Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen’s Summer Challenge: Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer (Historical Fiction)

This book was not exactly what I was hoping for, but it wasn’t terrible either. The writing style and audience surprised me as being much younger and simpler than I expected, and some might accuse Mary, Bloody Mary as being written in a similar fashion as to History textbook, but I did enjoy it nonetheless. 


Series: Young Royals, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Rating: 3.5


The story of Mary Tudor’s childhood is a classic fairy tale: A princess who is to inherit the throne of England is separated from her mother; abused by an evil stepmother who has enchanted her father; stripped of her title; and forced to care for her baby stepsister, who inherits Mary’s rights to the throne. Believe it or not, it’s all true. Told in the voice of the young Mary, this novel explores the history and intrigue of the dramatic rule of Henry VIII, his outrageous affair with and marriage to the bewitching Anne Boleyn, and the consequences of that relationship for his firstborn daughter. Carolyn Meyer has written a compassionate historical novel about love and loss, jealousy and fear – and a girl’s struggle with forces far beyond her control.

Book Review:

This book was not exactly what I was hoping for, but it wasn’t terrible either. The writing style and audience surprised me as being much younger and simpler than I expected, and some might accuse Mary, Bloody Mary as being written in a similar fashion as to History textbook, but I did enjoy it nonetheless.

This book is certainly good for historical reference. It gives a wonderful background story to Mary Tudor’s early life, from her betrothal to King Francis of France at the age of ten till right after Anne Boleyn’s death in 1536 when Mary was twenty. The writing style focuses more on historical accuracy than plot building and development, although Mary’s character development is shown in depth, beautifully depicting her fall from princess heir to lowly illegitimate child and servant. I did really enjoy how Carolyn Meyer illustrated Mary’s inner turmoil with the many big changes in her life, which help to explain her later actions.

The title for this book is about as perfect as Mary’s nickname — that is to say, not at all perfect in the least. Mary Tudor is known as Bloody Mary because of the hundreds of people she burned at the stake for heresy in her aim to restore the Catholic Church in place of her father’s Protestant Church of England. However, when comparing the actual death count under Mary’s five-year reign to other monarchs famous for their brutality, she is quite far down on the list, and many who murdered thousands more are less known for their violence than she. Similarly, this book does not address this time in Mary’s life at all, instead focusing on her childhood when she was still horrified at the thought of murdering innocent people. Kate also agrees that she found it odd that this book was titled Mary, Bloody Mary, when it never actually addresses the reasons behind her nickname, besides in the Historical Note at the end (which was very helpful).

I think I will continue with the Young Royals series in the future, mainly because the subject matter greatly interests me. Other books by Carolyn Meyer, both in and out of the Young Royals series, star Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Catherine de’Medici, Marie-Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, William Shakespeare, Hermione and Helen of Troy, and Cleopatra.

I would recommend Mary, Bloody Mary for former lovers of the Royal Diaries series looking for something written for a slightly (but only barely) older audience and written in a non-diary format.

Genre Review: Historical Fiction

As I said before, this book is fantastic if you just want to learn the history behind Mary Tudor’s childhood. However, this is not what I like to think that the Historical Fiction genre is all about. Some of my favorite historical fiction books include Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (which does actually include quite a bit of fantasy as well — it has assassin nuns in it!) and the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer that I have been reviewing recently. Both of these books cleverly combine historical events and characters with fictional characters and details to create an original story with an accurate foundation. Mary, Bloody Mary is not like this, and will therefore teach you a lot more, but is not as enjoyable to read. I suppose it all depends on what you are looking for in a Historical Fiction novel.

All in all, I found this book was very well done in the “historical” category but needed some work in the “fiction” side of the genre.


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This entry was posted on June 29, 2014 by in Author: Gwen, Gwen's Summer 2014 Genre Challenge, Middle Grade, Review, Young Adult and tagged , .
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