About the Book

Title: Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France, 1553 (The Royal Diaries #10)
Published: 2002
Series: The Royal Diaries
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Ye’ll Take the High Road, and I’ll Take the Low Road
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Gifted & Talented
Bonus Factors: Girl Posse, Nostradamus, Scotland
Anti-Bonus Factor: Sexual Assault
Relationship Status: Love Triangle

The Official FYA Royal Diaries Drinking Game

Take a sip when:

  • There is talk of a betrothal
  • The protagonist references the diary concept (i.e. apologizes for not writing often enough, has to find a hiding place for the diary, explains why she’s writing in it to begin with, etc.)
  • The protagonist wonders what it would be like to be a “normal girl”
  • There’s a ball
  • Somebody is poisoned or strangled or in some other way Ye Olde Murdered
  • You wish you were a princess

Take two sips when:

  • The protagonist becomes betrothed (for realsies)
  • It’s the protagonist’s birthday (or culturally equivalent celebration)
  • Obvious historical foreshadowing (Nostradamus is a character in this book, so…)
  • You’re really glad you’re NOT a princess

Take a shot when:

Cover Story: Ye’ll Take the High Road, and I’ll Take the Low Road

One of the few things that Reign managed to get right*, historically speaking, is the setting: although Mary is (as you may have heard) Queen of Scots, she’s brought up at the French court. But as the subtitle implies, Mary spends a lot of time thinking about her heritage and missing her homeland. So I like that France (represented by a château) is backgrounded, and Scotland (via tartan) is foregrounded on this cover.

*Of course, what with all the Lorde songs and Anthropologie dresses, mocking Reign for historical inaccuracy is such low-hanging fruit it almost doesn’t seem worth it. Which probably won’t stop me from doing it for the rest of this review, because if there are two things I love in this world, it’s Royal Diaries books and sexy CW shows.

The Deal:

Mary Stuart became a Queen before she could talk. She became engaged to the French dauphin before she could read. And she was shipped off to be raised in France before she could ride a bike (wait). Unfortunately, there’s already a Queen in France: Mary’s future mother-in-law, Queen Catherine, who doesn’t seem to like her very much. Mary is supposed to be a reigning monarch, but somehow it feels like everyone has power but her.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

It’s really easy to be jealous of Mary (I wish I’d been declared a queen at birth), but it’s even easier to feel sorry for her (at least I wasn’t taken away from my mother at age five). Mary can be impulsive and judgmental, but she’s also curious, adventurous, and a devoted friend. The only trouble I can imagine for our friendship is that I’ve already given an extra-sparkly BFF charm to her cousin-and-eventual-political-enemy Elizabeth.


Swoonworthy Scale: 3

On Reign, Mary’s betrothed is played by a 22-year-old blond hunk. In this book, Francis is eleven years old and prone to sniffling. Mary does love him and considers him one of her closest friends, but she doesn’t have any feelings for him, romantic-stylez. One of her Scottish guardsmen, a burly red-headed bagpiper, on the other hand…

Talky Talk: Gifted & Talented

At eleven years old, Mary is the youngest Royal Diarist I’ve reviewed thus far. (Taking into account the whole series, I think the ages range from nine to eighteen.) Kathryn Lasky’s writing is beautiful as ever, but I found myself pausing after many particularly well-turned phrases, wondering if a girl her age would really be able to craft such a complex metaphor, or be that mature about a prophet basically predicting her death. Maybe I’m giving short shrift to eleven-year-olds, but I would’ve found the whole thing easier to swallow if she was just a couple years older. (Especially her proto-sexual awakening re: the bagpiper.)

Bonus Factor: Girl Posse

Three young women from The Baby-Sitters Club sit on a bed smiling at each other while one stands at the end looking down

Mary’s other best friends are her four handmaidens: Mary Seton, Mary Livingston, Mary Beaton, and Mary Fleming. Yep, they’re all named Mary, which is hilarious, but not as hilarious as Aylee, Lola, Kenna, and Greer. Anyway, this book is full of awesome female friendship between the five Marys, whether they’re making up silly rhymes together or hatching a dangerous plot in the name of justice.

Bonus Factor: Nostradamus

The real-life Nostradamus may have been a fraud who got expelled from medical school, but in this book, Nostradamus is a pretty cool guy. At one point Mary even plays Tennis With Nostradamus, which needs to be made into a webcomic stat.

Bonus Factor: Scotland (sorta)

A beautiful old castle nestled into rolling hills in Scotland

Although Mary never visits Scotland in this book, Scotland visits Mary in many ways—whether it’s her mother sending her a handkerchief full of harebells and thistles, her guardsman playing the bagpipes on a misty morning, or her nurse sometimes bursting into Gaelic. It certainly made me long for the Old Country. (I’m Scottish in that obnoxiously billionth-generation American way where I go to Edinburgh and try to find a scarf with “my clan’s” tartan, then decide I don’t like the color and instead go with the pattern of my clan’s greatest enemies.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Sexual Assault

That dangerous plot I mentioned earlier comes about because Mary’s creepy music teacher starts harassing one of her handmaidens. Lasky handles the subplot well, directly addressing the fear and embarrassment and victim-blaming that accompanies this type of crime. It’s difficult to read in a way that makes it clear how potent this issue still is.

Relationship Status: Love Triangle

Book, you’re great. You’re well-written, engaging, fun, attractive, likeable, and, best of all, pretty historically accurate. But you’ve also got a crazy hot (as in, both hot and crazy) cousin, who’s been making eyes at me for the past year. You’ll always be my one true love, but if I have a fling with your TV cousin, please don’t judge me too harshly. After all, you guys are barely even related, and history blows unless it’s sexy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book with my allowance. Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country has been available for years, y’all. So get on that.

About the Contributor:

Maria Greer is originally from Montana but goes to school in the Bay Area, where she totally fails to take advantage of the tech industry. Instead, she is majoring in history and creative writing, with which she plans to do…something. Currently her hope is that someone will come along and offer to pay her to read YA novels and eat cupcakes. Until that day, Maria spends most of her time studying and petitioning the university to let her keep a cat in her dorm.

This post was written by a guest writer or former contributor for Forever Young Adult.