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Historical Fiction Recommendations

Historical Fiction

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Edited: Sep 23, 2016, 10:29pm Top


I am a brand new member to this website and I hope to find it a great resource for discovery of great books. I love reading fantasy, especially grimdark fantasy such as the work of Joe Abercrombie or Glenn Cook. In general I tend to lean towards the titles that are dark, gritty, and (surprise) have as little magic as possible. Also, I highly value strong character development, but I strongly dislike philosophical monologues. I was wondering if anyone is willing to recommend a historical fiction that would get me introduced to the genre and at least loosely, fit the criteria. The setting I am looking for is middle ages and before (except ancient Rome).

Thanks in advance.

Sep 24, 2016, 4:10am Top

I am not sure you will find a historical fiction novel "with a little magic" unless it is part of historical theme. Perhaps there are books from the middle ages that deal with witch burnings but usually the magic was not real and the people were burned because they were insane or just odd.

There was one book though not particularly gritty did have some supernatural flavour to it and that is The Physician

This is a story of a orphaned boy in 11th century England who apprentices to a traveling Barber who finds out the boy can determine the state of someone's health by holding their hands. This is important as if the barber gave the person, who is deathly ill, some of his "medicine" and the person died soon after... well then they could be blamed for the death.

the book follows the boy who decides to be a proper physician but to do so he must travel to Persia which is the seat of all true medical knowledge.

I heartily recommend the book. It is very detailed about life in England/Europe/Persia in the 11th century

Sep 24, 2016, 6:35am Top

The grim and (mostly) Medieval novels of Karen Maitland might appeal to you. They are real historical novels, with dark undertones of the supernatural, but without veering into fantasy.

Edited: Sep 24, 2016, 7:53am Top

I'll second >3 john257hopper:: I've read a couple of Maitland's books and quite liked them. Also pretty grim is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Set in Iceland and based I think on a real case.

Sep 24, 2016, 1:40pm Top

Thanks for the recommendations!
I guess, I have misspoken a little bit. What I meant is that I want to get into historical fiction because I've grown tired of wizards, magic and other fantasy cliche.

Sep 24, 2016, 9:28pm Top

How about Ellis Peters? Her Brother Cadfael books are all essentially murder mysteries, and there is absolutely no supernatural content. Cadfael gets to the solution by observation and deduction.

Burial Rites won't suit, it's set in the nineteenth century.

Sep 24, 2016, 9:36pm Top

Ariana Franklin's series, Mistress of the Art of Death is set in 1200s, England, and murder mystery. There are only 4 bookshops in the series.

Edited: Sep 24, 2016, 11:54pm Top

You might want to try Doomsday book about an Oxford student who travels back to the 14th century and gets caught in the plague epidemic.

Sep 25, 2016, 2:32am Top

then I stand by my recommendation ... there is no magic involved... the young boy has a gift that is useful in his trade.

Sep 26, 2016, 7:33am Top

You want dark historical fiction, you gotta try Gary Jennings. Raptor is middle ages, and The Journeyer may qualify as well for covering Marco Polo. But his best is Aztec.

Sep 27, 2016, 8:31pm Top

Thank you all for suggestions. It will definitely fill my reading time for foreseeable future.

Sep 27, 2016, 10:12pm Top

If I may... I haven't read it yet myself but, The Name of the Rose is a murder mystery set in the middle ages. It has a reputation for being brilliant. If the Umberto Eco book that I have read, (Focault's Pendulum), is any indication, then it probably deserves that reputation.

Edited: Sep 28, 2016, 2:10am Top

>12 ScoLgo: It is brilliant, but long and involved. I was unable to get it read until after I had seen the movie. That gave me a skeleton plot to hang all the details onto.

Oct 4, 2016, 7:13pm Top

I enjoyed The Fifth Servant and wish the author would write a series. Along the same lines, Heresy is excellent, though I found the sequel hard to like.

Nov 24, 2016, 9:50am Top

BTW if you loved Physician, I just discovered that there is a movie adaptation of it on Netflix! Really well done, if a bit long.

Nov 24, 2016, 10:24am Top

>15 cindydavid4: I saw just part of the movie and gave it up as it was not at all like the book.

Dec 5, 2016, 7:28am Top

Oh, sorry - its been a while since i read it, and it felt like it was a good adaptation. My bad....

Jan 11, 2017, 9:24am Top

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Rwandese Flowers by Adelson Costa

Group: Historical Fiction

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