The novel does a wonderful job of making history and its players come alive. The pageantry and intrigue of Tudor England are all there in vibrant display.
A pretty and precocious little girl, gifted with brilliant scholarly intellect, Lady Jane is the niece of Henry VIII, and the product of ambitious and abusive parents who expect nothing short of perfection from her and brutally punish even the most minor mistakes, real or imagined.
At sixteen, in a plot to prevent the obsessively devout Mary Tudor or the strong-willed Elizabeth from inheriting the throne after the death of their brother, Edward VI, Jane's ambitious parents join forces with the ruthless and even more ambitious Duke of Northumberland and hatch a plan to put Jane on the throne as the homegrown Protestant queen, for Jane, though just a young girl, is a pig-headed Protestant, as stubborn and obstinate about her religion being the only right one as Mary Tudor is about Catholicism being the one "true" faith. Since many of the nobles have profited by the dissolution of the monasteries and converted to Protestantism for reasons of faith or profit, few relish a return to the Catholic fold.
To tighten his control and ensure his position as the power behind the throne, Northumberland schemes to marry Jane to his bad apple, spoiled rotten son Guildford Dudley. But poor Jane finds no happiness in marriage to this cruel, whining mama's boy. The consummation of her marriage would more aptly be called rape. Afterwards she suffers from a bevy of stress-related illnesses, which lead her to believe that she is being poisoned.
When Northumberland's Protestant coup falls apart and the loyal people of England rally around Mary as the rightful queen, Jane is abandoned and left to face the music alone, an "Innocent Traitor" accused of usurping a crown she never wanted, and to pay the ultimate penalty for her treason.
Though I enjoyed Ms. Weir's second novel, "The Lady Elizabeth," much more, "Innocent Traitor" is also an interesting and compelling read. The only real fault I found with it was Ms. Weir's decision to tell the story in alternating first person, dolling the story out to half a dozen or so narrators. This is just my personal opinion, but I thought this gave the novel a "too many cooks in the kitchen" feel; I think it would have worked much better if the story had either been written in third person as "The Lady Elizabeth" was or restricted to one or two narrators at most.