Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the ARC! It has not affected the content of my review.
I have just finished this and it was glorious. I didn’t know we’d be returning to the same world that their first book was set in! I’ve missed those Eðians. You can read this without having read My Lady Jane first, but I would reccomend doing it anyway because that book is wonderful. That makes this book an unofficial sequel.
I suppose we should have seen it coming, though! The last time we visited Elizabethan England (or thereabouts) with these authors, it was full of royals and suchlike shapeshifting into animals and causing political turmoil, all while having lovely teenage angst. Why should the story of Mary, Queen of Scots be any different? I still haven’t read My Calamity Jane, but My Lady Jane was by far my preferred outing by these authors in their first series. It was funny and smart and silly, and so is this one. You also learn a lot! I mean, it does require sifting between the historical truth (Francis, the Dauphin of France did in fact die of an ear malady, King Henry did die in a joust, Mary’s uncles were royal trouble-causing leeches at court) and the alternate history (the Catholic and Protestant religious wars and conflicts have entirely been replaced by Eðian (shapeshifters) vs. Verity (non-shapeshifters) conflict instead).
I quite liked how these three ladies rewrote history for Mary and her friends and family, just as I liked how Jane Grey’s history was rewritten in My Lady Jane. And we get some cameos from characters from that series! Which did not feel gratuitous. The pop culture references were a little much for me this time, but I think that might have been different had I had a normal listening experience (see below). There’s also a truly hilarious gag where the daughter of Nostradamus (who is a POV character) keeps making prophecies that no one understands, and that is because she only seems to be able to predict the plots of movies made four hundred years in the future).
I listened to the ARC copy of the audiobook, which I did not realize before I requested it would not be read by a person, but by a synthesized computer voice. It wasn’t the best listening experience, although it was surprisingly not bad! The software they’re using is pretty good at pacing and inflecting tone, to the point where if you weren’t paying attention you might think it was a real person, but real narrators can understand context and character and nuance, and thus, I missed out on a lot of key character performance that true narrator would bring. Lesson learned, audio ARCs are not for me! I’m not sure who they got to do the real audio, but I will forever be sad that it won’t be Katherine Kellgren (RIP) whose narration of book one made me fall in love with it. (Also, this little tiny man voice kept inserting at almost inaudible levels at weird moments, “HarperCollins,” for copyright reasons, so that was disconcerting.)
I’ll definitely be buying my own copy to sit right beside its sister on my shelf.