Book Review: My Lady Jane

July 20, 2016 Books/Writing, Reviews 4

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This book was like sitting down and eating a big bowl of jelly beans. Or maybe gummy bears. Yes, I think gummy bears. Without the calories!

Like these. My favorites, from the local co-op I used to shop at in Virginia. Mmmmm. (photo from Greenly, but the ones I bought were, um. just pure sugar, haha!)

My Lady Jane is a light-hearted, fun-filled, rollicking good time. It’s billed as YA…fantasy? Alternate history? To me it feels most like humorous alternate history, complete with shapeshifting. Bwhahahaha. Such a refreshing turn on the whole Protestant/Roman Catholic problem. I loved that they took the very gloomy story of Lady Jane Grey and turned it into something so much fun. Note: no one dies in this version. Except…well. Anyway.

Something that always struck me the hardest about Jane’s story is how freaking young all the main players were. Pawns on a chessboard to their scheming, conniving elders. Well, they’re most definitely given their voices here! I was laughing before I got to the end of the second chapter, as the young King Edward is lamenting his death sentence:

There was so much he wanted to do with his life. First of, he wanted to kiss a girl, a pretty girl, the right girl, possibly with tongue. 

And then Jane! I had always suspected, but now I am quite sure, that Jane Grey was a girl after my own heart.

She delighted in the smell of ink, the rough feel of the paper between her fingers, the rustle of sweet pages, the shapes of the letters before her eyes. And most of all, she loved the way that books could transport her from her otherwise mundane and stifling life and offer the experiences of a hundred other lives.

This book does not take itself or its topic too seriously – but, seriously enough to include the facts (and note deviations from them), even down to how Lady Jane’s name came to be carved in the Beauchamp Tower. Alongside that, however, are not-so-subtly-veiled nods to popular culture references that, in context, had me rolling in my chair and my husband wondering if I’d truly lost my marbles. Jane is bookish and nerdy but also a spunky little spitfire, and I love her.

“Who are you calling beef-witted?” she laughed at him. “Your mother was a hamster, and your father stank of elderberries!”

10 points if you can name the original source.

“I might not be able to beat a weapons master, but I can easily best an old, top-heavy, pusillanimous, two-faced, paltry, odious excuse for a man.” He pushed his sword forward until it was against his father’s coat. “Drop your sword.”

Do I even need to explain why it took me 5 minutes to stop laughing enough to continue reading? I’m sure there are probably other references in the book, to other movies/stories, but I’m not the most up on pop culture myself so I might have missed some. 😛

4/5 stars. My only real critiques would be that, even with the obvious goal of being fun and laughter-inducing, the villains should have been a little more, well, villain-y. Even the Duke of Northumberland, for all his plotting and scheming, isn’t very scary. Maybe that would have effected the gummy bear quality too much, but that part felt a bit flat to me. Also, at one point there is a big “hunt,” which all seemed very convoluted and unnecessary but somehow took up several chapters. After that was out of the way though, the romping pace resumed and all was well. The ending was very satisfactory, to all involved. Too bad the real facts aren’t as full of unicorns and butterflies (to be clear: no unicorns actually appear).

“We’d fight so much less if everyone would just sit down and read.”

I quite agree, Jane. Quite agree.

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