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).
Author: Josh Martin
Date of Publication: 9th February 2017
Synopsis: Two rival lands produce two Chosen Ones – Aula and Joomia. Both lands want a prize; a book of knowledge. But only one Chosen One can prevail. The twist? It’s prophesied that the two girls will need to work together if they want to save their homes.
Author: Susan Dennard
Date of Publication: 12th January 2017
Synopsis: We rejoin our cast of characters two weeks after the events of Truthwitch; finding some paths merging and others moving farther away from one another than ever before…
This was provided in exchange for an honest review. My thanks go to Susan Dennard, Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for the opportunity
Just like Truthwitch before it, this extract of Windwitch left me conflicted. Once again there were stories I loved; I will contest until my last that Aeduan and Iseult would cause the book to fare far better, were they the only POV characters. Safi and Merick I found decidedly lacklustre, their stories barely capturing my attention.
There is, as I have said before, a great foundation here. The idea of Witchery and the forms in which it comes is a good basis for a solid fantasy series. However Dennard seems to almost lose control of her characters, carving out mediocre pathways for them instead of forging plot forwarding journeys.
I am interested to read the rest of this, as Iseult and Aeduan on a road trip together is too good of a deal for me to pass up. However has this sample added anything to my experience? Not enough to up the rating or change my lukewarm review.
For me the January blues are a real thing – especially when it comes to reading. My job allows me a nice portion of the Christmas holidays off. However come January 3rd all that lovely empty space in the day which I could fill with reading it ripped away – and the real world inevitably settles into the cracks left behind.
So considering that rather bleak outlook, six books isn’t bad. Here is my January 2017;
Best Book: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Worst Book: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Most Frustrating Read: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Most Addictive Read: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Most Sumptuous Ride: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Most Likely to Make Me Question My Mortality Whilst Lying Awake at Night Too Scared to Fall Asleep: The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
Tune in next month for more monthly awards!
Author: Susan Dennard
Date of Publication: 5th January 2016
Synopsis: Safi and Iseult, Threadsisters and long time friends, become embroiled in a game of cat and mouse. They are chased by a myriad of people, all who want to get hold of Safi’s unique power to tell when people speak the truth…
Hmm. Apologies in advance if this review seems rambling or nonsensical. If it is, it’s because I’m really note sure how I feel about this book.
Truthwitch was massively hyped when it first came out a year ago. It was bought for me as a present last Christmas and it kept lingering around the top of my TBR pile. Finally, when Windwitch was on the precipice of being released, I decided it was time to commit and read this. Perhaps it was the hype that did it, or the waiting, or a mixture of the two. Either way, I found myself non-plussed for the first 150 pages. There were moments of action, adventure and fun but mostly I just felt a little…bored.
I can’t really say why this is. I liked Safi and Iseult, I really liked Aeduan and the magic within the world was interesting to me. However everything seemed a little flat, a little forced. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way in that I felt Dennard really fell into her storytelling – the characters becoming more rich and the weaving of their stories becoming more substantial. By the end I was becoming invested in the stories, but it had taken too long for me to get there.
Whilst I think the characterisation is good overall Safi occasionally strayed into the realms of the ridiculous for me, and Merik was only occasionally enjoyable to read. I must preferred the Iseult and Aduean chapters. There were times at which the plot felt muddy because there were so many characters interests to be served – ensemble casts are never easy and Dennard does occasionally struggle with balancing a plot with a multitude of characters.
By the end I was set on reading the sequel, which is all the Dennard’s talent at pulling me back in. Usually you will see a writer improve over the course of a series – rarely do you see such improvement over the course of a single book. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, but beware the hype.