Top Ten Tuesday: fantastical history

Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week is a freebie, so I’m enthusing about alternative histories (many with a fantasy twist).

I have a soft spot for alternative histories and alternate universes: worlds that are almost but not quite our own. The What If exercise is always fascinating, whether it’s a flight of fancy or a cautionary tale. First up, some favourites that blend historical periods and real places with fantasy elements:

Temeraire – Napoleonic Wars + dragons = magic – Naomi Novik’s award-winning historical fantasy is a delight from start to finish.

Sorcerer to the Crown  – Regency Britain with magic and faeries. Zen Cho artfully eviscerates as many -isms as her effervescent heroine Prunella can get her hands on.

Kushiel’s Dart – nobody ever says Paris, but this is a richly imagined alternative Europe – and a lush adventure through kink and politics with memorable characters. I put off reading it for far too long. Don’t be like me.

Sailing to Sarantium – it would be impossible to talk about alt universe histories without some Guy Gavriel Kay, and I have a particular love for his bittersweet take on 6th century Constantinople (probably because I have a huge interest in 6th century Constantinople). Oh, my heart.

The House of Shattered Wings – an alternative 20th century Paris in ruins after an angelic war makes a brooding setting for this mystery-thriller chock full of dark magic and political intrigue. The world-building is addictive; I’ll read any Dominion of the Fallen fiction Aliette de Bodard writes.

The Deverry Cycles – Katharine Kerr’s classic Celtic saga of a tribe who fled the Romans and ended up somewhere else. This is fully alt universe – expect Elves, Dwarves and magic – for all the historical and linguistic detail as a motley group of souls struggle to untangle their intertwined fates life after life.


Then there’s the alternative history (yes, I consider a retelling of a legend as alternate history when the author makes it feel real world)

Romanitas – what if Rome never fell? Welcome to a 20th century Empire, where a pair of British slaves find themselves embroiled in Imperial family politics that are as bloody ruthless as ever.

The King’s Name – Jo Walton’s classy re-telling of the Matter of Britain is set in supposedly fictional Tir Tanagiri, and is notable for having an asexual warrior woman as its heroine.

Daughter of the Forest – my favourite fairy tale (The Wild Swans) gets a Dark Age Irish make-over in Juliet Marillier’s excellent debut.

The Small Change trilogy – Jo Walton gets another look-in with her take on a Britain that made peace with Hitler. I enjoyed Farthing best for being Gosford Park with fascists.


Do you have a favourite historical period?