Dear Gentle Reader, I’m talking about Favorite Historical Fantasy novels!
The Last of the Wine ~ Mary Renault
Not really SF/F but amazing. Life and times in Ancient Athens leading up to the Peloponnesian War. One of the best handlings of Greek love I have yet seen on paper. Also, the main character may or may not be behind the name “Alexia.” I first heard this book on audio. If you can get hold of the audiobook, that’s the way to go.
Lord of the Two Lands ~ Judith Tarr
Brilliant take on Alexander the Great’s occupation of Egypt from a clash of two cultures perspective, told by a magic wielding Egyptian Priestess who slowly falls in love with Ptolemy’s younger (illegitimate) brother.
Servant of the Empire series ~ Raymond Feist & Janny Wurts
An epic fantasy trilogy of political intrigue in an alternate medieval Japan where magic is real and the aliens have landed long ago.
The Fire Sword series ~ Adrienne Martine-Barnes
Four books of magic mixed with mythology spanning three generations and across half the world, from Celtic medieval England, to Byzantium and the Greek Gods, to India and the great Kali.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile ~ Eloise Jarvis McGraw
A young slave girl turns spy for Tuthmosis III and helps bring about the revolution that overthrew Hatshepsut in Middle Kingdom Ancient Egypt.
The Perilous Gard ~ Elizabeth Marie Pope
Princess Elizabeth’s lady in waiting, Kate, gets taken by the People of the Hill in this Renaissance set retelling of Tam Lin.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow ~ Jessica Day George
An ancient Nordic fairy tale in an atmospheric Viking setting follows a girl who can speak to animals and a bear who is a prince.
A word about my list:
All of the above have strong well-written romantic components. They also all have tough female central characters (except Renault’s protag, who is gay). Yet all these protagonists also stay true the mentality of their time period as well as being bad ass. I happen to like all these qualities a lot in the books I read. SPOILER ALERT They are also all HEA, except Last of the Wine & the later sword books. You have been warned. Last of the Wine is still wroth it, it’s a truly wonderful book. And sometimes a girl needs a good cry.
Oh and I also love The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of Kassandra, the doomed prophetess.