Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
Three YA authors put the “story” back in history in a playful reimagining of the history of English monarchy, reworking the tragic story of a slayed English queen after her fleeting rule into a fantastical romp filled with horse-boys, family revenge and swoon-worthy romance. Simply stated, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows (aka the Lady Janies) is a spectacularly written and engaging tale that adds a new shade of meaning to “historical fiction,” one that’s more fiction (and fun!) than the true story.
My Lady Jane is the re-written story of Lady Jane Grey, a distant descendent of an English monarch and a voracious reader who has so far escaped the grips of betrothal. That is, until she is arranged to marry Gifford Dudley, the son of the advisor to England’s teenage, apathetic, allegedly dying King Edward VI. When Jane finds herself on and then off the throne, all chaos breaks loose and the authors use their magic to literally change history.
The concept of this book is brilliant, to exploit a moment in history that seems unfair and reimagining it in an equally dark and whimsical way. Incorporating period references and modern touches, the tone of the novel strikes just the right chord. Sarcastic, witty and jovial, the narration almost seems to bounce from one chapter to the next, beginning with a brilliant banter of a prologue where the three authors lay out their plan.
The highlight of the novel is the system of magic where there are normal humans (Verities) and humans who can transform into an animal (Edians). The amount of fun the authors had deciding the characters’ animals and incorporating them into the plot jumps off the page and is the source of many of the novel’s well-timed twists and turns.
The characters are quirky and brilliant. Beginning with the three main characters, I loved the headstrong bookworm Jane, whose stubborn attitude and witty comebacks, made every scene. Her young husband, Gifford, (call him G!) the implied love child in his family who spends his days as a horse and believes he is cursed, is equal parts handsome, brooding and perfectly sensitive. And Edward, struggling between the requirements of being a King and the typical ennui and moodiness of a teenage boy, was enjoyable for his stumbling romantic feelings and evolving thoughts about women, considering the novel takes place in 16th Century England.
The secondary characters were equally brilliant, sometimes upstaging the main characters. Between Scottish badass fighter Gracie, stuck-up Mary, kind and mysterious Bess (aka Queen Elizabeth I), serpent-like Lord Dudley, bizarre but loyal Pet and sweet albeit rough around the edges Gram, I don’t know who was my favorite side character. Together, this equally lovable and love-to-hate-able cast of character is one that I will remember for a long time.
Another fantastic part about this book was the romance. From cute to just darn hot, this book covers all the bases. The Lady Janies write a darn good love tale and without spoiling who falls for who, all I’ll say is that by the end the love feels earned. They trust the reader to fill in blanks and torture us with a splendid amount of dramatic irony via the three-POV in third person structure, suggestions and tension. By the end, though, they deliver a satisfying conclusion to each of the romantic threads.
The only problem this book faced for me is pacing. It runs longer than the average young adult novel, which is fine, but it felt longer than average in spots. Some parts of the plot, especially the beginning (which is a slow build-up) dragged at parts. However, I stuck with it, the story gained momentum and then I couldn’t put it down. And it was nice to have a good fantasy tale that was a stand alone novel and bypass the waiting for sequels.
Overall, My Lady Jane is a damn good novel, one that I would recommend for anyone looking for a romp of a story, books about royals (fans of those cheesy Royal romances on Hallmark Channel will LOVE this book), strong female characters, sweet romances, fantasy or a very loose sense of history will love this book. Go read it right now!