Published by HarperTeen on June 7th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Europe, Fantasy & Magic
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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
Like that could go wrong.
My Lady Jane was a strongly hyped book written by three well-known YA authors. I believe it was also an Owlcrate book for the month of May. I was feeling a little apprehensive going into the book because while I was familiar with all three authors, I couldn’t say that I particularly adored their previous works.
Cynthia Hand is the author of the Unearthly trilogy, Brodi Ashton is the author of the Everneath trilogy, and Jodie Meadows is the author of the Newsoul trilogy and The Orphan Queen series. I’ve read the first book of both the Unearthly and Everneath trilogies, but the love triangle didn’t inspire me to continue. I read a brief sample of the first Newsoul book and chose to stop there.
Thankfully, My Lady Jane didn’t suffer any of those issues.
For most of us, the historical setting will be very familiar. Who wasn’t fascinated by King Henry the VIII’s various marriages and break from the Catholic Pope? It was one of the few times my class perked up during our history lessons. Even though our focus is on Lady Jane (made obvious by the title), we are initially introduced to Edward. From then on, our perspectives switch between Jane and Edward.
Edward is a teen boy who doesn’t focus too much on his kingdom. All of his work is done through his privy council and his advisors, including Lord Dudley. He enjoys the company of his half-sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, and his cousin, Jane. Even though Edward wonders what it would be like to marry Jane, he is convinced by his advisors to marry her off to a Gifford Dudley, and to allow Jane’s male heirs to be Edward’s successors should he not be able to provide his own heir.
Most of that seems to be historically accurate as far as I can surmise from my AP History class and brief research. Now comes the interesting part…
In this version of history, magic exists. More precisely, shapeshifters exist. Naturally there are two factions. Those who are shapeshifters and those who are not. They do have precise terminology within the novel itself. But it has been a little while since I’ve read the book and I’ve already returned it to the library so I can’t recall them offhand.
We learn that Edward’s father could turn into a raging lion if he was displeased. Edward and Jane spent much of their time as children wishing and practicing to be a shapeshifter themselves. The addition of these fantastical elements does allow a historical fiction book to appeal to a wider range of readers. It also allowed certain tweaks to be made to our version of history.
I did mention that Edward had considered what it would be like to marry Jane. However, there is NO love triangle in this book which I was deeply appreciative of. Instead, we get to see the romance between Jane and her new husband Gifford develop. This is actually one of my favorite tropes in historical romance novels. For whatever reason, I do love to see a marriage of convenience or a marriage of hatred to turn into a marriage of true love and affection.
This romantic story did not disappoint. I adored Jane as a character. She was intelligent and smart, focused and driven. I enjoyed her sense of humor and nothing fazed her for too long. Her interactions with Gifford were sweet and I was really rooting for both of them throughout the novel.
We also get to see romances develop with other key characters as well, but I’m feeling a little too lazy at the moment to expound upon that further.
My Rating & Why
I did really like this book. Even though it is close to 500 pages, I could read it relatively quickly. My only complaint is that it felt too juvenile. I would say that it fell closer to the middle-grade end of the spectrum rather than the mature YA that I was expecting.
The romance is VERY PG. The plot is quite simple even for someone unfamiliar with the historical time period. While I enjoyed the sense of humor from the characters as well as the omniscient narrator, it didn’t set the book apart for me in any way.