Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Historical Fiction Authors

It's Top Ten Tuesday again, hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish! Go check out the blog hop, and join the fun!

Historical fiction seems somehow underrepresented these days. Or is it just me? A lot of what I see being talked about falls into the following categories:

1. Historical Romance
2. Historical YA lit
3. Historical fiction of specific popular eras - 20th century, mostly

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these, I do have a lot of classic favorites that don't fall into any of the three. So, since this week's Top Ten Tuesday is YOUR PICK, I decided to make a list of my favorite historical fiction authors, the masters of the genre.
Here we go!

Mika Waltari
An undisputed god of historical fiction. I read Sinuhe on the beach when I was in middle school, and it left a print on my rib cage as I propped it up, but I could not put it down. Some parts of it gave me nightmares, and those were not even the parts about mummification. I also loved Turms the Immortal, and the Mikael and Mikael Hakim series.





Maurice Druon
His Accursed Kings series is insanely well researched. He knew all the details that were to know, down to what tapestry hung in what castle hall. He's been to the depths of archives and came out with an amazing series, likable characters, and even more likable villains. (His mythic fiction Zeus' Diary is also pretty fun)

Gene Wolfe
He is on this list for his Soldier in the Mist series. It is the most challenging historical fiction I have ever read, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. The narrator of the story has amnesia, 50 First Dates style: he forgets every night everything about himself. Hence, he writes a journal to remind himself what happened so far - and that's the journal we are reading. The book, accordingly, is inconsistent, often confusing, but full of genius "aha!" moments - and also Greek place names that have been translated to English, as an extra puzzle to Classics enthusiasts. It was a challenge to read and I loved it.

Henryk Sienkiewicz
Polish author of Quo Vadis (of old Hollywood fame) and other historical classics such as With Fire and Sword and Teutonic Knights. He wrote characters who well not without fault, but especially likable because of that, and great, big epic historical stories worth following through.

Graham Shelby
Remember that Kingdom of Heaven movie where Orlando Bloom pretended to be a blacksmith and Eva Green pretended to be slightly less terrifying than usual? Well, it was supposed to be based on Shelby's Knights of Dark Renown series, telling the story of the Crusades. Except the books are infinitely better, full of adventure and awkward love, and great storytelling.




Edward Rutherfurd
Unlike the others on the list, Rutherfurd is here for one book only: London. He wrote an awesome epic telling of the history of one city through dozens of generations of a handful of intertwined families - and then he tried to do it again and again and again, and repeated the success, but never the quality. I tried some of the other books, and gave up pretty fast. London is a masterpiece, though.

Robert Merle
I grew up reading his Fortunes of France series in Hungarian, and was excited to find out that they just started publishing them in English. Fortunes of France is a swashbuckling adventure through religious wars, court intrigue, and a great exciting time of French history, peppered with a cheeky roguish hero and a lot of gratuitous sex.

Mary Renault
I already mentioned her on my list last week: The lady took Greek historical fiction to a whole new level. In addition, she also wrote the most adorable, touching same-sex romance about Alexander the Great in The Persian Boy. My favorite of hers is The King Must Die in which she brought Minoan Crete to colorful and breathtaking life.





Robert Graves
I love Graves for so many reasons. While his work with mythology is criticized a lot in Classics, he knew how to lift mythology into historical fiction. My favorite book of his is probably The Golden Fleece, but he became most famous with I, Claudius (a book largely responsible for me ending up with a degree in Roman archaeology).

Bernard Cornwell
Also mentioned last week: He is a recent new favorite of mine for his Saxon Stories series. An extremely prolific author with a good sense of historical realities, and very likable, human characters. Also, the best battle descriptions I have read in a long time.

There you have my list. Do you have favorite historical fiction?

20 comments:

  1. Good on you for featuring traditional historical fiction instead of the modern "sexy historical" or Gossip Girl in period clothes trends I loathe so much. Most of the quality YA historical from the last 10 years or so I've found has been published outside the U.S. A lot of current historicals also just have to mix it up with another genre, like paranormal or sci-fi. I don't mind historical fantasy, but most of those other genre mashups seem to have included the historical part as window dressing.

    I've lived and breathed 20th century historical for over 20 years now, but I used to love 18th and 19th century historical. I particularly love historicals from outside North America and Western Europe, like Japan, Armenia, and Iran/Persia.

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    1. Historical fiction high five! :) Historical fantasy is fine by me too (much like anything that is done well), but "historical romance" bothers me since I don't think it is needed. Most of these books have love stories in them, happening in the midst of other things, and most of them are epic.
      And I probably need to read more histfic set after the 17th century...

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  2. I am not a big historical fiction reader, but I just had to leave a comment after seeing Mika Waltari on your list because I so rarely see any mention of Finnish authors in book blogs other than those written in Finnish :) I haven't read Sinuhe yet (I really want to though) but I've read his first novel 'Suuri Illuusioni' (not sure whether this one has been translated into English) which he wrote when he was nineteen.
    Waltari has also actually written the screenplay for a 1940s Finnish film called Kulkurin Valssi that is still one of the most watched films in Finland and a true Finnish classic.

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    1. He is a big favorite of mine! :) I learned about Finnish history from Mikael first... I have yet to see a Hungarian book on the lists too!

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  3. I love historical fiction and really recommend Deanna Raybourn as one of the best historical writers I've come across.
    My TTT

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  4. James Michener. I didn't think of him as historical fiction until you mentioned Edwards Rutherfurd (who I associate with Sarum), but he was way before Rutherfurd, and an artist with an epic unfolding of a country.

    I find I read more historical fiction than I used to. Bring Up the Bodies, for example. Maybe it's a Brit thing.

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    1. It is definitely cultural. I see tons and tons of historical fiction in Spain, for example, but not nearly as much in the US. It seems to be popular in Hungary too, but the preferred eras are different. And a lot of my favorite histfic is British :)

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  5. I am only familiar with two of the authors on your list this week. The rest are new to me. I'll have to check out the rest of them.

    Here's the link to my Top Ten Tuesday post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2015/05/top-ten-tuesday-sexy-male-characters-in.html

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  6. I love Sienkiewicz, thank you for mentioning his novels. Ad you got my attention - I must read Mika Waltari! The Egyptian seems like a nice place to start since I'm fanatic of ancient Egypt.

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    1. If you like ancient Egypt, definitely read that book. It's a classic :)

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  7. Oh now you've gone and reminded me of how far behind I am in historical fiction! How has no one creative a TARDIS yet?! Seriously, travel in time in style while you read. I'd be able to accomplish so much. :)

    Also, I adore your polka dotted background.

    Thanks for stopping by to check out my TTT List today. ~Beth @ Perpetual New Girl

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  8. Awesome post! I haven't really read much historical fiction, but I think it would be awesome to get into some! :)

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  9. So, I like historical fiction, but I don't seem to read much of it. What is up with that? I am reading one right now about Sophia Peabody, Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife, and enjoying it.

    Thanks for the list -- I'll have to check some of these authors out!

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  10. I really like Bernard Cornwell too!

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  11. I love historical fiction but haven't read as much straight HF of late now that you mention it. Dorothy Dunnett is probably my all time favorite but I also enjoy Patrick O'Brian and Bernard Cornwell. You've given me a bunch more names to look out for! Thanks!

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  12. Lovely list :-)
    I admit I don't know a good half of these authors, so thanks so much for mentining them.

    As others said, I'm happy you crafted a list of historical fiction that doesn't fall into the popular historical romance. I'm not a fan of romances in general, but I think historical ones are probably among the worst. As Carrie-Anne said aptly: romances with historical window dressing ;-)

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  13. Lovely list :-)
    I admit I don't know a good half of these authors, so thanks so much for mentining them.

    As others said, I'm happy you crafted a list of historical fiction that doesn't fall into the popular historical romance. I'm not a fan of romances in general, but I think historical ones are probably among the worst. As Carrie-Anne said aptly: romances with historical window dressing ;-)

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    1. Exactly! :) I am not a romance person either, unless it naturally happens within other kinds of stories.

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  14. I haven't read a lot of historical fiction apart from Michelle Moran's books and a few random ones eek! But I've always been a fan of mythology so I'll be sure to check out Mary Renault and Robert Graves' books.

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  15. I definitely don't read enough historical fiction, so I'll have to remember some of the authors on your list for those times when I branch out from my usual reading picks. Mary Renault sounds super interesting to me in particular, just because I have a huge fascination with ancient Greece.

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