Wyrd and Wonder: Historical Fantasy

Fantasy as a genre encompasses many subgenres, one of which is historical fantasy. This subgenre incorporates fantasy elements into a specified historical setting. For example, someone could write a book set in 17th century Scotland that incorporates magic and mythical creatures.

In continuation of celebrating fantasy, today’s Wyrd and Wonder prompt is historical fantasy. Below is a list of historical fantasies I have read and enjoyed. Hopefully this gives you some ideas to include on your To Be Read list! The book covers link to their respective Goodreads pages.

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

House of Earth and Blood meets The Witch’s Heart in New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Ross’s brilliant first adult fantasy, set on the magical isle of Cadence where two childhood enemies must team up to discover why girls are going missing from their clan.

Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.

As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.

With unforgettable characters, a fast-paced plot, and compelling world building, A River Enchanted is a stirring story of duty, love, and the power of true partnership, and marks Rebecca Ross’s brilliant entry on the adult fantasy stage.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

“With a graceful, measured elegance” (New York Times), this lyrical novel reimagines the life of the infamous queen from the ancient epic the Ramayana, giving voice to an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.

I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on legends of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood tales threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel in her tower, but do you know the story of the witch who put her there? Mary McMyne’s spellbinding debut reveals the truth behind the fairy tale—the truth they never wanted you to know, as only a witch might tell it.

“Smart, swift, sure-footed and fleet-winged, The Book of Gothel launches its magic from a most reliable source: the troubled heart. Mary McMyne is a magician.”—Gregory Maguire, NYT bestselling author of Wicked

Germany, 1156. With her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, young Haelewise has never quite fit in. Shunned by her village, her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, and of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

When her mother dies, Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother spoke of—a place called Gothel, where she meets a wise woman willing to take Haelewise under her wing. There, she discovers that magic is found not only in the realm of fairy tales.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles, behind the world Haelewise has always known.

The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry

The Magician's Daughter book coverIn the early 1900s, a young woman is caught between two worlds in H. G. Parry’s spellbinding tale of miracles, magic, and the adventure of a lifetime.Off the coast of Ireland sits a legendary island hidden by magic. A place of ruins and ancient trees, sea salt air, and fairy lore, Hy-Brasil is the only home Biddy has ever known. Washed up on its shore as a baby, Biddy lives a quiet life with her guardian, the mercurial magician Rowan. A life she finds increasingly stifling.

One night, Rowan fails to return from his mysterious travels. To find him, Biddy must venture into the outside world for the first time. But Rowan has powerful enemies—forces who have hoarded the world’s magic and have set their sights on the magician’s many secrets.

Biddy may be the key to stopping them. Yet the closer she gets to answers, the more she questions everything she’s ever believed about Rowan, her past, and the nature of magic itself.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the teahouse…

Miss Charlotte Pettifer belongs to a secret league of women skilled in the subtle arts. That is to say—although it must never be said—witchcraft. The League of Gentlewomen Witches strives to improve the world in small ways. Using magic, they tidy, correct, and manipulate according to their notions of what is proper, entirely unlike those reprobates in the Wisteria Society.

When the long lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, it is up to Charlotte, as the future leader of the League, to make sure the powerful talisman does not fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it is most unfortunate when she crosses paths with Alex O’Riley, a pirate who is no Mr. Darcy. With all the world scrambling after the amulet, Alex and Charlotte join forces to steal it together. If only they could keep their pickpocketing hands to themselves! If Alex’s not careful, he might just steal something else—such as Charlotte’s heart.

The Children of Gods and Fighting Men by Shauna Lawless

The first in a gripping new historical fantasy series that intertwines Irish mythology with real-life history, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is the thrilling debut novel by Shauna Lawless.

They think they’ve killed the last of us…

981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha Dé Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.

Fódla is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fódla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise…

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Mulan meets The Song of Achilles; an accomplished, poetic debut of war and destiny, sweeping across an epic alternate China.

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu uses takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

The Lady of Shalott reclaims her story in this bold feminist reimagining of the Arthurian myth from the New York Times bestselling author of Ash Princess.

What are some of your favorite historical fantasies?

Magic portal artwork by Tithi Luadthong. The gorgeous artwork has been licensed for use for this [Wyrd and Wonder] event online. You are welcome to use the banners on your Wyrd and Wonder posts, but please make no changes and always credit the artist(s).

19 thoughts on “Wyrd and Wonder: Historical Fantasy

  1. Great post, Celeste! I love the variety of books you have on here and I have all of them on my TBR. ? I’m especially looking forward to reading Rebecca Ross’ books because I keep hearing so many great things about her books. I have the Illumicrate edition of this book and it’s stunning! ?

    1. Thanks, Dini! I do love the way Rebecca Ross writes. I need to actually read the sequel and final book after A River Enchanted…it came out last year I think? Agreed that the Illumicrate edition is gorgeous. Unfortunately, I often pass on any special editions that aren’t part of the subscription (like the sequel) because the shipping is so expensive!

    1. I thought I hadn’t read a lot of this subgenre until I put together this list, haha. I guess I read more historical fantasy than I realized!

  2. Hi Celeste,

    three of your books are actually already on my TBR:

    • The Book of Gothel
    • The Once and the Future Witches
    • The Children of Gods and Fighting Men

    But how dare you to show me even more interesting books. My TBR and my wishlist are almost bursting at the seams. Damn you! 😀

    Cheerio
    RoXXie

    1. I loved all of these! I think I read The Children of Gods and Fighting Men the most recently. And the second book comes out this year, though in the US I don’t think it’s on NetGalley yet.

      1. Oh, I thought The Children of Gods and Fighting Men was a stand-alone. But good to know that I need to keep my eyes out for the next installment. Thanks for the heads-up.

    1. It’s a good book. As someone who hasn’t read the source material, I was definitely just along for the ride, so I’m sure there were a lot of things that went over my head.

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