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Historical Fantasies: Medieval and Renaissance Europe

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!

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series, starting with The Curse of Chalion and continuing with Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt (Renaissance Spain; adult; VERY HIGHLY recommended)
The Queen’s Thief series (Byzantine empire-ish; upper middle grade; one of my favorite series of all time)
Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran. (Byzantine/British; middle grade; highly recommended)
When the King Comes Home by Caroline Stevermer (Renaissance Portugal; YA; recommended)
The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh (Medieval Britain; middle grade; recommended)
Wise Child by Monica Furlong (Medieval Scotland; middle grade; recommended with reservations)
Alamut by Judith Tarr (Medieval Palestine; adult; recommended)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Renaissance Brittany; YA; not my favorite but has lots of fans)
Clare Dunkle’s By These Ten Bones.
No Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve
Plain Kate, though this one has less of a historical and more of a cultural feel to it.
Gerald Morris’s Squire’s Tale series (Medieval Britain; middle grade; lots and lots of fun)
The Lions of Al Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (Medieval Spain; adult; haven’t read)
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer (Vikings; middle grade; Brandy captures my feelings)
Rusalka by C.J. Cherryh (Medieval Rus; adult; not my favorite Cherryh)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Renaissance Europe; YA; highly recommended)
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell (Renaissance Germany; middle grade; recommended)
The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse (Medieval England; middle grade; recommended)
Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw (Medieval Britain; adult; recommended)

Have I missed any here? I have trouble delineating exactly when Medieval ends and Renaissance begins (as does everyone else), so I’ve lumped them both together.

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.

13 replies on “Historical Fantasies: Medieval and Renaissance Europe”

I was about to suggest Christine Hinwood’s “The Returning,” and then, thinking about it, I suddenly wasn’t sure if I’d classify it as medieval/Renaissance or even European. Parts of it fit the bill, but then other parts seem more inspired by feudal Japan–if I remember correctly, anyway. It’s been a while since I read it.

You’re right, that is a hard one! And it’s been a while since I read it too, so I’d probably have to re-read it to be sure.

If you start the Medieval Era with the Fall of Rome…Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sailing to Sarantium and The Lord of Emperors are set in a fantastic take on Byzantium under Justinian. Isn’t that early Medieval? (They are my favorite of his, but The of Al Rassan is a close second.)

A Yeats pun! Must read immediately!

I don’t remember why I didn’t finish Al-Rassan, but it wasn’t because of quality (someone else had a hold on it, maybe?) so I should go back and finish.

Thank you for suggesting Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion series. I’ve been searching for books set in Renaissance Spain, so these will a be a treat. I would include Dragonswood and Dragonskeep by Janet Lee Carey in your list. Even after reading Seraphina these two are still my favourite books when it comes to anything relating to Dragons. It is suggested that it is set in 12th Century British Isles.

I love the Chalion books! Maybe even more than the Vorkosigan saga in some ways. Regardless, hope you enjoy.

I think the Carey books are on my to-read list; the titles sound familiar, anyway.

Oh gosh, if I could persuade you to read it sight unseen and having to pay for it, I’d say Between the Forest and the Hills, by Ann Lawrence. More readily available ones you might enjoy –The Coming of the Dragon, by Rebecca Barnhouse (Beowulf), The Shadow Hunt, by Katherine Langrish, and her Troll Fell series, The Humming of Numbers, by Joni Sensel, and have you ever read Mary Stewart’s Merlin books?

Coming of the Dragon! I knew I was still forgetting some. I’ll add that one–I did read it, although I don’t think I loved it as much as some readers. And I submitted an ILL request for the Ann Lawrence book. The others will go on my TBR!

See, I wobbled about whether to include those, because they’re wonderful, but are they really fantasy? Margaret takes her visions as from God; does that mean they’re supernatural fantasy, or not? In the end, I decided not to put them on, but maybe I’ll add a note (because they’re so good and I want everyone to read them).

Oh, I didn’t think of that. I sometimes barely notice when a historical doesn’t contain magic, or much magic, since to me a good historical reads as fantasy either way. I think Margaret does enough laying-on-of-hands healing to qualify as fantasy, though.

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