off. It almost felt...pointless? I don't know. But I'll definitely give it another try :D

Small Review Gina wrote: "So many good books, just not enough time to read them all!"

Isn't that the truth!

Small Review Mackenzie (Oh, For the Love of Books!) wrote: "Ok, you're really making me want to pick it up again XD I guess I'll have to give it another chance eventually. My main problem was also your problem: lack of direction. I didn't feel there was a "..."

It definitely isn't one of those books with a neat and contained plot. It's more like getting a slice of life, and in the end everything isn't resolved. Not in the "there's a sequel" way, and not in the poor writing way, but more in the "life goes on" kind of way. So you might still be frustrated with the lack of direction.

Maybe try looking at it more like a peek at a historical event (you'll see) and that might work for you? Also, if you look at all of the little ways the author weaves in the ideas of justice, you might appreciate that more :) I hope you like it, but it's definitely a book you have to be in the mood for.

Mackenzie (Oh, For the Love of Books!) Hm...well its weird because I actually enjoyed the characters, though Gwinny's POV was sometimes hard to read but it felt more like I was reading from a text-book. Normally the psychology and thoughtful parts will keep me intrigued enough too, I just don't think I was in the mood for something so heavily historical. I was more on a fantasy/historical fix. I'll definitely give it another try because I actually liked what I read, its just that nagging part in the back of my head kept saying "this is pointless". You've definitely convinced me to give this another try eventually :D Mission accomplished Small!!

Small Review Good! :D I'm curious to see what you think of it overall.

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