4 out of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this work.
This is an absolutely hilarious, fantasy retelling of the story of Lady Jane Grey, the Queen of England for an entire 3 days before she lost her head. The fantasy twist is that a small portion of the English population can (or in some cases must) transform into animals. Henry VIII occasionally turns into a lion and eats courtiers who tick him off. For the most part, these humans are feared and persecuted, so the main division in society is not between Catholics and Protestants, but between those who wish to wipe out the magical and those who do not.
This book is mostly held up by the wonderful sense of humour it shows. It has a very distinct narrative voice with just the right amount of sarcasm and sass. There are plenty of anachronistic references to modern pop culture, but it is done with such good humour it is not something you can fault.
The romance is subtle and not overwhelming. It is sweet and grows from a mutual respect and I really enjoyed watching it take shape. The other relationships, whether friend or enemy, were well done and convincing. I liked seeing someone with very modern sensibilities get tied up in Elizabethan politics. Seeing Queen Elizabeth and Bloody Mary as teenagers in a fantasy novel was great fun.
The world building in this novel is incredible. You get a historical backdrop lit up with fantasy elements. It is still recognizable, but enough has changed that it is fun to explore anew. Resetting the politics at the time in terms of support for or hate of shapeshifting humans works very well.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It had me laughing and spellbound until the end. Definitely a great 2016 novel.