My Lady Jane
Author(s): The Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows)
Date of Publication: 7th June 2016
Wow. After a month and a bit of being stuck in a reading slump, My Lady Jane has brought me back to the land of the living. I, of course, had been doing my typical stubborn thing of avoiding this – because everyone seems to love it. “It cannot possibly live up the hype” I kept telling myself.
Spoiler – it does.
This is a lighthearted, well written and fantastical re-telling of the tragic story of the nine days queen – Lady Jane Grey. For those who don’t know that much about Tudor England, just know that real life Jane was knocked off the throne after a week and a half by stringently devout Catholic pyromaniac Mary Tudor; otherwise known as the Bloody Queen. Mary torched “heretics” (see here anyone who didn’t believe exactly what she did) by the hundred. So it’s not surprising that when poor cousin Jane sat the throne instead of her, Mary got chop happy and Jane’s head rolled.
I’ve always had a yen for Jane Grey. She is impossibly tragic. If anyone has ever seen that 1986 film “Lady Jane” with Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Elwes, you can almost force yourself to believe that Dudley and Grey cared for one another. In reality this is highly unlikely – they were married for less than a year and it’s apparent that Guildford Dudley’s interest predominantly lay in the crown. However here we have a much more palatable version of events – a love story!
I can’t say how refreshing this was. Jane was sharp and massively enjoyable, and this version of Dudley (named Gifford here – or G) was the right blend of proud, funny and warm, bringing a great foil to her. Side characters include Edward VI and the one day Elizabeth I. The whole thing is magical, hilarious and transporting. The additional of magical shape shifting into animals only elevated things further.
Retellings are common place these days and even the most devout seekers of a re-imagining of history are often coming up dry for new material. The irreverence, and yet at the same time obvious care and love, put into My Lady Jane makes it stand out. This is the curve of a new wave in my mind – a step forward from what Seth Grahame Smith did with Pride and Prejudice et al.
I will be looking out avidly for more from these authors in the future (I hear their next project is Charlotte Bronte and her own Jane, Eyre – YES).