bookish posts reviews

Historical Fantasies: Victorian era

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!

queen victoriasconstable and toopspringsweet

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley (England, upper mg/YA, highly recommended)
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (England, YA, did not enjoy)
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (England, adult, recommended)
Soulless by Gail Carriger (England, adult, not really my thing)
Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (England, YA, liked while reading)
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore (England, YA, highly recommended)
Bewitching Season and Courtship and Curses by Marissa Doyle (England, YA, recommended)
Darkwater by Catherine Fisher (England, YA, recommended)
The Revenant by Sonia Gensler (US, YA, highly recommended)
Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (England, adult, loved!)
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber (England, adult, I did not enjoy it)
Constable & Toop by Gareth Jones (England, middle grade, recommended)
The Vespertine and The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell (US, YA, highly recommended)
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz (England, middle grade, eh)
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton (England, adult/YA crossover, recommended)
Rose and its sequels by Holly Webb (England, middle grade, recommended)
Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells (England, upper mg, recommended if you remember that this is not a YA book)
Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (England, short stories, YA and adult, highly recommended)
The Frontier Trilogy by Patricia Wrede: Across the Great Barrier, The Far West (note that these deal with American Indians in a problematic way) (US, YA, recommended with reservations)
The Monstrumologist series: The Curse of the Wendigo, The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey (US, YA, highly recommended if you don’t mind gore)
Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold (US, adult, recommended)
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (England/Indiaish, YA, recommended but note that there’s a bit of a Great White Savior theme going on)

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.

11 replies on “Historical Fantasies: Victorian era”

Hmm, it’s been awhile since I re-read that series, so I could be wrong. Where would you put it? (It’s before the rise of automobiles, right? Which if we’re going with the intro of the Model T would be pre-1908 and the Victorian era lasts until 1901. So I could see late Victorian or early Edwardian–of course that’s casting UK eras onto a US-based world which may be part of the problem.)

I have put it on hold! I hope I do like it.

And I was startled at the number of books on this list, having thought of the Regency era as the biggest in this category.

Oh, good, more to try. ‘Kat, Incorrigible’ was my favorite new discovery from your prior references to historical fantasy. Of course I doubt any of them will ever rank higher on my personal all time favorite list than ‘The Blue Sword.’ I’m on the fence when it comes to classifying that one as historical fantasy per se, though I know it was partly written in response to Kipling. (Also, how can you be a “great white savior” if it’s obvious to everyone in Damar that your laran comes from your Damarian side?)
I also quite like the Wrede trilogy, though I don’t think it’s her best. I do find it sad that so many reviews make it sound as though the protagonists must be vile anti-Native American racists, given how vigorously the texts oppose racial, magical and other forms of bigotry — though I can certainly see that an alternative history in which magical megafauna prevented one’s ancestors from settling in the first place would be jolting at best. I was kind of hoping Eff’s expedition would find out otherwise on the Pacific side of the mountains, with possibly a few extra insights on dealing with magic-enriched ecosystems, but — ah, well.
Would you consider the Amelia Peabody series (the early volumes) Victorian historical fantasy?

I’m so glad you liked Kat, Incorrigible! It’s such a marvelous series.

I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to The Blue Sword too, but in the end decided that since I could pinpoint the time period fairly exactly, it should go on. Harry is certainly mild as an example of the great white savior trope goes, but I don’t think the book is quite perfect in that area. I’m happy to re-read it and love it, but wanted to warn others.

As far as Wrede, I’m far more comfortable saying that the erasure of all Native societies and cultures is really not good, although I agree that otherwise the text opposes bigotry. Native people and cultures are already erased far too often, and I think it’s a big flaw in an otherwise awesome series.

I hadn’t considered Amelia Peabody as fantasy, I suppose, but I may be mis-remembering the series as it’s been a long time since I read any.

I’ll add the Ball books to my (ever-expanding) TBR list.

And no worries about the multiple comments. 🙂

If fantasy requires magic, the Amelia Peabody books definitely aren’t. They’re just a bit on the fantastical side to count as historical fiction for me, though I gather that their Egyptology is quite good. I’m not great at figuring out genre! I think my copies were actually marketed as mysteries, but since I rarely read mysteries for the mystery elements, I don’t think of them that way.

Ah, that makes sense. I tend to think of that type of book as alternate history, but historical fantasy also works.

Another pseudo-British India pair might be Margaret Ball’s ‘Flameweaver’ and ‘Dreamweaver,’ with strong female protagonists from both the Gandharan and British cultures.

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