Here's the thing about this book: it is patently and utterly ridiculous... but it's a self aware kind of ridiculous. It's set in the mid-16th century, but the speech is almost entirely modern. People turn into animals. Lady Jane Grey's story doesn't end in a beheading after her nine-day queenship. The narrators make comments on the goings on, rather than just telling the story. Everything is lot more humorous than the situation really would have been, historically speaking.
All that makes this a very interesting exercise in storytelling. My knowledge of English history is far from perfect, but you don't really need a grasp of history to read this one, as it veers so far away from what actually happened. Most of the story exists in active defiance of history, but, for the most part, the narrators make it clear that that's kind of the point. The wackiness did make it a fun read...
While it was silly, and had very little to do with history this novel still had some fairly well defined characters that fitted the light tone of the novel. Jane was willful and compassionate, and more concerned with her books than the politics of England. The titles of her books amused me a lot! I'm a science student, so way they had lengthy and detailed titles of the academic texts was quite familiar (though the books themselves definitely weren't), and I quite enjoyed how Jane seemed to have picked up some pretty random bits of information from her reading (again, familiar). Especially the bit with the bear- I too often find myself in situations where I know a fair bit about something... but not anything of much use. While I didn't enjoy the other characters quite as much as Jane, they suited the story well.
The only real gripe I have about this book was the Shakespeare bit. It just felt rather stilted being stuck in as it was... I think I might have preferred original poetry to that. It almost should have fit; there are parts of the story that do feel a bit Shakespearean- people turning into animals, the narrators interrupting the goings on with an intermission to comment, the RANDOM BEAR- but the poetry just didn't work for me.
Overall this was a silly alternate history that required a quite a bit of suspension of disbelief to get into. It's light, fun, and a bit random. It has less to do with history than most novels set on Mars, and it is definitely worth a read if you like something quick and quirky.