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Unusually for Alison Weir, who has written ten historical non-fiction books, "Innocent Traitor" is a historical novel, told from the points of view of Lady Jane Grey, her household and those close to the crown. Protestant by inclination, Jane is a helpless pawn caught up in the scheming of her parents and the ambitious Duke of Northumberland. Their doomed plotting leads to heads rolling and the lighting of the first of many fires of Protestant martyrdom by Catholic Queen Mary. Jane Grey pays the ultimate price, with her head on the block - courageously refusing Queen Mary's offer of a reprieve if she embraces Catholicism. She was queen in name for a mere nine days.

Told as it is from many different viewpoints our sympathy is aroused for the learned Jane and we share her dread and horror of an untimely death at the age of sixteen.
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on 22 April 2006
I have been a fan of Alison Weir's historical work for a while and have thoroughly enjoyed this book, her first novel. The reader gets so much depth from the book about the culture and lives of people in the mid 1500's...and you are aware that everything is pretty much as accurate as it can get!

I'm so pleased this book was about Lady Jane Grey and all the plots and characters that shaped her destiny. The reader gets completely drawn in, and it's very hard to put this book down. Although the end of Jane's life is well known to history fans, Alison Weir still manages to build the tension beautifully.

There is an interesting "historial note" chapter at the end of the book to explain which parts were historically accurate in the book and which bits were changed for the purpose of the novel.

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on 9 July 2009
This is an outstanding debut fiction novel from Alison Weir. I was gripped for start to finish, despite knowing the story of Lady Jane Grey already. I was moved to tears at many points throughout the story by how harshly she was treated and what happened to her in her short life. I was a bit worried in case it was a bit 'Phillipa Gregory' - there's nothing wrong with her writing per se, but she is a bit sex obsessed - but this was character and plot driven with very little titillation in it, which was good news!

This seemed so realistic and painted many vivid images of the Tudor court in my mind. I didn't want it to end. I've bought The Lady Elizabeth to read next and can't wait.

A wonderful, wonderful book - more please!
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on 29 August 2007
Poor Lady Jane Grey. This is a hard novel to read. The writing is excellent, the story is interesting, its well paced and keeps the read enthralled. The only hard bit is that if you know your history then you know the fate of poor Lady Jane.

Saying that I didnt know much about her life but this book filled in that gap and added lots of info of life in Tudor England from midway through Henry VIII's reign to the beginning of Bloody Marys. So if you are fascinated by the Tudor period then you will love this novel. And if you are not moved by the ending then you are harder than me!!
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VINE VOICEon 29 January 2007
This is a beautiful novel detailing the tragic life of one of the most compelling women in English history, the Lady Jane Grey. It tells the whole story of her life from her birth right through her nine day reign to her untimely death. It is written mainly through the eyes of all the people in her life who shaped her fate. We see events told through her parents, her nurse, the Duke of Northumberland, Queen Mary to name but a few, yet most of the story comes from Jane herself.

I was a little unsure at the start as I don't normally like books written in the present tense, although the author's high standard of writing soon won me round, and I realized how instrumental this was in building up the tension towards the end. My heart was actually pounding in my chest in the end scenes as I got lost in the drama of the moment.

Fans of historical fiction will love it.

Congratulations Ms Weir on a wonderful story, made all the more poignant because it is true.
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on 29 July 2007
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time! I have never read Alison Weir's work before but will definitely do so in the future, having read this debut novel. It was extremely well written and you could tell that it was written by a historian and not just a novelist. I learnt so much about the period and loved the little nuggets of information dropped in, like how Somerset House came into being. I disagree with reviewers who say Lady Jane was an unsympathetic character, how can you say this? She was portrayed as a kind, intelligent and courageous woman and I ended the book, thinking she is someone I would love to have met. If I have one slight quibble, it would be I would have preferred a longer author's note at the end. Throughout the book, I was intrigued which bits were fact and which were fiction and it would have been interesting to have a few more details about this. But overall, an excellent novel, I'll be looking out for Weir's next novel.
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on 6 November 2011
In the Innocent Traitor Alison Weir tells the heartbreaking story of Jane Grey, a young girl (in her teenage years) who through her family's doing is put on the throne of England following the death of her cousin King Edward...However, she was only on the throne for 9 days, and went to her death as a traitor.

So that is the bit of the story that is widely known, but who was Jane Grey? What was her connection to the throne? Why was she placed there? Weir answers these questions in her first novel (before this she wrote many books on historical people, but never a novel). Most importantly though, Weir draws from sources the information to make Jane more that just a figure in history, but a real person, as we feel her pain and anguish.
(Weir's Traitors of the Tower (Quick Reads) gives the reader sourced info on Jane, and a brief summary of her story)

The novel starts with Jane in the tower, and a reader unaware of the situation may feel that a pretender to the throne deserves this, as they scheme to make it to the top. But no, Jane is just a young girl who is at the disposal of her husband and most importantly her father, so she must obey them. We learn of Jane's life in detail in this novel, and consequently how she came to be on the throne for only 9 days before her imprisonment and later death.

The reader can empathise with Jane and although I hated her mother, by the end of the novel I felt her heartbreak as she begged for her daughter's life. This novel is a perfect example of greed for power in this period, and the consequences on an innocent girls life.

Weir writes with passion and feeling, as she describes perfectly Tudor England, and Jane Grey's story- a subject that in detail little is widely know about.
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VINE VOICEon 9 July 2011
Alison Weir is best known for her non-fiction books but Innocent Traitor is her debut historical fiction novel from 2007 in which she tells the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey, the 'Nine Day Queen'.

Jane was a great-niece of King Henry VIII. Her ambitious parents never bothered to hide their disappointment that she wasn't the son they had hoped for - however, they immediately began plotting and scheming, first to marry Jane to Henry's son, the young King Edward VI, and when this plan failed, to have the order of succession changed so that Jane would become heir to the throne in her own right. As Jane's story unfolds, we are shown how terrible it must have been to be a girl born into the royal family in the 16th century and used as an innocent pawn in her parents' selfish plans.

Much of the story is told from Jane's point of view, but there are also sections narrated by her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, her nurse, Mrs Ellen, and several others, including Mary I, who is shown to have more compassion and humanity than she is usually given credit for - until, of course, she makes the final decision that will seal Jane's fate. The use of multiple narrators to tell the various parts of the story worked very well. One minor criticism is that the early sections which are supposed to be narrated by a four-year-old Jane are not convincing at all, but I was able to overlook this. The book does focus more on the female perspective, but there are also one or two male narrators, the Duke of Northumberland (Jane's father-in-law, John Dudley) being one of them.

I have no idea what Jane was supposed to be like in reality but Alison Weir has created a very engaging and sympathetic character. The sad thing is that under different circumstances Jane might actually have made a very good queen. She was intelligent and well-educated, courageous and dignified. Unfortunately when she came to the throne she was only fifteen, not old enough or strong enough to be able to deal with the unscrupulous, manipulative people around her. I found the portrayal of Jane's husband, Guilford Dudley, interesting too. He's shown as a cruel, unpleasant person who treats his wife badly, but like Jane he was also a pawn in his father's ruthless plans and had no more control over his own destiny than Jane had over hers.

"If you don't cry at the end you have a heart of stone" it says on the front cover of the book. Well, I'm pleased to report that I don't have a heart of stone - the final pages of this novel are unbearably sad and yes, I did cry. I knew from the beginning how her story would end, but that didn't make it any easier to read when it came. Despite already knowing what the outcome of the story would be, I couldn't help wishing things would turn out differently for poor Jane. I'm not a big fan of the Tudor period as a subject for historical fiction, but I had never read a book about Lady Jane Grey before and am glad that I've now had the opportunity to learn more about this important but too often forgotten historical figure.
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2009
Overall, I was rather underwhelmed by this one. I find generally that books written in the first person work less well than those written in the third person, and in this particular book, the problem was compounded by having multiple narrators, switching between them very frequently, and none of them really seeming to have their own strong narraitive voice. Well, the executioner at the end was unmistakable if a bit too 'cor blimey Guv'nor'! At 400 pages, I was just quite relieved when I got to the end.

I also found it too much of a coincidence, even for an historical fiction novel, for Jane to be the one to find the scroll ordering Katherine Parr's arrest.
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on 23 June 2008
Having known very little about the main character this book is based on, Lady Jane Grey, it was a refreshing and intresting read. I've been a fan of Philippa Gregory's book's but this surpasses them by leaps and bounds.

The characters are very much three dimension each with flaws. A previous reviewer had made the comment that Jane was too perfect, which I didn't find. To me she was flawed in the fact that she was too dogmatic in her views on religion, but this in itself was, at least to me, a form of rebelion against her parents. It was their disappointment in Jane and their ambition for power that ultimately led to her downfall.

The author has obviously done her homework and research and by intertwining known facts with certain key points in history that Jane 'Could' have witnessed, it brings it live.

I also began to fell for Queen Mary I, who even though knew that in order to give the country security of her marriage to Philip of Spain, and therefor give a heir to the throne, Jane had to die, Mary gave Jane many chances to live. First by trying to get her to convert and then to see if she was with child.

By the time that Jane's execution was drawing close, I found I could no longer read this book at bed time. I found myself getting very emotional at the scene.

All in all, an excellent book and I can't wait for the next one, which is sitting in my to-read pile.
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