Book Reviews

Book Review: My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head—or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.⠀

Title: My Contrary Mary
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Format: Digital ARC
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date Published: June 22nd, 2021
Rating: 5//5 Owls

I am an extremely picky audiobook reader. I don’t do full casts, I listen to sample of different books to decide if I like the narrators voice, and overall just do a lot of planning before listening.

So this book, one without an official narrator and a synthetic voice instead, was a major struggle for me.

But alas. My Lady Jane is one of my favorite books, and I love these three ladies so I powered through the robot voice, and by the time I was about 20% through with it, the robot voice stopped bothering me, which says a lot about how amazing this book is.

My Contrary Mary is a standalone, but its also somewhat of a sequel to the first Jane book, My Lady Jane. We’re back in the world of Eðian, which are people who can shapeshift into animals, and have left the English setting of My Lady Jane. My Contrary Mary heads over to France, and the story of Mary, Queen of Scots.

First, I want to quickly go over the real life events of Mary.

Mary Queen of Scots married the Dauphin of France, Francis in 1588, and the two were married until his death in 1560. Four years later she married her half-cousin (barf) Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. The following year Lord Darnley was murdered, and James Hepburn was the main suspect. He then married Mary, and she was later forced to abdicate in favor of her young son. She later fled to England under the protection of Queen Elizabeth, who kept her confined out of fear of her stealing her throne. She was later found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, and beheaded.

Since the Lady Janies like to re-write history and give happy endings to the damned, none of this happens in the book. Instead we follow the lives of three characters:

Mary: An Eðian who can take the form of a mouse, the rightful Queen of Scotland, betrothed to Francis, oh and someone wants her dead.

Francis: heir to the throne of France, betrothed to Mary, his father (the King) is a player, his mother (the Queen) is a cold ruthless BIATCH.

Aristole: Goes by Ari, skilled in potion making, father has sometimes strange, but useful visions. Ari has visions too, but doesn’t understand the oddities of them – but the reader will.

So I absolutely LOVED this book. Mary is a wonderful and headstrong character, and even though she is a little more adept at modern day feminism than she should’ve been, but it wasn’t an overbearing amount.

There was a good mix of factual history, and hilarious “happier” history added in to make it into a brilliant Lady Janies tale. Queen Mary and her lady Mary’s – despite all sharing a name, all had their own unique voices and personalities, something that I usually find lacking with secondary characters. I could tell the different Mary’s apart easily, and enjoyed how each one contributed to the story.

Francis went quickly from being a dreary, boring love sick boy, to my favorite little froggy, and I absolutely adored his journey and how much he grew as a person, a royal, a friend, and a partner. My beautiful well-rounded boy!

My girl Ari though, was by far the best narrator of the three. Now I love Ari for her bravery, her heart, the fact that she’s a queer girl who likes wearing pants (the audacity!) in a time when that was a huge no-no, and I love how even though she makes quite a few mistakes, she is smart enough to correct them and do the hard thing. But I would have loved Ari even if she was a selfish un-relatable asshole, because of her visions. Ari believes that she’s not adept at visions like her father, because none of them make any sense and have weirdly dressed people, strange devices, and just a whole bunch of nonsense. But the reader will recognize her visions for what they really are – glimpses into the future of blockbuster hits. Watching other characters get confused about Ari’s visions of lightsabers, a lovesick drowning boy who couldn’t fit on the door, or a robot man with incredible catch phrases was HILARIOUS. I loved when they happened during tense or high action moments, and everyone just has to pause and be like HUH?

Overall this was such an amazingly fun story. I loved being back in this world (don’t worry, some past characters do make an appearance) and learning and seeing more about Eðians. I highly recommend this story and cannot wait to see what these ladies do next!

*Thank you NetGalley the advanced reader copy.

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