My Lady Jane was a fun romp through Tudor England. I did enjoy it, but it also took me forever to finish the audiobook. It’s like all the ingredients for a great read are here, but I’m not really raving about it. I’ll unpack why in this review.
AUTHOR: by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
SERIES: My Lady Janies, book 1
PUBLICATION DATE: June 7, 2016
PAGES: 512 pages
GENRE: historical fiction, adventure, romance
SETTING: England, 1553y
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS
AWARDS AND KUDOS
- Booklist starred
- Publishers Weekly starred
- Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2016)
- Gateway Readers Award Nominee (2019)
- longlisted for the National Book Award
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.
Like that could go wrong.
THE SHORT VERSION
This book has so much going for it. I know many have loved it and will love it. For me, it was good, but not great.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT MY LADY JANE
The snark. This book does a lot of fourth wall-breaking, which I always love in books and movies. Despite the serious nature of the historical source material, My Lady Jane doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a lot of fun along the way.
The literary references. There are many Shakespeare references and direct quotations, including quotes that are changed a bit to fit the humor of the story. They work well and are integrated smoothly into the plot. Even those not super-familiar with Shakespeare will likely still recognize some of the most famous quotes from Romeo & Juliet. There are also direct and indirect quotes and references from The Princess Bride and Monty Python. So much fun!
The Tudor England historical period. I already knew a good bit about the Tudor Monarchy before reading this book. Prior knowledge of the Tudors is not 100% necessary to understanding, but I was glad I already knew a good bit about these characters. It was fun to see how the authors explained the real history and this alternate version.
The talented audiobook narrator! Katherine Kellgren’s narration took a minute to get used to, but I cannot imagine anyone else narrating this audiobook! The narration reminds me of Julie Andrews as (the unseen) Lady Whistledown in the Bridgerton series. I’m not sure if I could have stuck with this 500+ page, 15-hour audiobook behemoth if not for Katherine Kellgren’s cheeky narration syle. Nicely done!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT MY LADY JANE
512 pages! That is entirely too long for this story. I probably would have been more engaged in the story if it lost 100-150 pages, which would help put the action scenes closer together.
I liked the story, but I was never compelled to keep reading longer than planned or sneak in some extra audiobook listening time. I listened attentively while the audiobook played, but once I hit STOP, the book was out of sight and out of mind. Perhaps if the book were shorter, I might have been more engaged.
I didn’t connect with any character. Not a single character had a story that I really loved. They were all okay (except Jane, who I found annoying in a bossy-Hermione way). All the characters seem a bit one-note. Jane loves books. Guildford is a shapeshifting horse-human and wants to be called G. Edward is a sickly and ineffective king. Grace is a Scottish pickpocket. None of them are terribly interesting.
Speaking of characters, I wish Queen Mary I, a.k.a. “Bloody Mary,” had her own voice. She is one of the best-known and interesting monarchs in history. Even elementary students have heard of Bloody Mary. Her perspective could have added so much.
Most major characters are real people in British history, including Lady Jane Grey, King Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Lord Guildford Dudley. The only major character that is not a real person (that I know of) is Grace, who is a Scottish commoner.
There are also a few minor historical figures from France and Scotland, such as Mary Queen of Scots and the Dauphin of France (assuming this is Dauphin Francis, but I can’t remember if he was specifically named in the audiobook).
All characters are white, as they were in history. No one is queer that I remember.
The Protestant/Catholic conflict during Mary I’s reign (the real Mary I famously executed Protestants) is portrayed as Edians vs. Verities. Edians, spelled with a weird d–the audiobook narrator pronounces it like “Ethians”–are humans that can shapeshift into a specific animal form. The Verities are those humans who do not have an animal form. Mary executes the Edians.
British monarchies, Tudor monarchy, royalty, arranged marriage, shapeshifters, execution of people with special powers or abilities, power, puppet governments, poisoning, friendship
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
Would adults like this book? Yes, I think lots of adults will enjoy this book, especially those who have an interest in the Tudor monarchs, Shakespeare, or 16th Century British history.
Would I buy this for my high school library? Yes, but it will be a tough sell for many students. At 512 pages, this is not for casual readers. If I were booktalking this, I would give a little background on the Tudor monarchs. This is a very interesting period in history, and many students will have already heard of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Mary I.
Would I buy this for my middle school library? Oh, I might. Again, it’s the length that gives me reservations. Who would I give this to at my previous middle schools? I really cannot think of anyone who was into British history enough to want to read My Lady Jane. Maybe if you have any Bridgerton fans?
Would I buy this for my elementary school library? Definitely not. This is a YA book. Content is relatively clean for YA, but it’s not an elementary book.
Language: no profanity that I remember
Sexuality: Kissing and desire to kiss. Some appreciation of bodies since the Edians are naked when they shift from animal to human form. Spoiler –> highlight to see –>Jane and “G” consummate their marriage by the end, but it’s not described.
Violence: mild, fantasy-adventure style violence – Spoiler –> highlight to see –>poisoning, attempted murder, a battle with deaths of minor characters
Drugs/Alcohol: royal characters drink wine, as they did at this time (water could be contaminated; those who could afford it drank alcohol instead)
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