Summary: This book will have you giggling out loud as you cheer for Lady Jane in this romp through 16th century England
Hilarious alternate history
This is an unabashedly funny and playful book set in 16th century England. Part 1 (in which we revise a bit of history) focuses on the tragic life of historical figure Lady Jane Gray, who ruled the throne after the death of King Edward the VI for nine days before she was beheaded. But the narrators decided they couldn’t stand such an unfortunate ending for plucky Jane, so enter Part 2 (in which we throw history out the window).
The historical revisions include the introduction of a new class of folks called the Ethians, who turn into animals. The Verities, a puritanical group who hate and fear the Ethians, are struggling for power and seeking to persecute honest Ethians throughout the countryside.
Bookish, introverted Lady Jane is pulled into the intrigue when the doctors announce that her cousin, King Edward, has less than a year to live. Concerned with the line of succession and keeping a Verity off the throne, young Edward’s chief advisor, Lord Dudley, recommends that Lady Jane, of royal blood and an Ethian supporter, marry his son, Gifford Dudley, so their first male heir could be king. (But are his motives really so honest?) Jane and Gifford are quickly thrust into the match, and everyone forgets to tell Jane until after her wedding night that her new husband changes into a horse every day. Which she of course, finds out the hard way.
No sooner are the new horse and wife married then courtly intrigue boils over in the form of a plot to overthrow Edward. Can Lady Jane save her cousin’s throne, and find a way to break her husband’s horsey curse?
This book is well-written, fast-paced, and pokes fun at itself all along the way. You find yourself instantly rooting for Jane, Edward, and Gilbert; their innocent bumbling of politics and love is charming and heartfelt. There is a superb sense of magic and woven throughout the book.
The best part though, are the hilarious quips from the characters and narrators on practically every page, from Jane’s concern over the size of her future husband’s nose, to Edward’s surprise in learning his favorite dog is actually a young pretty girl, to Gifford-as-horse’s reflections on the world.