Thursday, March 4, 2021

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

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

Published: June 22nd, 2021
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 0 (audiobook)
Series: Mary #1
Source: Netgalley eARC 
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.⠀

This series as a concept had me so unbelievably excited. After completing a trilogy of historical Jane retellings, Hand, Ashton, and Meadows have set their sights on Marys. The very first, My Contrary Mary, is a Mary Queen of Scots retelling. Get ready to be transported to Renaissance France where Mary is a ward of the French Court!

The book's narration comes from several shifting POV's (primarily Mary), as well as some third-person narrator comments. The narrator's are really what makes this book so special. They are absolutely hilarious, providing a 'so-here-is-the-scoop' tone. They are terrible gossips, but charmingly witty at the same time. They are that friend in college/high school that you always turned to when you wanted to hear about the latest scandals without going through the effort of snooping things out for yourself. Before the book even properly started I was cry-laughing at the dedication: "For the people who feel like they have to be perfect; and for France. We're sorry for what we're about to do to your history, but it was your turn."

I found myself enjoying the return to the Eðian/Verity dynamic (shapeshifter/pure humans) as a metaphor for the disparity and tensions between Catholics and Protestants at the time. It is a cool way to reframe this time period, and was pretty genius!

On top of the comedy, the characters were so well developed. I truly felt for Mary and Francis, and even the side characters like Mary Livingston and Ari. Their actions and motivations felt real, and the stakes and betrayals in court were gutting. While of course this is a series of Marys, in a sense each book is also a stand alone, which I think is a boon to the work. Readers don't necessarily have to read The Lady Janies series to enjoy this latest work. Comedy and Historical Fiction blend together effortlessly in this gem of a book. Bonus points? Bonus points! On top of everything, I actually feel like I learned a lot reading this book. The plot was surprisingly historically accurate, if we overlook the whole fantasy shapeshifting element haha.

All in all, My Contrary Mary is a must-read, and I impatiently await the additions of Marie Curie and Mary Mallon to the new Mary series!

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