Today I have Riv Re on as a guest for My Favorite Things. I thought this was a fun post with lots of terrific recommendations! Hope you all enjoy it!
The Connection Between High Fantasy and Historical Fiction
Hey, I’m Riv Re, teen blogger and writer extraordinaire (that bit is just stuck on to make me seem fancy). I blog about YA on my personal blog, Riv Reads, as well as on Write Here. I’m here for the My Favorite Things event to talk about my favorite genre, fantasy, as well as historical fiction. Be prepared for bad jokes ahead (don’t say I didn’t warn you).
Usually, when someone is a fantasy fan, they don’t have the same passion for historical fiction. And often, those who like reading medieval stories will roll their eyes at sword and sorcery. How much can Paolini’s Eragon and Jink’s Pagan Chronicles have in common, anyway?
I used to hate historical fiction. I go to school and get my brain stuffed with Washington and Henry I-CCXI. (Take your pick. There must be at least 211.) Why would I want to read more about it? And for fun? (I know, all you students out there who have ever seen a Dear America novel on a shelf, I’m reading your mind.)
I’m going to do some world-building for you all. Imagine this for me: A world very different from our own, without electricity or cellphones. (I apologize in advance for any nightmares you’ll get tonight.) There’s a war going on, and a man sits in his shack, polishing his dagger by candlelight. At the same time, there’s a knight in his mansion doing the same with his sword. And there’s a king in a grand palace, working on a peace treaty, or raising taxes to fund the battle. There’s yet another man, dying from a bloody wound because all the healers can do is bandage it, maybe put in some messy stitches. There are poor people working the fields, and rich people living in luxury.
Pop quiz. What kind of book was that? A) A contemporary novel B) A Young Adult vampire-werewolf love triangle story C) A historical fiction book, maybe around the Middle Ages or D) A high fantasy.
That was a trick question. There were two answers. And neither of them had anything to do with vampires.
If you know anything about Riv Re, you’ll know she likes to talk about herself in third person. (She doesn’t really.) In all seriousness (ha! impossible), I’m a fantasy writer. I’m one of those aforementioned students that had no interest in historical fiction and was scared to even glance at My Brother Sam Is Dead or Johnny Tremain. (I read Johnny Tremain. For school.) Actually, I’m still scared to glance at them, even though I don’t dislike historical fiction. 1900’s books, like Anna Godbersen’s Luxe or Bright Young Things don’t capture my interest either.
But I love historical fiction if you can get a couple of centuries before all that. Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence is a personal favorite, Middle Grade-wise. Because it’s not so different from high fantasy. Above, I wasn’t thinking of Eberheardt, the name of my high fantasy manuscript. I was imagining the 12th century. Swords. Kings. Knights. Horses. Letters (those are the things that came before emails). Gold and silver (coins, not rings). Metal clanging against metal. No poison gas, or airplanes, or machine guns. (Frankly, guns take all the fun out of war.) Arrows flying. Screams of agony. I’ll stop being gory now.
A different world. No technology. Lot’s of confusing things with names like Saoirse, and Eibhleann. (Pop quiz: Which name is real? Answer: Both) (Pronounced: seer-sha and even-linn) Sharp, shiny blades.
If you love those high fantasies, truth is stranger than fiction, and you can get that same thrill here on boring old Earth as in Alagaësia. And if you love those historical fictions, and I’ve convinced you to try something a little bit…out of this world….well, truth is still stranger than fiction, but fiction can be pretty strange.
So you’re convinced. Now what?
For the high fantasy n00b newbie, I’d start slow. You may have absolutely no interest in magic. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there for you. (All links go to Goodreads)
The following books have very little magic, or the magic built into the plot so well, it’s not major.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
It’s one of my altime favorite books. The main character, Katsa, has something called a Grace, which is a natural magic-like skill. Graces can be useful, or pointless. Katsa’s Grace is killing.
Fire by Kristin Cashore
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
The main character is an eternal shifter, but not so well…
For those of you fine with magic, you’re just a little scared to jump into a book with so much world-buidling, don’t worry. These faeries are too.
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Another favorite. Meghan, the main character, finds out she has faerie blood and is thrown headlong into a magic world. And you thought reading it was hard. Plenty of sword fighting.
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
Kelley Winslow was a simple actress that started attacked by hellhounds and leprechauns. And not the short jolly ones in your cereal.
Wings by Aprilynne Pike
How would you feel if a flower grew out of your back? And then you were attacked by trolls? And brought to Avalon?
But you may want to just throw yourself into it, headfirst. The best way to get used to the water is to cannonball right in, right? *silence* Right? *further silence* Anyways, there are some basics for this one.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Okay, get this. Dragons. Magic. Enchanted swords. War. (I had to bring the swords and war in there somewhere, isn’t that the point?)
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones
This is for everyone, even people who hate reading. It’s the epitome of genius in a magical form, even if it isn’t about sword fights.
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
For the particularly adventurous. I don’t suggest starting here though, it’s deep enough to drown in. Even I haven’t tried it. Yet.
And you know what? For those who love a good fantasy world but don’t want any magic at all, maybe you’ll see something by yours truly on a shelf in a few years
Wake up, fantasy lovers! I’m new to historical fiction too, but here are some you must read.
Pagan’s Chronicles by Catherin Jinks
Crusades time. Brilliant hysterics. Its addicting and a quick read. There’s also the companion,
Babylonne by Catherine Jinks
I read this one before the original quartet. *bites lip* *shifty eyes*
The Roman Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence
If you’re interested in Middle Grade, these will take you even farther back. I’m not a mystery fan, and I adored these as a kid.
Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen
Because when all else fails, there’s always Arthur.
And for those of you who still aren’t won over? Just get your dystopians and sit quietly in the corner, because I’m not quite done.
Actually, I am.
So, what are some of your historical fiction and fantasy favorites? Any recommendations for the newbies?
Peace and swords (and oxymorons),
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