WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer
Type: Historical Fiction
Basic Plot: Mary Tudor is given a partly fictional biography of her childhood, teenage, and young adult years. The emphasis is on her teenage years, when her father, King Henry VIII, puts them in disgrace by divorcing his wife and claiming Mary is illegitimate. The reason is to have a son with his lover, Anne Boleyn.
Plot and Writing: 3/5 Average: It was well written and was pretty historically accurate. It did have some untrue things, though such as Ms. Meyer claiming that Anne did not speak at her own execution. It also is told from the perspective of what Mary felt. We can not know to well what she felt, though I believe Ms. Meyer gave us some very good ideas. Mary and the other people in the book tended to feel when bad things were going to happen a little too often. Mary knows when something bad will happen. A person just knows they will never meet another person ever again. Also like many children’s books, I think she was trying to label characters as “bad guys” and “good guys.” In history there are not always clear villains and heroes. In other books by her she has shown some of the characters cast as the villains as the heroes instead, so I suppose this makes up for it a little.
Moral 1/5 No Clear Moral: There is no obvious or strong moral in the book. It was more a book, I believe, for telling what happened historically in an interesting way. The closest thing to an actual moral is the necessity to sometimes bend our will to higher authority. Mary was commanded to sign that King Henry VIII had the right to rule over the Church of England and that she was illegitimate. She refused to sign and steadfastly did so until the danger of death became too great. She submitted to the ruling over her until she was queen. Now sometimes we must do this, like at a job or in the government and wait until the Lord delivers us, but some things you should never, ever compromise, mainly in your religion. Now I do not believe Catholicism is the true church, I do believe that what the king wanted her to sign was wrong and that Mary could have been a little stronger. This is what happened in history, though, and Ms. Meyer should be truthful to what happened. I also believe one can get the moral that one will more likely remember your bad deeds than your good. If it were not for her killing non-Catholics, she would probably been considered a sad and lonely, but not violent queen. She did not like blood shed as a whole as her father did it throughout his reign. She did though, and now she must bear the term Bloody Mary.
Overall: 3/5 Average: It was well written for preteens and young teenagers in terms of understanding. It is a way to teach them what happened historically in a non-boring way. I like books like these that help teach what it truly means to be royalty. Not a dream world of riches and romance that Cinderella and Belle live in. It is the reality of arranged marriages, threat of death, and war. There was no practical moral though, and that does degrade the book a bit.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content 2 ½ /5 Quite Suggestive: Mary’s governess warns her to beware of the people who support Anne because they may try to rape her. Later she believes someone in the shadows will, but it was really a friend instead. It is hinted Anne was pregnant before she married Henry VIII. Anne is referred to as a whore and harlot and things of that sort several times in the book. There is a scene that talks about how a lady was sitting on Henry VIII knee. Women are called mistresses throughout the book. Medical terms are used some might consider inappropriate (as in menstrual cycle, etc.) King Henry VIII idea of asking if Mary wanted a husband was asking if she wanted her bed to have one in it.
Violence 3/5 Moderate Non-Descriptive Violence: At Mary’s third betrothal there is a slightly bloody fight between a bear and several dogs and the bear is killed. Her teacher is slightly violent; he likes to swing his walking stick around and hit things with it, and he threatens to use it on Mary. He never does hit her with it. Mary has a falcon that catches animals. Mary’s father gets angry and smacks everything off a table. Mary’s lady in waiting has a cruel, violent father that smacks and kicks his daughter, and she starts to bleed and has a bruise. Anne gets in a rage and throws stuff at Mary and later in the book at another woman. All the objects miss them, though. A lady slaps Mary to make it look like she is Mary’s enemy. A very violent execution is talked about for treason. Henry VIII is in a joust and hurts other men and eventually himself. It is talked about Anne violently pulling a necklace off a woman and causing her to bleed. It is talked about how the rack is used on men. Several people are beheaded and some even have their beheadings described. Accused traitors have their heads put on pikes.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain 2 ½ /5 A Little Swearing: The word “bastard” is used in its appropriate way more than twenty times. Damn is used once as a swear word and once properly. Anne is referred to as a whore, harlot, and concubine, once and “the Great Whore” three times. The Lord’s name is taken in vain three times.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content 3/5 Quite Emotional: Though the book has plenty of emotional scenes, I will only mention the worst. It is quite disturbing in the way a duke treats his daughter. Her father beats her and it is also shown in two different places that he would not refrain from murdering her if he wished to. When Mary refuses to confess she is illegitimate on documents he says, “‘If you were my daughter,… I would knock your head against a wall until it was as soft as a baked apple!’” The beheadings that are described are a bit morbid and very dramatized. If you wish to read more you may read in “Violence.” Mary goes through a lot of emotional issues with divorce and rejection from her father.
Religious Issues 3/5 Contradictory: England is Catholic at the time, so there are saint feast, monks, priest, and there are times when they recite Latin prayers. Catholicism is treated like the true church and monks are placed in the light of pious martyrs. This would be no huge issue if it were not for the fact that Mary hears Jesus telling her to bring back the Catholic Church.
Magic ½ /5: Many people, including Mary, believe Anne is a witch and sorceress. They claim the mole on her throat and sixth finger proves this. They also claim that is why Henry VIII married her and he even claims she had used magic on him. No magic is done by her, though, and the book by the same author from Anne’s perspective shows she is not a witch.
Others: Medieval alcoholic drinks are drunk in the book.
Overall: 3/5 Teenage Appropriate: Though the understanding level is for preteens, the moral content shows that it has things many parents may want their children to read when they are in their young teenage years or even later. There are a lot of emotionally dramatic and traumatic things that Mary deals with that may be a little too intense for young children.