As a fantasy reader, you might be drawn to the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and other masters of the genre.
You revel in the magical realms, mythical creatures, and epic battles that define the world of fantasy literature.
But have you ever considered exploring the equally enthralling world of historical fiction?
Historical fiction novels share many of the same qualities that make fantasy so captivating: intricate world-building, rich characterisation, and gripping storylines.
By diving into this genre, you not only get to experience a different kind of adventure, but you also learn about the fascinating people and events that have shaped our own world.
Here are five historical fiction novels that will make you fall in love with the genre, just as you did with fantasy.
1. Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories
Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories series, also known as The Last Kingdom series, is set in 9th-10th-century Britain during the Danish invasions.
The protagonist, Uhtred of Bebbanburg, is a Saxon nobleman raised by Vikings, who must navigate the complex world of shifting alliances, political intrigue, and brutal warfare.
Much like epic fantasy novels, the Saxon Stories series features a vividly realised world, complex characters, and high-stakes conflicts.
Cornwell’s masterful storytelling will keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow Uhtred’s journey through the tumultuous events of the Viking Age.
2. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose
In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, you’ll find yourself immersed in the world of a medieval monastery, where a series of mysterious murders take place.
This intellectual thriller follows William of Baskerville, a Franciscan monk, as he attempts to unravel the complex web of secrets, heresies, and hidden knowledge that lie at the heart of these crimes.
With its labyrinthine library, cryptic manuscripts, and enigmatic characters, The Name of the Rose offers the kind of intricate puzzle-solving and world-building that fantasy readers often crave.
Moreover, Eco’s eloquent prose and deft handling of historical details make this novel a true literary feast.
3. Manda Scott’s Boudica series
For fans of strong female protagonists and Celtic lore, Manda Scott’s Boudica series is a must-read.
This gripping saga chronicles the life of the legendary British warrior queen, Boudica, as she leads her people in a fierce rebellion against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
In addition to its compelling narrative, the Boudica series offers readers a vivid depiction of the ancient Celtic world, complete with druids, magic, and rich cultural traditions.
Scott’s meticulous research and imaginative storytelling bring this fascinating period to life, making it an unforgettable reading experience.
4. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall
Step into the treacherous world of Tudor England with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, the first novel in her acclaimed Thomas Cromwell trilogy.
The story follows the meteoric rise of Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son who becomes King Henry VIII’s most trusted adviser during one of the most tumultuous periods in English history.
Wolf Hall is a riveting exploration of power, ambition, and the human condition. Mantel’s masterful prose and keen understanding of history make this novel an engrossing read, perfect for fans of the political intrigue and Machiavellian scheming often found in fantasy literature.
5. Outlaw series by Donald Angus
Donald Angus’s Outlaw series brings to life the legendary figure of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, who fight against injustice and tyranny in 12th-century England.
These action-packed novels combine adventure, romance, and a touch of the supernatural, providing an exhilarating reading experience for fantasy enthusiasts.
The Outlaw series is an excellent example of how historical fiction can transport readers to a different time and place, just as the best fantasy novels do.
With its vividly imagined world, colourful characters, and thrilling action sequences, this series is sure to delight fans of the fantasy genre.
Historical fiction offers a treasure trove of stories that captivate the imagination and transport readers to far-off times and places.
By delving into these five novels, you’ll discover just how much the worlds of fantasy and history have in common.
And who knows? You might just find a new favourite genre to explore.