From Publishers Weekly
Popular biographer Weir (Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc.) makes her historical fiction debut with this coming-of-age novel set in the time of Henry VIII. Weir's heroine is Lady Jane Grey (1537–1554), whose ascension to the English throne was briefly and unluckily promoted by opponents of Henry's Catholic heir, Mary. As Weir tells it, Jane's parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Dorset, groom her from infancy to be the perfect consort for Henry's son, Prince Edward, entrusting their daughter to a nurse's care while they attend to affairs at court. Jane relishes lessons in music, theology, philosophy and literature, but struggles to master courtly manners as her mother demands. Not even the beheadings of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard deter parental ambition. When Edward dies, Lord and Lady Dorset maneuver the throne for their 16-year-old daughter, risking her life as well as increased violence between Protestants and Catholics. Using multiple narrators, Weir tries to weave a conspiratorial web with Jane caught at the center, but the ever-changing perspectives prove unwieldy: Jane speaking as a four-year-old with a modern historian's vocabulary, for example, just doesn't ring true. But Weir proves herself deft as ever describing Tudor food, manners, clothing, pastimes (including hunting and jousting) and marital politics. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* The title of this complex yet completely absorbing novel reflects the author's point of view as she reconstructs the life of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey. That this is popular historian Weir's first novel is publishing news (see the adjacent Story behind the Story). Lady Jane Grey was a great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, and the term political pawn could have been invented for her. In alternating voices, each distinctively authentic, Weir lets Lady Jane and other individuals involved in her life and fate tell their sides of the story, and what a story it is. King Henry, it will be remembered, had succession problems: namely, until his marriage to his third wife, he had no male heir. Added to that was the age's seemingly irresolvable conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Therein lay the trouble for the teenage Lady Jane. She was thrust by her power-hungry and caustically Protestant parents into a plot to place her on the throne upon the death of the little king Edward VI, the late king Henry's Protestant son, instead of the legal heiress, the Catholic princess Mary. Mary won the day and throne, and Lady Jane went to the block. Weir finds Jane an intelligent individual, a thinker in her own right; but, tragically, given the times and the power available to the "grown-ups" around her, she ultimately could not resist the political currents swirling over her. A brilliantly vivid and psychologically astute novel. Brad Hooper
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