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  1. #1
    Registered User Zsinj's Avatar
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    Historical fiction with epic battles

    I'm really into ancient history so I was wondering if anyone here could recommend some good historical novels set in ancient history with epic battle and swashbuckling fight scenes like the ones you read in fantasy novels such as Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy, and George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire Series? Any help would be dearly appreciated.
    Thanx!

  2. #2
    Bernard Cornwell's Warlord series: The Winter King, Excalibur, Enemy of God.

    Basically, the story of King Arthur set in the historical framework of the orignal Arthur, thought to be a romno-british warlord who briefly held off the tide of the saxon invasion of england in the post-roman britain of the sixth century. Plenty of battles large and small. Cornwell cleverly integrates the people and events of later legend back into the historical context of dark age britain, I highly recommend it.

  3. #3
    Lord of the Wild Hunt Mithfânion's Avatar
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    This raises a question I've been pondering about as far as the Arthurian leegnds are concerned:should we list Cornwel''s Warlod trilogy under historical fiction, or Fantasy?

  4. #4
    Registered User UberDarkLord's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithfânion
    This raises a question I've been pondering about as far as the Arthurian leegnds are concerned:should we list Cornwel''s Warlod trilogy under historical fiction, or Fantasy?
    From what I've read from "Winter King" (about 50 pages) it should be classified as Fantasy because it is just chockful of anachronisms. And not just a few in language, but also in the world. It's just plain stupid because it certainly was Cornwell's intend to do a historical - and he can do that, if one checks out the Sharpe novels; these are quite good, but ihmo his Arthurian thingie sucked big time.

    [As a side-note, had Cornwell succeeded in 'doing a historica'l', or course it should be considered histfic, not fantasy. Just because the source-material is considered fantastic doesn't mean this iteration of it must be; of course it does remain just plain fictitious).

    About Historical fiction with epic battles: Steven Pressfield and Michael Curtis Ford are the obvious names. Other than these two, I'm at a loss. It seems to me that most historical fiction tends to be, like 'regular' fiction, not as 'epic' as many SF/F books.
    Maybe some historicals dealing with the American Civil War? But that was never my fav subject.
    And, from the top of my head, I think Robert Harris "Pompey" might have something epic to it. Dunno why, haven't read it, but multiple viewpoints and exploding volcanoes promise cool stuff [imho].
    Last edited by UberDarkLord; August 14th, 2005 at 04:48 AM.

  5. #5
    OK, that's fair, it does have fantastic elements and he bends or invents some things, its mythic story telling, just like its roots. maybe then we shouldn't call it historical, though people interested in history will like it. Call it legend.

    But to say it sucked big time...that's ridiculous: using that criteria I suppose we could never read and enjoy Walter Scott, the stories of Robbin Hood, or, hell, Harold Lamb! Warlord is a ripping good yarn, doubley so if you are familiar with the arthurian legends. and I think it gives a good feel for the period, with its clash between paganism and christianity, and the contrasting of roman, celtic, and germanic cultures. I'd say it was Cornwell's best work precisely because he was willing to juxtapose elements, and risk anachronisms, to bring the dark ages to life through the legends of arthur. and I think he is very clever in taking all the later elements of the legend and working them back into its dark age context.

    If you're the kind of person that just can't stand a historical anachronism...then call it fantasy and enjoy it that way, just as people have been enjoying he original legends for centuries without picking any scholarly nits about their accuracy. I think its tragic when some people are so straightjacketed by genre and convention that they can't recognize excellent storytelling when they see it.
    Last edited by Ward; August 14th, 2005 at 10:51 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User UberDarkLord's Avatar
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    Perhaps I've been unfair to Cornwel here. Let me add a bit.

    First of all, I gave my opinion on Warlord as not being historical but fantasy becasue Mith here explicitly asked for something historical. It was - to me at least- slightly ironic the first rec was a series I'd definately would classify as fantasy (per reasons in my previous post).

    Second, "sucked bigtime" was a bit harsh. I got drawn into buying The winter King because, at leat overhere in Holland, it was marketed as historical fiction.[The same way that the horrible Jerry Bruckheimer raping of arthurian myth was supposed to be "the real thing"...but that's an aside]
    And when I saw historical fiction & bernard Cornwell, I expected things along the line of Sharpe - which is, as far as I can see, as historical as a fictitious stroy can be. So my expectations went wrong. Had I been searching for a fantasy book, I miht have enjoyed it. But I wasn't (if I had been looking for something fantasy might have picked up several other authors before Cornwell).
    I might add I also disliked Cornwell's Stonehenge because, like Warlord, it was supposed to be historical (at least, I understood it this way) but really it wasn't.

  7. #7
    Registered User Zsinj's Avatar
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    Okay, so far I have a pretty good to-read list going on these action/adventure-oriented historical fiction recommendations from the info I've gathered here and at another forum, but I'm looking for some more action/adventure-oriented historicals based around feudal Japan and China, besides James Clavell, ancient Egypt, besides Wilbur Smith, ancient Arabia, the reign of Vlad Tepes, and possibly ancient Babylon if there is any. Could anybody please help? By the way, I'm currently reading Shogun by James Clavell and it's pretty amazing!
    Last edited by Zsinj; June 8th, 2007 at 08:31 PM.

  8. #8
    Book Depository Junkie suupaabaka's Avatar
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    *looks around for Hobbit*

  9. #9
    the puppet master ArthurFrayn's Avatar
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    I think it's Ficus Fan you should be looking around for.

  10. #10
    Read interesting books
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zsinj View Post
    Okay, so far I have a pretty good to-read list going on these action/adventure-oriented historical fiction recommendations from the info I've gathered here and at another forum, but I'm looking for some more action/adventure-oriented historicals based around feudal Japan and China, besides James Clavell, ancient Egypt, besides Wilbur Smith, ancient Arabia, the reign of Vlad Tepes, and possibly ancient Babylon if there is any. Could anybody please help? By the way, I'm currently reading Shogun by James Clavell and it's pretty amazing!
    Try Mika Waltari - The Egyptian (it happens around the time of the pharaoh who tried to introduce monotheism, though it wanders throughout the Mediterranean - the memoirs of Sinuhe a physician and diplomat at the pharaoh court, it has adventures, battles, intrigue, secrets...)

    Anything by Waltari is excellent - he wrote 8 historical novel masterpieces, 7 are available in English, only one published posthumously is available only in French; he is the most famous Finnish novelist

    I read each at least 3 times, The Roman which is my favorite at least 10 times easily

    There are excerpts on Amazon from various of his books, so check them out.

    The first page of The Roman (available on Amazon) hooked me forever to his novels many years ago, and I never regretted it.

  11. #11
    Mod Lady Moderator Eldanuumea's Avatar
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    I just finished the best one yet....and I've been reading historical fiction for almost half a century!

    The Religion, by Tom Willocks. The book may seem like a slow starter for some, but believe me, it is worth the read if you want intense, realistic battle action. The setting is Malta, circa 1560, when the island bastion of the Knights Hospitalers is under seige by Moslem forces.

    I would highly recommend this book to everyone who has an interest in the late Renaissance, the Inquisition, Christian-Moslem tensions, and just plain fascinating characters.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Eldanuumea View Post
    I just finished the best one yet....and I've been reading historical fiction for almost half a century!

    The Religion, by Tom Willocks. The book may seem like a slow starter for some, but believe me, it is worth the read if you want intense, realistic battle action. The setting is Malta, circa 1560, when the island bastion of the Knights Hospitalers is under seige by Moslem forces.

    I would highly recommend this book to everyone who has an interest in the late Renaissance, the Inquisition, Christian-Moslem tensions, and just plain fascinating characters.
    I ought to add Angels in Iron, by Nicholas C. Prata, published by ARX (small company). Very intense and realistic—albeit heroic—action, as this novel about the 1565 siege of Malta is JAMMED WITH BATTLES. Very gripping, both suspenseful and emotional, as the few remaining Knights Hospitaller are pitted against the Turkish horde in a desperate hold-the-fort battle.

  13. #13
    If you want some historical fiction in Ancient Babylon, the only thing that I have ever found in this setting is The Young Captives, by Erasmus W. Jones published in 1907. It's on project gutenberg.

    Its a shame that there hasn't been more historical fiction set in Ancient Persia and Arabia, because I find it to be some great history.
    Last edited by theDood; August 3rd, 2007 at 09:43 PM.

  14. #14
    Registered User Leiali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldanuumea View Post
    I just finished the best one yet....and I've been reading historical fiction for almost half a century!

    The Religion, by Tom Willocks. The book may seem like a slow starter for some, but believe me, it is worth the read if you want intense, realistic battle action. The setting is Malta, circa 1560, when the island bastion of the Knights Hospitalers is under seige by Moslem forces.

    I would highly recommend this book to everyone who has an interest in the late Renaissance, the Inquisition, Christian-Moslem tensions, and just plain fascinating characters.
    Better than Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles which also describes the siege in Malta..Is that possible?!

  15. #15
    does this happen to anyone else? You start reading a book and then something happens and you set it down for a long time, and want to go back and read it but don't k ow how to start.

    I started reading Shogun last summer and got a couple hundred pages in, but then school started and i never had time for it. now i want to finish it, but i feel like the task is too daunting. the book is long, im already 200 pages in but i dont remember much of it. should i reread the 200 pages? i think id get bored. should i try and start from a couple hundred pages in... ugh

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