For everyone who knows there was enough room for Leonardo DiCaprio on that door.

And for England. We’re really sorry for what we’re about to do to your history.

Dedication, My Lady Jane

Sharp, sweet, and gloriously fun. Five stars for the laugh-out-loud, must-listen audiobook version.

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

I feel so lucky for going into this book with absolutely no expectations. I hadn’t even read the jacket copy before I picked up the audiobook. My Lady Jane was on my TBR for a long time from a casual recommendation, and it just happened to make it to the top of my backlist pile this month.

I’d be kicking myself for not reading it earlier, but I think I landed on it at exactly the right moment. I’ve been in need of some joyful reads, and friends, this was nothing but joy.

There was so much he wanted to do with his life. First off, he wanted to kiss a girl, a pretty girl, the right girl, possibly with tongue.

Edward’s narration. Page 2, US paperback.

If you must go into this book with foreknowledge, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. This book will not work if you go in expecting it to be something it isn’t.

What you’ll get: Goofy shape-shifting magic. Almost too-adorable romance. Cheezy jokes and anachronistic references. A tightly-plotted tale built on familiar tropes and a conventional rhythm.

What you won’t get: Diversity (in ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) by today’s standards. (I don’t think that’s a problem for this particular book, being based on specific history–the problem comes when publishing is overwhelmed with variations on the same European historical settings and the same sorts of characters. This is “revisionist” history, but not that revisionist.) Significant information about actual history. An ounce of seriousness.

This isn’t a comedy the way Heretics Anonymous or Save the Date are comedies. Those are comedies in the rom-com sense–light tone, happy ending, some jokes. This is a comedy like The Princess Bride. It’s a work with what my hero Glen Weldon likes to call “joke density.” This isn’t an “exhale loudly occasionally” book. It’s a “full-throated laugh at least once every chapter” book. I have never–never–laughed at a novel the way I laughed at My Lady Jane. Much of that has to do with Katherine Kellgran’s spectacular performance; this is a don’t-miss audio production and I’m sure I wouldn’t have laughed like I did just seeing it on the page. But it’s also exceptionally good writing. In my opinion, the novel is probably the hardest medium for humor, and the authors understand how to make it work.

We’ve traversed the Great Plains of Hertfordshire, spelunked the dark tunnels of Piccadilly, hiked the rolling hills of the Cotswolds searching for the descendants of our lovers and the poisoned king, and we have compiled what we so delicately refer to as… THE TRUTH.

Midlogue, 295-296

The authors have some fun breaking the fourth wall and giving commentary, but they know to use it sparingly and keep focus on the characters. Characters, by the way, whom I adore. Jane and Gracie are marvelous, of course, but I do feel that I’ve seen them before. G, on the other hand, and especially Edward–they feel like something new. I was in a state of constant delight watching those four bicker and flirt and fight bad guys together.

I enjoyed the experience so much that this one gets five stars even though I’m pretty annoyed by a couple things. I’m fine with the anachronistic references, and the authors even do some clever things with the Shakespeare references, but it all became too much by the end. One Monty Python reference would have been iffy for me, but multiple quotes became grating. This book is hilarious when making its own humor; it doesn’t need to pad by quoting movies where jokes should be.

First of all, G was annoyed that neither of his parents could tell it like it was and use the phrase “horse curse,” instead referring to it as his “equestrian condition” or a “minor daily divergence from humanity” or some such nonsense.

G’s narration, 43

I also tired pretty quickly of the gender dynamics. The book is intentionally built on familiar tropes and patterns, and that’s okay, but it only works when the authors don’t dwell on it. Unfortunately, they spent a long time lingering over the subversiveness of girls who–gasp–read books and wield swords and tell their men what’s what. Acting as though that’s new or interesting feels a little insulting at this point.

I’m also a little confused about the worldbuilding… I’d love to hear the authors discuss why they chose to transform the Catholic-Anglican conflict into the Verity-Eðian situation. The way Verities are presented reads, at least to me, as an awkward attempt at criticism of the early modern Catholic Church, which slowly fades out as the novel goes on. I was left unsure what the authors were going for.

But really, those details are inconsequential to the joy this book brought me. This was YA that truly felt like YA–I loved it, but it was undeniably written for a teen audience first. And that’s a good thing–not only because YA needs to be for teens first, but because that focus let the authors run free with humor and romance and snarky historical fun.

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