Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stars of Historical Fantasy

The "Stars of..." series is a feature I'm doing here at Epic (Chocolate) Fantasy to highlight the best books in different areas of the fantasy genre. Say you want a book about shapeshifters or wizards or mythology, or maybe you want to read some political or heroic fantasy. Stop by here every Thursday for the foreseeable future, and I'll have recommendations for you! Click on the book covers for links to the first book in the series and on the series name for a list of the books in it on Goodreads.

If you think there's something I missed in this category, feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments! I haven't read everything out there, obviously, and I'd love some recommendations myself.

Series are alphabetical by author.

Stars of Historical Fantasy

Historical fantasy falls into two categories, which I've decided here to call other worlds and alternate histories. For purposes of this posts, "other worlds" means that the books take place in worlds that clearly reflect an existing historical time period, but the names have been changed: France is Terre d'Ange, or Byzantium is Sarantium. Alternate histories are books that take place in our history, with real historical names and figures, but change the timelines and, of course, add some kind of magic.

I thought about putting some steampunk fantasy on this list, but I decided not to because a, I've only read 1.03 steampunk fantasy series (Infernal Devices and one-fifth of the first book of The Parasol Protectorate) and they didn't have the scope I was looking for in this kind of post. But if you've read one that you think should be on here, be sure to let me know!

Other Worlds

Jacqueline Carey
Kushiel's Legacy
3 trilogies, completed

Don't let the description of this series fool you. These books are far more about politics and manipulation than sex (though if kinky sex scenes bother you, fair warning. It's got 'em.) I absolutely love the complexity of the characters and plot, and the world, which is a loose re-imagining of medieval Europe, is fascinating. This series is most excellent.

Kate Elliot

Another sort of alternate-universe medieval story, Crown of Stars focuses on a prince with an unusual heritage and a peasant girl who has a way with fire. It can be a little slow at times, but I love the feel of these books. They could also fall into the good versus evil category.

Guy Gavriel Kay
The Lions of Al-Rassan

With a world evocative of medieval Spain just before the Reconquista, Kay manages to depict the effects of civilizational conflict on individuals.  Featuring themes of love, family, war, faith, and loyalty, The Lions of al-Rassan is a spectacular novel filled with vivid imagery and characters who seem to step off the pages into your heart.

The Sarantine Mosaic
2 books, completed

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite writers. I just adore his writing. And The Sarantine Mosaic is one of my favorite stories. Based on a reflection of Byzantium, both books are filled with wonderfully lyrical political chess.

A Song for Arbonne

Filled with Kay's characteristic lyrical prose, A Song for Arbonne is both exciting and profound. It takes place in a fascinating reflection of medieval Europe.


Under Heaven takes place in an alternate-universe version of ancient China, which alone sort of makes it worth reading. It's about love and honor and power, filled with nuances and difficult choices. Kay never fails to impress.

Alternate Histories

Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis
Double Edge
4 books, completed

Imagine if the sidhe were interested in the British line of succession. That's what  happens in the Double Edge series, which takes place before and during the reign of Elizabeth I. It's an interesting period and a fun series, with lots of both historical references and literary license.

Naomi Novik
6 books, ongoing

The Temeraire books are about the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons. Now I love dragons, so I found these impossible to resist. They're quite adventurous stories that take you all over the early nineteenth century world, and though they're occasionally a bit slow, they're definitely worth checking out. And they have dragons.

1 comment:

  1. So many people have recommened Kushiel's Legacy to me and they're on my amazon wishlist now waiting to be bought :)


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