Lately, I’ve been searching for a historical young adult novel. But the market has kind of been overwhelmed by World War II, and I was kind of in the mood for something a little more fun and upbeat. I have actually read a book about Jane Grey – Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir – and I really enjoy her story (which isn’t a surprise, because I basically love anything that has to do with the British monarchy). When I heard about this book, I was skeptical; alternate histories aren’t really my thing. But it’s been getting great reviews, so I decided to pick it up anyway, and I am so glad I did!
Lady Jane Gray is sixteen years old and just days away from marrying a complete stranger. She’s completely unaware that her impending marriage is part of a plot to rob her cousin (and best friend), King Edward, of his throne. Which would make her Queen of England. My Lady Jane is the story of Jane Grey, The Nine Day Queen. Kind of. In this version, Jane and Edward reign over an England that is split not into Protestants and Catholics, but into Eðians and Verities – those with the power to transform into animals, and those who think it’s sinful, dark magic to do so. Verities hate Eðians, and the latter are beginning to fight back. Jane – along with her new husband, Gifford Dudley – and Edward must figure out a way to make peace between the two and foil the plot that threatens to undo them both.
He wanted to tell her she’d have more room if she’d just get rid of her books, but he supposed that in her case, it would be like telling a mother she’d have more room if she threw out her children.
I absolutely loved this book. It was so much fun! If you threw Tudor history, Shakespeare, The Princess Bride, Monty Python, and Tangled in a blender with a pinch of Game of Thrones, this is what would come out. I realize that sounds kind of crazy, but somehow Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows made it work. It simultaneously satisfied my cravings for chick lit, fantasy, and history. The writing was beautiful, but not over the top, and the story made me laugh, while sitting on the edge of my seat.
The characters were my favorite part of this book. I really enjoyed the character of Edward, especially his relationship with Jane. In a lot of ways, this book is a coming of age story for him, which is particularly interesting, since he’s fifteen, and has already been King of England for six years. Gifford is one of my favorite love interests/male protagonists in young adult fiction. I don’t want to spoil anything, but he’s somewhere in between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Henry Tilney, and I love him. But Jane is still my favorite. Her love for books kind of made this novel for me. I relate to her so much (minus the arranged marriage). I also thought Bess was a great secondary character (and I liked that they made Elizabeth I a secondary character).
While there is definitely a magical element to this story, the changes the authors made to the historical events weren’t entirely related to magic. The Verities and Eðians are a (slightly more interesting) parallel to the Catholics and Protestants. Instead, the alternate course of events is brought about by making the female characters a little bit more badass. My impression of Jane, from all the history books I’ve read, was definitely that of a victim. She didn’t really have much control over what happened do her. In this book, she’s clever, intelligent, and strong. And it’s her wits – along with some similar actions on Bess’s part – that save the day. Multiple times. Which, I think, is what really sold me on this book. Not a small feat considering the fact that I’m a huge history nerd, particularly when it comes to the Tudors.
“They need signs of my strength, not my reliance on the men around me.”
Obviously, I loved this book. I’m so glad I ended up reading it, because it’s one of my favorites of the year so far. I hope these authors collab again, because I need more!
If you’ve read My Lady Jane, I would love to hear your thoughts!