I've always had a giant pang in my heart for Lady Jane Grey. She got such a lousy deal and lost her head over it. For those who don't know, Lady Jane Grey was caught up in the Tudor soap opera. Edward VI died at the young age of fifteen and wrote Jane into the line of succession, leaving his half sisters Mary and Elizabeth out in the cold. Jane was queen for 9 days before the Privy Council turned their backs on her and backed Mary, who brought an army to London to claim the throne. Shortly thereafter, Jane and her husband, Gifford Dudley, were executed for treason. She was only sixteen years old!
But Hand, Ashton, and Meadows turn this story on its head and created a really fantastic alternate ending to Jane's story (and Edward, and Gifford). In this England, Edward is King, but he is really ill. People are either Edian (eth-y-un) or Verities. Edians are humans capable of turning into animals. Verities believed it was wrong, and persecuted Edians as heretics. Henry the 8th became a glorious lion when angered, and ate a few jesters. Edward wanted to be an Edian so bad, but so far hadn't changed and believed he hadn't inherited the trait from his parent. Jane, a lively, book smart young lady was Edward's closest friend and secretly longed to also be a Edian. As long as Edward was on the throne, Edians had some measure of protection. His sister Mary, however, despised Edians and wanted to burn them all.
Edward is dying of "the affliction", and his advisor Lord Dudley (not a nice man) convinces him that Jane should marry his son, Gifford; and that Jane should be the queen after Edward dies. Edward agrees, and Jane and Gifford are married. It's mutual attraction and dislike at first sight. What Jane doesn't know is that Gifford (who prefers to be called G) turns into a horse at sunrise, and back into a rather handsome young man at dusk. It's a family secret and G considers it a curse. He doesn't know how to tell Jane, but that is resolved pretty quickly on their wedding night when he turns into a horse in their bedchamber. Oops. He's got some explaining to do...
All sorts of stuff happens in this novel, and I don't want to give it all away. Elizabeth (Bess) is a big player in the plot; she's close to Edward and neither of them much like Mary. Bess has a few surprises up her sleeve, too. Lord Dudley is hungry for the crown, and he's prepared to do what it takes to get it through Jane and Gifford. So how will it end?!
This novel is full of humor, a bit of romance (teen romance that's fairly chaste), loyalty, and teenagers dealing with very adult problems. Can you imagine being 16 and being crowned the Queen of England? Nope. I can't. When I was 16 I was juggling babysitting jobs and vaguely wondering what I would do after high school. The added spin of magical animals makes everything seem possible in this alternate England. And I'm so glad I read this story, because it was clever, fun, and for the first time, made the Tudor kids actually come alive for me. Yes, it's all made up, but I don't care! Now I can carry this alternate life of Jane's with me and not think about the horrible ending she really had (thanks to Mary).
Rating: 9/10 for a teen novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The three points of view presented a thorough look at the actions and motivations of Jane, Gifford, and Edward. I think it's a darn clever plot and one of my favorite reads of 2016.
Available in hardcover and e-book.