My Lady Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Release: June 7th 2016
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, YA
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, YA
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.
Going into this, I knew that this was supposed to be a comedy, and I was fine with it. However, I am also a huge history nerd and I know next to nothing about Lady Jane Grey, so I was really excited to learn something about her in a historical context. I was sorely disappointed on that front and I blame it on the comedy aspect of the book. For my tastes, it was simply too light-hearted and not serious enough. I would have liked a correlation to actual real world problems and maybe some historical facts as well.
Now don't get me wrong, this book uses magical realism to showcase some of those problems, personally I never got the feeling that the authors truly made a point to highlight how, well, bad the problem actually is. The Verity/Eðian struggle was very reminiscent of racism/classism but it was always added in as an afterthought. Seeing as a lot of the main characters are Eðians and they just gallop (quite literally) all around the world without fear of being discovered and/or burned at the stake, they even thoughtlessly admit their identities to people who are very openly anti-Eðian?! What the hell. And there's never an outright conclusion to the problem, we never see the character who ends up ruling England at the end make an actual decree about not killing Eðians. Great. And the sexism in the book isn't very well handled in my opinion, either. Edward, who is the predominant character who brings the issue up because he is very, very openly sexist, is never outright reprimanded or told off for his sexism. It is never made abundantly clear by the authors that his sexism is a real issue and why. And that really bothered me a lot. The "educative" aspect of the novel is barely there, because the problems are never truly obvious as such and resolved with arguable "success".
Let's talk about characters, then. I liked Jane, but I feel like she was forced on the reader as the proxy-est main character of all proxy main character. By which I mean, the way that she was such a book nerd and all seemed like a desperate grab to appeal to all other book nerds who might pick this book up, since there is — who would have guessed — a really good chance that anyone who reads this might also enjoy reading a lot of other books. Maybe it's just me, but I felt that the way her book obsession is described felt very unnatural and uncomfortable. Anyway, I still ended up liking her for her stubborn and fiery personality, because she admits she has flaws and that sometimes she makes stupid decisions, and even though she was very fierce, she also had her kind and understanding moments. Gifford was so-so, I was so frustrated that it literally took him the better part of all 500+ pages to clear up a simple misunderstanding, but he also had his moments here and there.
Edward.... I am aware that he wasn't supposed to be entirely likable because of his sexist nature, but there's also the fact that he was so forcefully paired up with Gracie, a female side character, that really made me frown. I mean, it's not his fault that the writers felt the need to do this, but I still can't help hating the character for it a bit. Plus, the fact that this relationship only ever began because Edward saw her, wanted to bang her and then they went from there (well, he didn't want to <i>bang</i> her but kiss her, but that's not dramatic enough for me). All in all, I simply didn't like his whiny, demanding ass. Sorry.
The writing had its ups and downs. Sometimes, I felt like the "author's notes" interruptions, often quite literally during the actual story, were really unnecessary and disrupted the plot. And, like I already said, sometimes the writing seemed very childish and immature, which I mean, yeah, it's a comedy ... but still. Sorry, I wasn't the biggest fan.
And lastly, the plot. My main issue with the whole novel is simply that it's way too long for all it wants to say. I really had to drag myself through certain parts and I wondered, quite often, why it was taking so long. I only realized this was 500+ pages after I was already done with it, and that cleared up so many things for me. Honestly, this could have been 100 pages shorter and it wouldn't have been missing anything. There were so many unnecessary scenes and descriptions of Eðian change and the subsequent search for clothes and such, but it would have been enough if this had occurred (or been described in excruciating detail) once or twice. Not, like, five hundred times. And the POV-switching chapters... I mean, I'm already really glad that it was third person and not first person, but I still mixed them up from time to time, or at least Gifford and Jane's chapters. I'm assuming each of the writers wrote one POV character, but I had real trouble distinguishing their writing styles. Which is sort of the point I guess, but unfortunately, as a result, the characters blurred together a bit as well.
All in all, I did enjoy the novel for the most part. There were some very nice scenes that were well-written and all of these aren't huge flaws that totally ruined it for me. But I still expected a lot more, somehow. Oh well. If you want some history with a bit of magical realism/fantasy thrown in and want it to be funny and light, this is your book. Just don't expect it to be extremely deep or historically accurate.