Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
This book was a personal purchase.
(Description nicked from Goodreads.com)
“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.”
Okay, if you’re going to compare a book to The Princess Bride, you’d better have a darn good reason. That book is one of my all-time favorites, one that I read long before the movie came out–and of course, I adore the movie as well. Point being, comparisons to a classic of humorous fantasy should be made with care.
Luckily for this novel, the comparison is actually deserved. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this book, but I found it to be incredibly entertaining. It takes certain broad liberties with history, true, but it ends up in more or less the same place and has lots of chaotic fun getting there. Written by three different authors who each took one of the three main characters (Jane, her husband Gifford, and her cousin King Edward VI), the novel reminds me of watching a small kitten running–you constantly think that they’re going to crash and burn, but somehow they keep upright and get where they’re going.
I was completely unprepared for the book to contain magic. From the very first, the authors establish a type of animal shapeshifting that is treated as worthy of burning at the stake. In fact, the historical conflict between Catholics and Protestants is here transmuted into an ideological battle between normal humans and people called “Ethians”. (The “th” in that word is actually written in the book using Old English thorn, but I can’t make my keyboard produce that.) Not only does it allow the authors to avoid shoving religious dogma in the reader’s face, it introduces a fantastical element that helps keep the story from getting too heavy.
The first third to half of the book loosely follows history, and then things go off the rails to follow the added magical influences. On the way, there are several sly nods to other popular or well known stories. My favorite was when Jane, not long after being crowned queen, turns down an invitation to something called the Red Wedding. Wise lady.
This is a sizable book, clocking in at a hefty 512 pages, but it flies by so quickly that you’ll hardly notice the length. So yes, go ahead and compare this to my beloved The Princess Bride. It’s just as much fun, highly original, and tells a good solid story.