Historical Fantasy Fiction

Tired of present day magical, supernatural urban fantasy fiction? And do you feel that the dystopian futuristic fiction category is heavily saturated?

Then why not try fantasy fiction set in the past? And by that I mean late 20th century/early 21st century authors writing fantasy set in the past —the historical past.

I just can’t help but admire authors that took the time to research just to ensure that the story feels authentically in the past. And yet at the same time, they managed to create a story that managed to suck me in.

Here are some I would recommend you try out. Due to the nature of being historical and fantastical, you might notice that some stories might have to sacrifice one to service the other. By that I mean that some stories are also set in a different magical world (eg Narnia) even if they start out on our world (during our world’s past). In these cases, you would notice that magic becomes overt due to the characters spending most of the story in a world were magic is the norm.

But in other cases, the story is mostly set in our world. And in most cases, magic is more subtle. And depending on the timeline the story is set in, the people would have varying levels of belief in this “magical superstition.”

Here are some examples of stories I think need to be checked out:

The City of Brass by SA Chakraboty

The start of the story is set in 18th Century Cairo. But slowly shifts to the eponymous “City of Brass.” Anyone who’s tired of Western-centric stories might want to try it out as the characters are either of Middle-eastern descent or Djinn

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Set in 1920’s or 1930’s New York (and mostly stays there), this is a novel that could have been classified as YA urban fantasy had it not been set during the period in between two world wars. This is one long book that I initially thought I couldn’t finish. But this book about mediums, ghosts the supernaturals and how America has and hasn’t changed got me hooked.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Set in Tudor-era England during Queen Mary I’s reign, this story centers around a young girl exiled to a fortress still “haunted” by the Fae and old practices that involve human sacrifice.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Werewolves, Vampires and a “Soulless” girl are central to this novel set in Victorian England.

The Forest Lord by Susan Krinard

Regency Era, the Fae, and a Beauty and the Beast-esque deal kick off this historical fantasy romance. Yes, expect sex scenes. But also expect second-chance romance and magic.

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Another Regency era example (I blame Jane Austen for its popularity) about a young noble lady who finds out she’s some sort of demon hunter. Expect a Lord Byron cameo.

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson

Set in 19th century San Francisco, young widow Xian Li Lin is the daughter of a Daoist exorcist. Her “ghost eyes” allow her to see spirits. Please note that she also knows martial arts.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Set in 19th century British-run Malaysia, it centers around a Chinese girl from a respected family being tricked into becoming the “Ghost Bride” of another family’s deceased son

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

A Jinni long held captive in a copper flask. A golem created to be a man’s bride. Both find their way to 19th century New York and eventually meet

Deathless by Catherynne M Valente

While it is a retelling of the Ivan and Marya Morevna story, the story is set early 19th century St Petersburg / Leningrad. And yes, you can expect a cameo of Anastasia and her family.


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