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Historical Fantasies: Ancient history

Historical fantasy is one of my favorite subgenres, an awesome melting pot of historical fiction and fantasy. I even have a separate page listing the ones I’ve read! This feature will run for a few months, showcasing the major time periods I’ve read in. Goal: have a spiffy, updated page by the end!

Up first, we have ancient history, covering Greece, Rome, Egypt, and whatever else falls into that nebulous era. This is not a time that has a ton of historical fantasy, but if I’m missing one that you love, please let me know! Links go to my reviews, where applicable.

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett (Egyptian; YA)
King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett (Greek; YA)
Alcestis by Katharine Beutner (Greek; adult)
The Oracle Betrayed by Catherine Fisher (Greek/Egyptian; mg)
Black Ships by Jo Graham (Roman; adult)
Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin (Roman; YA/adult; highly recommended)
His Own Good Sword by Amanda McCrina (Roman; YA; excellent)
The King Must Die by Mary Renault (Greek; adult)
Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr (Egyptian; adult; excellent)

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

10 replies on “Historical Fantasies: Ancient history”

I loved Lord of the Two Lands! !!! And The King Must Die. I can see I must try His Own Good Sword.

But tell me you’ve read Gillian Bradshaw? You have, right? Even though they’re not fantasies, they’re the best historicals ever!

I haven’t, actually! She’s on my list, but I haven’t read anything by her yet. Do you have suggestions for where to start? It looks like my library system owns a number of her books.

Yes! A Beacon at Alexandria. Island of Ghosts. Cleopatra’s Heir. The Sand-Reckoner.

All Bradshaw’s books have an important romantic component, but without the detailed explicit sex that is so common now in romances — I think you said you’re like me in preferring a discreet veil being drawn across the bedroom scenes, right? Beacon may be my favorite, but it’s a tough call. The Sand-Reckoner has Archimedes as the main character, can you imagine trying to write a mathematical genius as the protagonist? Bradshaw does an amazing job with that.

That sounds great! I have a hold on Beacon at Alexandria. I was also able to get Hawk of May quickly, which isn’t on your list, but Arthurian retellings are okay by me. (At least, in theory.)

Oh, and yes–I will definitely read books with some sex, but I don’t feel that it’s a REQUIREMENT for adult books. If I believe in the characters anyway, I don’t mind it, but if I don’t believe in the characters, I just get annoyed.

Another tempting list! Not fair! I was going to add Hand of Isis by Jo Graham… but maybe you’ve read it, too, as going back to my review I see that Black Ships involves the same characters in a previous incarnation.

I think I started Hand of Isis, but didn’t finish it. Maybe? I’ve been meaning to go back to that Jo Graham series, since I just got distracted. Thanks for the reminder!

It’s so funny how someone will mention a book to me for the first time and then, all of a sudden, I see it everywhere. A friend on Goodreads just recommended King of Ithaka to me; I’d never heard of it before. On the never-ending to-read list it goes!

I’m not sure it’s fantasy, but have you read Ithaka by Adèle Geras? It’s another that’s been on my to-read list for a while.

That definitely happens to me too! Usually I give in and read that one right away, because I feel like the universe might be sending me a message. 🙂

I haven’t read it! But on the list it goes…

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