Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. My Lady Jane. New York: HarperCollins, 2016. Kindle ed.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stacks of books brought along on the honeymoon
So, this is my first foray into alternate historic fiction, and the reviews promised it would be really funny. And they were absolutely right. I hadn’t known anything about the history of Lady Jane Grey and fairly little about the Tudors, but already I like this version better. Hand, Ashton, and Meadows have decided that Lady Jane deserved better than to be beheaded after just nine days as Queen of England, and sixteenth-century England itself deserved a strong infusion of magic, just to shake things up.
In 1553, this alternate England is split between two groups – the Eðians (the fancy curved “d” is pronounced “th”) and the Verities. The former are people with the power to transform back and forth between human and animal form. The latter are non-magical folk who think spending half your time as an animal is a most distasteful affair and you should be burned at the stake for doing it. Unfortunately for the Verities, who’d been enjoying most of the power for centuries, King Henry VIII turned out to be an Eðian– a lion, specifically – and decided to grant equal rights to his fellow Eðians as soon as he discovered his power.
Then he died and left his throne to his youngest son, Edward, who is now dying of a mysterious “Affliction,” and the throne seems to be up for grabs. This is where the story begins.
What I liked best:
The characters – Well-developed, memorable characters with learning curves and unique qualities that aren’t just quirks for quirks’ sake? Check! Jane is a serious bibliophile who will devour any subject, from architectural history to the history of beets, and has a tendency to start mentally rattling off synonyms when she’s stressed. Gifford (but he’d really rather we call him G) is a secret poet who covers up his embarrassing hobby with tales of nighttime dalliances, and has a peculiar daytime condition that may or may not be controllable. Edward is a reluctant king who’d really just like to spend his last days sitting with his favorite dog, eating bowlfuls of blackberries, but suddenly has to think about things like succession and Eðian rights, and whether women really are inferior to men (spoiler alert: nope!).
The humor – From dedication to acknowledgements, this book is tons of fun. Part of the humor comes from the Princess Bride-esque style of the story, with its numerous parenthetical comments (though not quite as numerous as in The Princess Bride) and authorial interruptions. And part of it comes from the reference jokes that are sprinkled in like Easter Eggs – horses named Westley, Monty Python-esque swordfight banter, a random Game of Thrones reference, etc. And another part comes from the use of exaggeration, like every time the authors/narrators mention the Dudley nose:
It may help the reader to recall the long-nosed plague doctor mask that would appear in the next several decades. It is said the design of those beaked masks was actually inspired by the Dudley nose, though never within a Dudley heir’s hearing. 
And, on a random note, I’m by no means whatsoever an anti-Stratfordian, but I can totally forgive the authors for toying with the idea that Shakespeare’s works were written by someone other than William Shakespeare. Because this is a comedy, and they can get away with it.
And, on another random note, who knew sixteenth-century teenagers used such delightfully modern phrases as “totally,” and “Hold your horses,” and “He’s my ex,” and “Would you like to paint my portrait, Sire? It will last longer”?
A few things that slightly lowered my rating:
Gracie MacTavish is so not the kind of person who would follow a guy she has every reason to distrust just because he has “kind eyes” and a “nice smile.”
Also, I’m pretty sure a single dog couldn’t hold off a pack of wolves so easily.
And also, I’m pretty sure a fight with a gargantuan bear in a forest would involve more trees being knocked down and such.
Fencing. Fighting. True love. Magic. Political intrigue. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. If such are the things you love in a book, go to your nearest library or bookstore and pick up My Lady Jane. Go on. I’ll wait for you here so we can squee about it afterwards.
P.S. In my mental movie adaptation, I’ve cast Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) as Jane, Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) as Edward, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Gifford.
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