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Nine Historical Fictions

January 3, 2015

Writerly advice is everywhere and everyplace and a common gem that shines from the advice treasure trove is to read books in the genre you’re writing in. As The Bound Chronicles is a medieval historical fiction, for this 9th Christmas I’d thought I’d share 9 medieval/Renaissance books and/or series. I’ll start with older novels and what I’ve been given to understand are “basics” of the genre and move to newer, crossover genre series. Some I have read and some I have yet to read.

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco—Nearly everyone who hears I like medieval historical fiction recommends this to me, and I’ve procured a copy but have yet to read it. Set in 1327, it’s a race against the clock for Brother William of Baskerville to solve and stop the murders in a neighboring abbey. Truly a classic.
  • The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters—Another stronghold of medieval murder, The Cadfael Chronicles follow the Welsh Brother Cadfael through 10 years of murder, missing person, and theft investigations during the English Anarchy. These books are lovingly and accurately penned.
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White—A compilation of four books, this epic transforms all the disparate King Arthur lore into one coherent narrative universe. Adventurous, detailed, and tragic, this book fills you with nostalgia for magic and childhood and warm country fields. I read it and loved it. It’s a must for anyone who loves Arthurian literature.
  • The Pillars of the Earth & World Without End by Ken Follett—I wrote a review of The Pillars of the Earth here and the second fixes a lot of my stylistic complaints I made. Set during the Anarchy and the terrifying Bubonic Plague respectively, political and personal intrigue abound as a whole host of characters clash and conflict over the fulfillment of their desires.
  • Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel—This series is very popular among the historical fiction crowd: the first novel won both the Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. Set in the early 1500s, the books chronicle the rise of Thomas Cromwell under King Henry VIII.
  • The Cousins’ War series & The Tudor Court novels by Philippia Gregory—Again, these books surround and thrive in court intrigue, but I think they also do something even more important: give medieval and Renaissance women a powerful voice. These time periods were highly patriarchal, and it’s too easy to have female characters hemmed in, passive, and powerless. Gregory’s characters, however, are world shakers and movers, whether they bend, break, or follow the rules.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin—I haven’t read them yet because they’re very, very daunting, but I know I should. I cannot heap any more accolades than it’s already gained. Strap on your seatbelts for an average of 56.2 character deaths per novel and every human sin imaginable to be committed in a contest to sit on the most uncomfortable sounding chair in the world. Also dragons.
  • The Kushiel’s Legacy trilogies by Jacqueline Carey—Compromised of the Phèdre Trilogy and the Imriel Trilogy, this is an older series I recently discovered and thoroughly fell in love with. The stories take place in an alternate/fantastical European Renaissance setting, which qualifies it as speculative historical fiction, and follow Phèdre and her adopted son Imriel as they unravel the horrors, manipulations, and beauties of the royal court. Sensual and spiritual, I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants their mind a-buzzed and their breath taken away.
  • Timeline by Michael Crichton—history takes a thrilling turn as a quest to build a fax machine ends up building a portal to France during the Hundred Year’s War. Seriously. Oodles of fun

Do you have any favorite historical fictions? Feel free to share in the comments and happy reading!

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6 Comments
  1. Sunborn permalink

    ‘Timeline’ I do know; ‘Name of the Rose’ I would recommend to most people; and ‘Ice and Fire’ deserves a better editor than it had.

  2. Sunborn permalink

    I have read ‘Timeline’ entirely; ‘Rose’ mostly; and ‘Ice and Fire’ a little. I’ve also read most of ‘Once and Future King’, and its siblings. All others on your list, are new to me.

  3. Andromachus permalink

    If you would take more recommendations: I suggest Howard Pyle’s ‘Men of Iron’, wherein is depicted the knightly education of one Myles Falworth, the idealistic son of a disgraced nobleman, and thereafter the passage of arms by which this Myles, having attained his knighthood, destroys the man who disgraced his father; and Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’, in which are depicted, the relations in England of Saxon to Norman, and of Jew to Christian, about the return of Richard I (Plantagenet) from the Crusade. The writing-style of either is slower than the present fashion requires; but in my opinion, worthy of both tolerance and imitation. I hope you are not offended by this double recommendation.

    • Of course not! Thank you for the recommendations. I’ll add Ivanhoe and Men of Iron to my to-read list.

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