historical fiction

Review: The Wicked and the Just, J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just, J Anderson Coats

Title: The Wicked and the Just (Goodreads)

Author:  J. Anderson Coats (@jandersoncoats)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point. (Goodreads)

Details

Series: Stand alone
Genre: YA Historical fiction
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 17 2012
My copy: Digital review copy from Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: (Kindle versions not yet available) • Barnes & Noble

Review

The thirteenth century was not a good time to be Welsh. Newly subjugated by the English, the surviving people of North Wales were oppressed and taxed to the hilt, hemmed in by new castles of stone and walled cities such as Caernarvon. The Wicked and the Just shows little of the beauty of the Northern Welsh countryside and is more focused on the gritty day-to-day life of a medieval city.

Early on in the book, Cecily spends a lot of time bitching about having to move to Wales and about not having any gowns to wear, getting all upset at servants looking at her and generally being a horrible little harpy. Gradually as the story goes on we see a more compassionate side to her, and also a dry sense of humour that made her telling of the story bearable.

Some of the story is told from Gwenhwyfar’s point of view. She is a very strong but bitter character – rightfully so as she is being made to serve those she battled against in the occupation. The switches in perspective are well-written and allow us to see life from both the English and Welsh sides.

Un-likeable characters aside, there is far more to this story than meets the eye. The beginnings of rebellion are hinted at early on in the story, but aren’t discussed openly until much later. There’s a feeling of a darker story going on in the background while Cecily prattles on about “doing the marketing” or about the neighbour’s toddler getting into her herb garden.

Even though this review sounds negative, I’ve given The Wicked and the Just four stars because it is an extremely well-written account of what life was supposed to have been like in medieval Wales. Despite the grim subject material there were several occasions that made me laugh. The story is very compelling towards the end and the ending is satisfying, although I felt I needed some cheering up afterwards!

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ll enjoy the descriptions of daily life and historical events in The Wicked and the Just. If you’re not, then the harshness of the story and the cattiness of the characters may just turn you off.

What did other people think of The Wicked and the Just?

Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances, M.J. Rose

The Book of Lost FragrancesTitle: The Book of Lost Fragrances (Goodreads)

Author:   M. J. Rose (@mjrose)

Rating: 

Series: Stand alone

Genre: Historical fiction, romance, fantasy

Published: Atria Books, March 13, 2012

My copy: Ebook ARC from NetGalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository

E-copies: Amazon.com • Barnes & Noble • Diesel eBooks

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances—and of her mother’s suicide—she moves to America, leaving the company in the hands of her brother Robbie. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind. (Goodreads)

Review

The storyline of The Book of Lost Fragrances sounds a little odd when the events are described: An ancient Egyptian artifact can help the people of Tibet in their struggle against the oppression of the Chinese government. A French perfumer and his sister discover an ancient and secret scent that allows visions of past lives. These facets of the story have been woven together masterfully by the author to form a complete and satisfying story.

The Book of Lost Fragrances is not really a typical work of historical fiction as most of the action happens in the present day. The story isn’t just about ancient scents and helping to free Tibet. It’s also about complex relationships between the characters – between lovers, between parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies. It also explores the intricacies of faith and staying true to beliefs.

This story has a more gentle progression than other books I’ve read recently, but it is still very suspenseful. I spent the second half of the book worrying about the characters and I had to keep reading to find out what happened to them. I really enjoyed the mixture of the stories of past lives with the present. I also found to be fascinating the idea of conditions such as scizophrenia actually being past-life flashbacks.

Read this book if you enjoy stories with complex characters and adventures across time periods.

Read this book to your little ‘uns? It’s not really for them. There are a few adult scenes but nothing too graphic.

There is a blog tour going on for The Book of Lost Fragrances at the moment. Although I’m not a host, I’ve been interested to see others’ opinions of the book. You can see all the tour stops at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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