My Lady Jane | Thoughts
"If you are a bucker of the system, a friend of truth, an ally of love, and a believer in magic, then read on."
Witty, fun, and fast-paced, My Lady Jane was an enjoyable dip into history that followed almost no rules. I laughed out loud quite often at the occasional notes from our narrators, as well as the characters' charm.
We know it's a historical fiction, but let's emphasize the fact that it's loose historical fiction. Set in 16th century England just before the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the timeline follows most of the events we know of, but how the characters arrive at each point is up in the air. Enter magic and shape-shifters, and we have crossed into fantasy fiction, hurray! This world sees England divided into political factions of Ethians and Verities, Ethians being those who possess the shape-shifting magic to transform into animals, and Verities being the jealous sots who can't and therefore hate them. With the current 16 year old king Edward having the blood of Ethians (but thus far, sadly, unable to shapeshift), yet surrounded by Verity purists, he teeters on both sides. Magical shapeshifters are probably the only thing that could make me want to live in the realm and time period of Mary Tudor. As I mentioned, luckily this was a very loosely-based fiction with plenty of humor, and we saw none of the burnings or beheadings Bloody Mary loved (though our characters contemplated both with satirical irony often).
The story focuses on three characters: Edward, the king; Jane, his beloved cousin; and Gifford, the man Jane is forced to marry (who also happens to turn into a horse during the day). While Jane was made out to be the main character in every blurb I read, the most meaningful set up and development centered around Edward. We journey with him as he grows from a spoiled boy-king to a (somewhat) world-wise man, all in the matter of a few weeks. Jane is one-dimensional in comparison, lovable for her stubbornness and book-nerdiness (of course), but mostly unchanging throughout.
"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. Through books she could see the world."
I did appreciate the slow friendship that Gifford and Jane developed, and they did each have their own battles to conquer before the end. Their successes hindered on one another, however, rather than requiring much personal development. Edward was by far my favorite, likely because his followed a traditional journey of self-discovery and growth. Plus he was quite unapologetic about his pampered-nature at first, and more humorous due to his matter-of-fact thinking.
While the main plot follows the conflict over who sits the throne, I liked that My Lady Jane chose to be a comical romance. For the most part we know where the tale is headed, and I appreciated that Jane and Gifford did not like one another very much until quite far into the story. It wasn't a lazy "I hate you for one day and then you bat your eyes and now I love you" situation, and they had their ups and downs on the way to a friendship first. Edward's romantic ship was more of a surprise - I thought we'd see a bit of a love triangle going on in there for a bit.
The intrusive narrator isn't a style I love every time, but this hit all the right points with me. I laughed out loud at several of the authorial intrusions, mostly when they just said plain and simple "to hell with what history says, this is how we're telling it." Aside from a couple instances where I think my e-copy was missing a sentence, I found no editorial issues and generally liked the fast pace of this story. Any more meat or detail and I may have started to get bored, so good choice on the story flow. Plus, the reader will find many references to lines we know and love well, mixing modern phrases with old in a way that suited the style perfectly. That, and little drops of wisdom.
"Armies aren't very good about carrying libraries with them. I can't imagine why. We'd fight so much less if everyone would just sit down and read."