Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

"my travail begins as I am enjoying a walk in the garden."

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
416 pages (Hardcover)
Published: February 27, 2007
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Stand Alone
Goodreads Rating: 3.83/5
Amazon Rating: 4/5
Shelfari Rating: 4/5

I am now a condemned traitor . . . I am to die when I have hardly begun to live.

Historical expertise marries page-turning fiction in Alison Weir’s enthralling debut novel, breathing new life into one of the most significant and tumultuous periods of the English monarchy. It is the story of Lady Jane Grey–“the Nine Days’ Queen”–a fifteen-year-old girl who unwittingly finds herself at the center of the religious and civil unrest that nearly toppled the fabled House of Tudor during the sixteenth century.

The child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she is merely a pawn in a dynastic game with the highest stakes, Jane Grey was born during the harrowingly turbulent period between Anne Boleyn’s beheading and the demise of Jane’s infamous great-uncle, King Henry VIII. With the premature passing of Jane’s adolescent cousin, and Henry’s successor, King Edward VI, comes a struggle for supremacy fueled by political machinations and lethal religious fervor.

Unabashedly honest and exceptionally intelligent, Jane possesses a sound strength of character beyond her years that equips her to weather the vicious storm. And though she has no ambitions to rule, preferring to immerse herself in books and religious studies, she is forced to accept the crown, and by so doing sets off a firestorm of intrigue, betrayal, and tragedy. -from

I have always adored the Tudors and England. When I was younger, I thought living in that time period would be the best thing in the world. I known better now, but I used to devour books and movies about any and all of the Tudors. My reading tastes changed towards fantasy when I picked up Tamora Pierce for the first time. I gradually reduced my Tudor searching, and I can't remember when I stopped looking for them altogether. I still have a few lonely middle grade books about Elizabeth and Mary on my shelves. However when my mother picked Innocent Traitor up from the library, I was very interested. And when she recommended it after she was finished, I immediately resolved to start my Tudor frenzy up again.

Lady Jane Grey is best remember for her tragic control of the crown for only nine days. Her reign was cut short by Mary, who seized the crown and beheaded Jane and her supporters. But what of this young girl's childhood? What led her to her fate? This novel explores Jane's past, as she continues to defy her controlling parents only to give under their cruel punishments. It shows her relationships with the royalty she would one day move against in the powerful political game they all played.

When I cracked open Innocent Traitor, I wasn't too thrilled with how the story first progressed. The first two chapters contain nothing but Jane's mother and the current Queen giving birth. I know its a natural thing and yadda yadda yadda, but if you have read one birthing scene, you have read them all. There are a number of births described in Innocent Traitor, all of which I wanted to skim over. One of them is particularly gruesome, and it leaves the woman basically mutilated and her baby a hunchback. The other stories of Jane's childhood, which are also told in the first part of the book, describe Jane's demeaning abuse at the hands of her parents, especially her domineering mother. I could understand how this related to future events and Jane's character being defined, but it was hard to read at times. All I wanted to do was scoop Jane up and rescue her from her life.

The feeling I have when I read historical novels from this period, especially about people who end up rather headless, is the same feeling I have when I read Shakepseare's tragedies. I know what the end result will be going into the book. I already know how the main character will end up, the same character I expect to became emotionally invested in. And of course, I do become emotionally attached, and I do find myself hoping against hope that history will change before I finish the story. Like a Shakepeare tragedy, there are always heaps of foreboding and foreshadowing found inside the story. I find that foreshadowing is always fun for me to read, sort of like a 'Where's Waldo' for me to sniff out and spot.

Alison Weir writes Innocent Traitor in alternating view points for each chapter. I usually don't enjoy this approach. It wasn't my favorite way to read the book, and I still think it could have been written solely from Jane's perspective and the story wouldn't have suffered. However I do think it was a great way for the reader do learn everyone's hidden agenda and polticial plans, something that reading from the Jane's perspective wouldn't have been made clear.

One apsect that completely surprised me was how big a role religion played in Jane's story. I realize that this was a turbulent time for England in terms of religious freedom. I knew Mary especially was a staunch supporter of Catholicism, against the rest of her family's wishes. Somehow I expected Catholicism versus Protestantism to play a smaller role. However, Jane herself is extremely devout in Protestantism from a young age. She clings to her religion throughout the whole novel and roughly defends her faith to people twice her age. From Ms. Weir's point of view, Jane's religion played a large role in her undoing. It was extremely interesting to me how Catholics and Protestants fought over such tiny things, things I don't even remember discussing too often or in much detail in my Catholic Religion class or in my Protestant church.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10. Recommended for historical lovers, especially those with a strong adoration of all things Tudor (and I don't just mean the steamy HBO show). It was a rather sad novel about a young girl whose life was cut short too soon. I felt like the fate of these people led them, instead of these people taking control of their own destinies. Their fates were hard to read about, especially since young women like Jane had little control over their lives unless their parents or husband gave it to them. It was informative and heart-wrenching, but to say it was entertaining would just be cruel.

Source for copy: Borrowed.

A middle grade book I read on Lady Jane Gray when I was younger was Nine Days a Queen by Ann Rinaldi. I don't remember much about it, except that I liked it enough to buy it. If that fact means anything to you, maybe you will like the book too. I do remember its very PG, as PG as a book can get when it involves Tudor England and beheading.


  1. Yeah, birthing is gross.

    I have two Alison Weir books in my owned-TBR. Both are non-fiction books. I can't wait to get to them :-)

  2. Ick, right?

    Her fiction is good, but I can't say much for her nf as this is my first Weir. I would pick them up tho.



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