My Lady Jane is a retelling of England’s Nine-Day Queen. This novel is what happens when something historical is retold in a contemporary style while still remaining fairly true to history. It is a longer read that delves into the points of view of three characters based on Lady Jane Grey, Edward VI, and Guildford (stylized as Gifford) Dudley, giving the characters a happier ending than their reality. The three authors weave together humor, romance, and a bit of real history–along with a lot of changed history.
I usually love retellings, especially when there’s history involved that I’ve studied and enjoyed. And if I look at it purely from a standpoint where I only address it as a historical retelling, My Lady Jane was successful one. I really enjoyed that the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants was twisted into a conflict between the E∂ians (people who have the ability to shape shift into an animal, often at moments of high emotion or stress) and the Verities (people who do not have that power and often view it as a perversion of nature.) Changing history to the point of smudging or completely changing the outcome–which is basically the point of alternative history–didn’t bother me, because I liked how the authors took real events and added a bit of fantasy to make it fit their new narrative.
The alternative history, the E∂ians…that is why I read and enjoyed My Lady Jane, even to the point where I was able to mostly overlook the things that I didn’t particularly like. Ultimately, while I did enjoy reading the book, I also feel like it doesn’t have memorability for me. I won’t really be thinking about it now that I’ve finished it. It didn’t blow my mind, though I understand why it’s popular. It’s a catchy, quick read with entertaining moments. The characters are likable and it’s easy to cheer them on. But I found that even though this was a fun read, there were things that I didn’t work for me and distracted from the fantasy setting.
One of the things I couldn’t ignore was the childishness of the three main characters. In our time they’re children. But in their age, the average life expectancy is roughly 40 years old and they are of marriageable age / recognized as adults. Some of them would legally be adults in our age. They really didn’t act it at all. I expected a little more maturity. The way they talk is annoying and felt odd for the time period. They have to work together, but instead of learning from each other and changing their opinions, they remained pretty consistent in how they felt about one another. Yet at the end of the book I’m supposed to believe that they changed. Although the characters were likable, I also felt that they were vain and unrelatable.
Because I felt that they had little depth, it was difficult to be interested in the romance in the book. This book switches between three points of view, so I got to read a lot of how they all loved each other. It really wasn’t my thing. I didn’t really care who ended up with whom because I was more interested in the fantasy part of the novel. I was so so interested in that. I know that My Lady Jane is part of an overall Jane series (they’re planning a Jane Eyre one next–which I probably won’t read because I actually love Jane Eyre and don’t want it to be messed with), so I’m hoping that maybe the E∂ian / Verity conflict continues. I may change my mind if that is the case. That would be pretty cool.
Part of my interest in My Lady Jane was that it has three authors. I was really curious how three people can write a book because logistics must be slightly annoying, but it looks like they all wrote one character. Considering that’s how it was done, the book flowed together really well and there weren’t any moments where the plot seemed to skip.
I did find the author asides verged more on the annoying side than the amusing side for me, mostly because a lot of them focused on spoon feeding me parts of English history or architecture that they decided to keep in the novel. I found them unnecessary and a bit condescending. Of course, it’s not entirely fair for me to say that–I’m sure there are plenty of readers who know little about England’s history, particularly this time, so the asides were helpful and welcome. But for me, I know enough about this time that I found them very grating, especially when they were long. It took me out of the story. Most of the time when they happened I just wanted to get back to the story. I also didn’t like that Gifford was quoting Shakespeare and saying they were his own. If I wasn’t familiar with them I think they would have worked better. But that’s just my take on it.
My Lady Jane is an interesting twist on history. I find the stories of England’s Queens in the Henry VIII era and after to be really sad and often tragic, so the idea of making a world where one of them survives was really cool. I personally like to keep my historical and my high school-esque / contemporary novels separate, which is something that this book taught me. It was a fun read, albeit a bit long, and I can see why it became so popular when it came out.