This book made a splash a few years ago, but I only read it this year for some reason? The second book (which is about Jane Eyre and completely unrelated) comes out this year.
Title: My Lady Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Genre: YA Historical/Fantasy
Themes: Women’s place in the world, class, royalty, what it’s like when your best friend is actually an animal.
My Blurb: Jane is a bookish noble in 16th century England. Cousin to the young King Edward, it seems to most people that mot much will become of her. Until all of a sudden, she’s married off to Gifford Dudley, a nobleman she’s never even heard of, and crowned Queen of England.
Told in alternating perspectives between Edward, Jane, and Gifford, this book retells with a fantastical flair the story of Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for 9 days before being beheaded. Although that’s not quite what happens in this story…
I remember hearing a lot about this book a few years ago, when it was published (back in 2016!!!). It reminded me a lot of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, with very anachronistic, readable dialogue, hilarious asides, and not a huge basis in history to be honest.
However, I kind of liked it more. The ‘narrators’ are fairly open about the fact that most of the second half of the story is made up, as is the Ethian aspect. There are some sneaky allusions to pop culture (such as when discussing the Great White Bear of Rhyl. ‘The GWBR? I don’t think it exists.’ (it’s a princess bride allusion btw)), they deal with the fact that Europe was a sexist place back in those days (although Jane was probably anachronistically empowered), and it still builds a somewhat realistic setting of the political climate of that part of the world in that time.
I liked the Ethian twist on the story, which made it a semi-fantasy. The idea is that some of the characters can turn into animals at will, which affects what they can do in the plot.
The three main characters all had distinct voices and circumstances, and were easy to root for. Gifford and Jane’s romance was realistic –they were married young, and before meeting each other, for political purposes and not love, but over the course of their adventures slowly fell in love–but somehow still felt rushed and insta-lovey, although the events took place over about a month.
My biggest criticism was the pacing of the plot. The first half happened over about 2 weeks, maximum. The second part covered a few days, skipped a week of travel (when before, lots of insiginificatn details had been left in), then rushed the end, covering a dramatic battle and tricky alliances in just a few chapters. It felt confusing and pointless. Considering there were lots of out-of-place details already and the book was 500 pages, I thought the pacing could have been done way more evenly and in a way that conveyed what living in the 6th century was actually like. For example, there’s a lot of detail about what Jane wears but hardly any about what the battle is like, the weapons and tactics and everything that went into strategising.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable book, and I liked the historical-yet-fun style, although the pacing didn’t work that well for me, and it was quite unrealistic in many ways.