Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: historical fantasy

I’m sorry, I’m aware it’s been a little while since I did a Fantasy Friday post – but these are always the ones that take me the longest to write, and as I haven’t been feeling too much up to blogging for the past month, they were also the first posts to get put aside!

Historical fantasy is a particularly wonderful branch of the fantasy genre, and to me it can mean two things. Either a story based on real events, places or people but with some magical or fantasy elements, or a new fantasy world that is inspired by real history or places. I wanted to share some examples of the sub-genre – they’re all ones I have either read, or heard very good things about.

1. Lion of Macedon (Greek Series #1) by David Gemmell

Lion of Macedon

To be honest, I can’t think of anything much better than blending ancient Greek history and mythology with fantasy fiction. And with Lion of Macedon, David Gemmell has done that.

2. Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read Across the Nightingale Floor about seven or eight years ago, when I had a great interest in Japanese history. It’s loosely based on the feudal era of Japanese history, with plenty of fantastical elements. I never quite finished the series, but I do remember enjoying the first two books a lot.

3. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay


I’ve been aware of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay for a while now, but I only just recently decided to add it to my ‘to read’ list as I finally looked into what it’s really about. It is based on Renaissance Italy, which is an interest of mine – so definitely one to look out for! Would it be too much to hope that there are characters influenced by the Borgias?? I can dream.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

I first read The Historian when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and it just completely grabbed me and pulled me right in. I devoured it in a matter of days. Following a young woman tracing her family’s history, she soon finds herself tangled up with the history of one Vlad Tepes, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. It’s creepy and dark but very addictive.

5. Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin

A very recent release from Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin is inspired by elements of medieval history. In fact there are plenty of fantasy series which draw from medieval history (including one that has been turned into a hit TV show…), but I wanted to showcase this book in particular as I will hopefully be reviewing it soon!

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon


Kind of hard to ignore Outlander when it’s been everywhere recently, thanks to a recent TV show adaptation. I honestly hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago, despite the book being nearly as old as myself, but as soon as I read about it, it went straight onto the wishlist. It’s about a woman who gets teleported back in time, from 1945 to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. EVERYONE is raving about it!

7. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon

Napoleonic Wars? Check. Dragon combat? Check. His Majesty’s Dragon is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, imagining that they were fought with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Another one set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell features magic instead of dragons. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been recommended this book by various people, and how many times I’ve heard friends speak highly of it.

9. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I’ve spoken a lot about Sabriel in the past, so if you’re a regular reader of the blog then you will know of my love for the series. It’s set in an alternative early twentieth century England, but instead of the First World War the people of Ancelstierre have to fight the dark forces of Necromancy.

10. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld


Another alternate history that everyone needs to read, Leviathan imagines that World War I was fought using beasts, developed using Darwinist theories, and machines. I cannot recommend this series enough, and as a bonus it has some gorgeous illustrations.

What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Did you enjoy any of the ones listed here?


8 thoughts on “Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy”

  1. I love fantasy, and I love historical fiction, so it makes sense that I’d love a merging of the two. And I do, but for some reason I find it a bit more difficult to find historical fantasies that I truly love.
    The only book I’ve read that you mentioned here is Sabriel, but I have been meaning to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for a while now!
    I feel like Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series gets a lot of mention as historical fantasies. And Sherry Thomas’ The Burning Sky. And Kendall Kulper’s Salt & Storm. I think that steampunk in general can be considered a subdivision of historical fantasy, by and large.

    1. I actually had a bit of trouble thinking of some that WEREN’T based on medieval history. I could think of plenty of ones based around various mythologies as well, but I didn’t want to end up repeating a previous post!

      Sabriel is brilliant – are you excited for Clariel? 🙂

      I did look at His Fair Assassin, I was going to include it but I felt I had enough books on the list. I have a copy at home and I think it’s high priority to read when I’m back in the UK. I didn’t realise The Burning Sky was historical fantasy actually, I have that one on my Kindle!

      That’s true about steampunk. Such an amazing sub-genre!

  2. ooo Lion of Macedon sounds interesting, sounds like an adult version of percy jackson. I’m not totally in love with PJ but have to admit it’s interesting and has style. I just wish every other popular children’s or YA fantasy novel wasn’t set in NYC, why not like new orleans or LA or something? u know?

    1. Well, in that it involves Greek mythology and history yes, but that’s just about where the similarities stop 🙂 It’s not a modern day retelling or anything.

      I know what you mean! I’ve spotted a few books set in New Orleans actually (read one of them) and they always intrigue me because it’s somewhere I’d love to visit one day.

  3. I’ve had ‘Across the Nightingale Floor’ since it came out and I STILL haven’t read it! The same with ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’. Both of them look excellent so I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten around to them yet… I looooove the Sabriel series and I’m so excited that the next part is finally coming out 🙂

    1. Hurry up and get round to them! 😉

      Yesss, can’t wait for Clariel! I might have to buy the paperback when I’m back in the UK, or ask for it for Christmas or something. Assuming they release the paperback then…

  4. I adore historical fantasy (though I adore a lot of fantasy and will be obnoxiously commenting on lots of old Fantasy Friday posts eventually). I think there’s something just so compelling and maybe even more believable about the idea of magic existing in the past and affecting the course of events rather than urban fantasy where the idea of magic has to fit into our modern world.

    I liked Sabriel quite a bit, the world and the magic structure were really interesting. I also like Patricia Wrede’s magic and history with Sorcery and Cecelia and A Matter of Magic. I don’t know what it is about Regency England that just begs to be infused with magic 🙂

    1. Haha, that is fine by me 😉

      It’s true! I can completely imagine magic within the past, maybe it’s because there’s an element of mystery to both of them.

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