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  1. #1

    Fantasy novels rooted in mythology and history?

    Do any of you know of fantasy novels that are set in the "historical" real world? I'm not talking about Urban Fantasy, which tends to be modern/contemporary--I'm looking for more of a historical setting.

    I enjoy historical novels, especially those set during the Roman Empire (Saylor, Sidebottom, Kane) and the Dark Ages and Medieval period (Lawhead, Cornwell), but I also enjoy fantasy novels, and I'm intrigued by mythology.

    Here are a few "historical fantasy" novels that I know of at this point (in roughly "historical" order):

    -The Troy Trilogy by David Gemmel (begins with Lord of the Silver Bow): based on Greek mythology
    -The Oath of Empire series by Thomas Harlan (begins with The Shadow of Ararat): magic during the Roman Empire
    -Rhinegold by Stephan Grundy: based on Germanic/Scandinavian legends

    I'm wondering if we can develop a list of novels that mix history with fantasy (includes magic and such), especially during the time period from Ancient times through Medieval times.

    I'm also interested in Celtic/Arthurian novels, but it seems that recent authors emphasize the historical approach with no magic at all. Which Arthurian novels still have magic and other fantasy elements?

    What others are out there? Thanks!

  2. #2
    What have we learned? Skynjay's Avatar
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    Obsidian and Blood by Alliette de Bodard is set in per-colonial Americas (Aztecs).

    Paul Kearny's Macht books are basically classical Greece from what friends have described.

    Bakker's Prince of Nothing is not set in the real world, but borrows very heavy from the crusades.

    Of course there is always The Illiad and the Odyssey.

    For Arthurian stuff, while it bores me to tears, I have to throw out the most obvious one. Mists of Avalon by Bradley

  3. #3
    Wilbur Smiths River God is fantastic, told in first person based in ancient egypt.

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    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Try this thread for Arthurian works. It was very recent, still on the first page of this forum and has some great recommendations.

    Marie Brennan has a series that begins with Midnight Never Come. First book is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the second book in the 1660s, and the third book in the 1760s. All are centered around the fae and their interactions with humans, some historical and some not, and set in a real historical setting where things that actually, historically happened in the years and months the books cover are depicted in the books.

    Mostly I would recommend The Mongoliad. It is from numerous SFF authors who started out on the project by learning medieval sword fighting with each other. From their love of the realistic fighting, history, and fiction writing they began to create a story and this is the result of it. I have the first book but haven't gotten around to reading it just yet. I do know it is set in 1241 when the Mongol horde was "poised to invade Europe" as the book summary declares. I'm looking forward to the chance to read it.

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    http://tinyurl.com/363ogv DurzoBlint's Avatar
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    Pressfield's Gates of Fire. (Greek)
    Igguldon's Emperor series (Rome) and Conqueror series (Ganghis Khan)
    Guy Gaveriel Kay's Lions of Al-Russan (Medieval Spain) / Last Light of the Sun (Vikings) / Under Heaven & River of Stars (China)

  6. #6
    Thanks for the suggestions so far! I was aware of the Arthurian thread, but my focus is more on the fantasy than the historical, which is what most of the books in that thread seem to be going for.

    DurzoBlint, thanks, but I'm pretty sure that Pressfield and Igguldon write historical fiction, whereas I'm looking for the magic, etc. that happens to take place in historical settings. I will definitely check out Kay--although from what I understand, his settings aren't in the "real world," but very closely aligned.

    Thanks, all--I welcome more suggestions that meet this criteria from anyone!

  7. #7
    http://tinyurl.com/363ogv DurzoBlint's Avatar
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    Igguldon's Emperor series does not contain magic, but if I recall there is a bit of mysticism in the Conqueror series. but probably not as much as you would like.

  8. #8
    Hmm, thanks for the clarification, DurzoBlint. Interesting point--if the novel incorporates mystical elements that reflect the beliefs of the populace, that works for me.
    I was recently reminded of a computer role-playing game from the 1990s called "Darklands" set in Medieval Germany, which portrayed fantastical elements that reflected the Medieval mindset of the common people. What set it apart from other RPGs was the departure from the Tolkienesque elves, dwarves, and such and the focus on fantasy within a historical setting. I would love to find more novels that do this.

  9. #9
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    I read the opening pages to Smith's River Gods that Amazon has. Wow! That is the next book I'm getting. After I read the dozen or so sitting on my shelf already...

  10. #10
    Been a long time since I last read it, but I recall finding S.P. Somtow's "The Shattered Horse" quite fascinating. It is set in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Troy, and follows the premise that young Prince Astyanax managed to survive rather than have his head bashed into a wall. It definitely leans toward the fantastical side. Can still be found at Amazon.

  11. #11
    Registered User Snowy's Avatar
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    Iggulden's series both have magical elements to them, although fairly minimal.

    I am also a lover of historical fiction, and other authors you should definitely look up include:

    Bernard Cornwell - the daddy of all historical fiction writers - his Sharpe series is superb, but also he has written series based in Viking England (the Saxon series), a standalone Azincourt about the battle of Agincourt written from the perspective of a longbowman, the Grail Quest series (another longbowman but a different set of stories), and two books about King Arthur. He does not dwell too much on mysticism although there are elements in the Saxon and Grail Quest series - however don't let this dissuade you, he is a fabulous author.

    Giles Kristian has written an excellent series beginning with Raven: Blood Eye, set in ancient England in Viking times

    Robert Low's Oathsworn is another Viking series, also excellent, beginning with The Whale Road

    Bit of a theme there, but I find stories set in such a bleak setting fascinating.

  12. #12
    Registered User StephenPorter's Avatar
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    I usually don't care for historical fantasy, but I did read one a while back called Firebird by R. Garcia y Robertson that was set in medieval Russia. It was actually pretty fascinating with the differences between the Russian church and Roman Catholicism. I feel silly recommending it, though, because I didn't care for it all that much. The sex scenes were a bit too gratuitous for comfort and had no point to the story, as if the guy just needed to throw in a hot and heavy interlude every chapter. It felt like erotica more often than I thought it should, but if you don't mind that, it might be a good fit for you. Lots of fantasy and magic intwined with a setting based on history.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    I read the opening pages to Smith's River Gods that Amazon has. Wow! That is the next book I'm getting. After I read the dozen or so sitting on my shelf already...
    Fantastic book. The follow up book, The Seventh Scroll, is also great as we learn more about the eunuch Taita from the perspective of the present day.

  14. #14
    Double post.

  15. #15
    Registered User Snowy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Khale View Post
    Fantastic book. The follow up book, The Seventh Scroll, is also great as we learn more about the eunuch Taita from the perspective of the present day.
    I found the first title a fun little romp, but the second very disappointing. Smith has allowed the characters to degenerate into Eddings-esque levels of omnipotence. Only my take on it of course, and the first is definitely a good read.

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