Friday, July 22, 2011

Top Ten: My Favourite Works of Historical Fiction

Since I don't have any reviews to share at the moment, I thought I'd share my top ten favourite works of historical fiction instead.   I think it's pretty obvious from my list that I love epic works of historical fiction set primarily in England during the medieval and Tudor eras, don't you?  

My Favorite Works of Historical Fiction

(1) The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.   Nobody does historical fiction better than Sharon Kay Penman and I think this novel, about the Wars of the Roses and Richard III, is her finest yet.

(2) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.   Mantel brings Oliver Cromwell to life in this novel set in the court of Henry VIII.   Readers seem to either love or hate this novel, and I fall firmly in the love camp.   I thought it was absolutely brilliant and can't wait for the promised sequel. 

(3) When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman.   Another fine example of why Penman is a master of historical fiction.  This novel, the first in Penman's series about the Plantagenets, follows the battle for the English throne between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, the mother of Henry II. 

(4) Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman.  The third installment in Penman's Plantagenet books, this one follows Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and their grown children.   I'm looking forward to the release of the next book, Lionheart, this fall

(5) Katherine by Anya Seton.  Seton's classic novel tells of the love story between John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Katherine Swynford.  

(6) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.   This is the novel that started my love affair with historical fiction.  Pillars concerns the building of a Cathedral in the fictional English town of Kingsbridge during the 12th century.   The follow-up, World Without End, is pretty good, too. 

(7) The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner.   Gortner's novel of Queen Juana of Castile, often referred to as the Mad Queen, is a wonderfully written tale about one of history's lesser known queens. 

(8) Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd.   This is a multi-generational tale set in and around Sarum/ Salisbury, England.   This is my favourite of Rutherfurd's novels, but you really can't go wrong with any of them. 

(9) Elizabeth I by Margaret George.   Despite a love of the Tudor period,  I've never been much a fan of novels that feature Elizabeth I as a central figure primarily because I have issues with how authors have chosen to characterize  the queen.   George, however, brings the later years of Elizabeth's reign to life and has characterized Elizabeth in such a way as to make the reader understand why she is considered one of England's greatest monarchs. 

(10) The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick.   This wonderful novel focuses on the life of William Marshall, who is considered one of the greatest knights of the medieval age.   If you haven't read any of Chadwick's novels, I definitely recommend you pick one up soon! 

Honourable mention:

(11) The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham.  Set during the reign of Edward II, this novel is about Edward's niece, Eleanor, and her husband Hugh le Despenser. 

So, are any of these novels on your own list of favourites?