The voices of two female narrators sweep readers along in this gripping debut novel set in 13th-century Wales, tightly controlled by the English.
Cecily deserves a life of luxury, especially after she and her widower father were cast out of her uncle's home when he returned from war. She orders Mistress Tipley and Gwenhwyfar about as if she were head of the household. But Cecily doesn't realize that the local English-appointed government usurped the homes and household goods of the Welsh to set up English burgesses like Cecily's father. As the English to bend the Welsh to their will, the Welsh have other ideas about reclaiming what's rightfully theirs. And while Cecily tries to amass pretty dresses befitting a burgess's daughter, Gwinny fights to keep her ailing mother alive and her brother safe from harm.
The title comes from Cecily's growing awareness of the injustices incurred by innocent Welsh citizens, and Gwinny's slow thaw where "my brat," as she calls Cecily, is concerned. "Justice for those who deserve it," Cecily says while pulling a prank on a power-hungry official. Debut novelist Coats creates a harrowing picture of life as two cultures clash. Through the keen observations and sharp wit of Cecily and Gwinny's first-person narratives ("God save me from being a shrewish harridan when I'm grown," thinks Cecily about her highborn neighbors), we see they're more alike than different. Their senses of humor leaven the life-or-death circumstances in which they find themselves. Riveting. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor