Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Lady Jane

Lady Jane Grey in history was Queen of England for 9 days from July 10 to July 19, 1553. Her reign was short because Mary, King Edward VI's half sister later known as Bloody Mary, usurped the throne from her and then beheaded her for treason. This book tells a different story in a fantastical world. This version of England has Ethians, people who can turn into an animal at will, against Verities, people who don't have this ability, instead of Protestants against Catholics. King Henry VIII was a very public Ethian, prone to fits of rage, turning into a lion, and eating people. Despite this, Ethians are still hunted and killed, so they rose up in a marauding gang called the Pack. The peasants are caught in the middle and are hostile towards Ethians since their livelihoods in livestock and food are constantly being stolen by them. King Edward VI has thus far done practically nothing about it, but he's slowly dying of the Affliction without having done much at all. This world takes historical events and puts a fantasy spin on it. The tone is much more lighthearted than I expected because it still deals with some heavy subjects.

The novel is told from 3 different perspectives in alternating chapters: Lady Jane bookworm extraordinaire, sickly King Edward VI, and Gifford Dudley, son of Lord Dudley (Edward's most trusted advisory) and horse by day. The novel style and tone are seamless through the eyes of these three characters as if there was one author instead of three. All three of the characters deal with normal teenage things like first love, first kisses, refusing to communicate, and forming friendships. They also deal with more adult things (as they were considered adults in that era and had real responsibility), like marriage, running countries, gathering armies, discovering regicidal plots, and fighting to regain the throne from Bloody Mary, who hates and longs to execute Ethians instead of Protestants. The various romances in the novel are sweet, but rather shallow. Lady Jane is by far my favorite character because she was quite knowledgeable about a variety of subjects due to reading constantly, which is taken from history as she was one of the most educated women at the time. Gifford is sweet, but the most frustrating because he kept up a front and told the most lies. Edward becomes more self aware and realistic about life after being so privileged. He grew on me over time.

While the book is very fun and light hearted, I had a few problems with it. I didn't like how the authors addressed the reader except for the introduction. The other few passages took me out of the story and didn't really add anything. I thought the lighthearted tone would change when talk of people being executed and such was discussed, but I never felt like these characters where in any danger. It's also based on a pretty horrific event in English history where Mary executed 280 Protestants. Subtle pop culture references are peppered throughout the book like quotes from Shakespeare, lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Mark Twain quotes. I enjoyed them as little Easter eggs, but again, it kept the story too light for such subject matter.

My Lady Jane is a fun, fantastical read that is the perfect summer read. It has romance, betrayal, secrets, people turning into animals, kissing, adventure, scheming relatives, and humor. It's a coming of age novel about finding oneself as well which pretty much anyone can relate to. The writing and style flowed well through the different characters' chapters. I look forward to another collaboration between these authors.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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