Lady Jane Grey's nine days as queen are reimagined as a tongue-in-cheek shape-shifter romance.
Between the reigns of adolescent King Edward VI and his bloodthirsty half sister, Mary I, England was ruled for nine days by doomed Lady Jane, a 16-year-old political pawn—or that's how it went in our world. In the world of this novel, both Edward and Jane have happier endings. Instead of Catholics and Protestants, England is torn between the Eðians, who shape-shift into animals, and the Verities, who loathe them. As in reality, Jane is wed to Gifford (Guildford in history) Dudley, installed as queen, and imprisoned by Mary. However, this Jane and Gifford escape their executions through animal magic. It's inconvenient for the newlyweds' sex life that Gifford spends every dawn to dusk as a horse, but it’s also terribly convenient for frantic escapes from Mary's soldiers. Fourth-wall–breaking and pop-culture references that span from Shakespeare to Game of Thrones show signs of strain, especially the many references to The Princess Bride (1973). The latter, sometimes layered one atop the other without a break, merely highlight this book’s contrast with the classic's stellar comic timing; perhaps it's for the best that few teen readers will be familiar with either the decades-old film or even older book.
Joan Aiken or Terry Pratchett this ain't, but the lightweight, gleefully anachronistic comedy will entertain with its cast of likable heroes and buffoonish villains. (Fantasy. 13-17)