As a lover of both historical fiction and fantasy, I choose historical fantasy as my way to get a fix of both genres in one sitting. The combination of a historical setting and fantastical elements allows me to gain a better perspective on different beliefs and cultures as well as to fuel my imagination and curiosity. From interesting magic systems to mythical creatures, the historical fantasy novels listed below will take you to many different time periods all over the world and captivate you from beginning to end.
Scotland in two different eras makes OUTLANDER well suited for any historical fiction fan looking to break into fantasy. This meticulously researched book tells the story of Claire, who travels back in time from 1946—right after World War II—to 1743— around the time of the Jacobite uprising. All the details in this book paint a picture of what life was truly like during 1743—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Throw in a captivating, smart heroine and I was hooked from page one.
The relationship that blossoms from friendship to love between Claire and Jamie is, well, pretty swoon-worthy. Claire is confident with a lot of spunk and Jamie is hotheaded with a lot of heart. The combination of these two could be a recipe for disaster, but they—usually—are in harmony.
Read Kara O’Rourke’s review here.
Read Kara O’Rourke’s review here.
This utterly gripping novel is about Nahri, who spends her time as a con artist on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo. She never believed in magic, but when she accidentally summons a warrior djinn named Dara, Nahri is swept up in an extraordinary adventure to the mythical and enchanted city of Daevabad, where her arrival threatens to start a war. This novel features a complex political system and is perfect for anyone interested in eighteenth-century history, particularly in the Middle East, or for someone simply looking for a dramatic and beautifully written story.
This novel takes the reader back to the wilderness of fourteenth-century Russia, where the winters are long, cold, and dangerous, causing many to fear Morozko—the Russian demon of winter. When crops begin to fail and evil creatures enter the village, one girl must defy the people she loves to protect them from a mystical threat. The novel explores the complex myths of medieval Russia with the traditional values of the Russian Orthodox Church and the conflict of one girl trapped between them.
In England in 1806, Mr. Norrell has started to regain some of the world’s lost magic and raises a beautiful woman from the dead to help the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. But his apprentice, Jonathan Strange, is starting to become power hungry and has ideas to rule over England and Faerie, and his pursuit for the long-forgotten magic threatens everything. Although it’s long, the whimsical tone of this imaginative fantasy keeps the story interesting and engaging from beginning to end.
This fantasy classic is the longest book on this list and the most recent material mined for a BBC miniseries. At the dawn of the nineteenth century most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until two very different magicians emerge who change England’s history..... Page Count: 1,024
Any historical fantasy list is not complete without THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI. In 1899 New York, a chance encounter between a golem and a jinni mixes the cultures of Poland and Syria through these mythical creatures. These unlikely friends are extremely relatable, despite being otherworldly creatures, as they wrestle with coming to terms with who and what they are. A compelling adventure full of magic, this novel is about overcoming the impossible to find a place to belong.
A chance meeting between two mythical beings leads to an unlikely friendship and journey through cultures in New York City at the start of the twentieth century. Helene Wecker’s debut novel is an imaginative mixture of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, crafting an imaginative and remarkable story.
Languoreth—a forgotten queen in sixth-century Scotland and twin sister of the druid who inspired the legend of Merlin—is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue. She must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way against the rise of Christianity and for her kingdom, or risk losing them both. THE LOST QUEEN has all the romance, bloodshed, and betrayal that you would expect to find in a novel about this time period.
With the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, a remarkable group of women, from some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, bands together to solve a string of mysterious murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins. When their investigations lead to the discovery of a secret society of mad scientists, it’s up to them to finally triumph over their creators.
This beloved novel takes place in London during the reign of King George III in the 1700s. Kell is one of the few magicians who has the power to travel between four parallel Londons. Officially, Kell is a messenger, but unofficially, he is a smuggler, sneaking contraband between worlds. He even manages to smuggle cutthroat, wannabe pirate Delilah Bard from the magicless Grey London after she tries to rob him. But when he brings back an item from a long-destroyed world, he unleashes a dark magical force that threatens to take over his entire home. This series is rich in magic; political intrigue; and fresh, original characters that continuously surprised me.
Set in America in 1917, 18-year-old Robert Weekes is one of the few men who practice empirical philosophy and wants to be the first man to join the elite team of flying medics. In a fight for his spot on the team with a group of unlikely heroes, he faces an even larger fight for philosophy’s survival. This gripping novel is a completely unique take on World War I, making it a refreshing addition to the historical fantasy genre.
This epic historical military fantasy is set against the backdrop of mid-1900s China, with elements of warfare and shamanism. Rin’s determination to succeed and her perseverance make her an excellent character to read about and forces us to connect with her right from the beginning. Starting as little more than a slave, she dreams of entering a military academy. Once there, she discovers her connection to the gods and that pushes her to embrace her talent.