Monday, January 18, 2010

A visual preview of the spring season, part three

We're already into the spring season, but I see from the poll results (left-hand sidebar) that forthcoming book previews are what you'd like to see the most. These 15 historical novels will be published between now and the end of May, and since I'm posting the info so late, you'll only have to wait a few months, at most, before you can get your hands on them.

If any author can bring the historical Western back into fashion, Dan Simmons can. I've yet to read any of his historicals, but I was an avid SF reader way back when. His Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion (it's impossible to read the first without the second) are amazing, and Song of Kali is both powerful and chilling. Black Hills, his newest epic, interweaves the stories of Sioux warrior Paha Sapa and General Custer with a thread of the supernatural. And what an awesome cover. Reagan Arthur/Little Brown US, February; Quercus UK, April.

A re-interpretation of the life of the notorious Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, told in her own intimate voice. I have an ARC in hand and plan to get to it as soon as possible; I'll be posting an interview with the author (my good friend Christopher Gortner of Historical Boys) around the publication date. Ballantine, May 25; also Hodder & Stoughton, May 27.

In Scotland in 1692, just after the horrific Massacre at Glencoe, a woman named Corrag is condemned for her involvement and accused of witchcraft and murder. As she lives out her final days in prison, an Irish Jacobite comes to interview her, resulting in the blossoming of a surprising friendship. Fourth Estate, March.

A war-torn romantic epic set in Japan of 1868, following the defeat of the last Shogun. It takes place in the Yoshiwara, the famous pleasure quarter of Tokyo. I haven't yet read her earlier novel The Last Concubine though it's sitting on the bookshelf next to me; can anyone report back on it? Bantam UK, April.

Mary Sharratt always lyrically brings to life the hidden stories and underlying strengths of historical women. Her latest novel delves into the truth about the notorious Pendle witches, centering on a family of cunning women accused of witchcraft in early 17th-century Lancashire. I read an ARC over the holiday break, and it was excellent. I'll be conducting an interview with Mary later this spring. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April.

In a departure from her Lady Julia Grey series of whimsical and adventurous Victorian mysteries, Raybourn follows her new heroine, young Scottish novelist Theodora Lestrange, to faraway Transylvania in 1858 (cue creepy music). An ARC is reportedly on the way. MIRA, March.

The story of Mahelt, strong-willed eldest daughter of William Marshal, caught in a heartbreaking battle when King John sets out to subdue her father-in-law's family. Check out the front and back covers on the author's website; I like the dark, dramatic look as well as the font used (I'm a sucker for historical fonts). Sphere, May.

So many great-sounding historical novels are coming out next month, and my TBR can't keep up with them all. (I really should be reading instead of blogging. And I really should be reading instead of watching The Bachelor as I type this.) After seeing the description of this one, and seeing the starred review in PW, I nonetheless asked my Historical Novels Review co-editor Ellen if she could request a copy for review for me. I'll have to fit it into my schedule somewhere. It's a religious-themed historical mystery set in Prague's Jewish ghetto in 1592. Morrow, Jan. 26.

I visited the Alcott family home, Orchard House, several times while growing up and remember it well, and of course, I was a fan of Little Women. It's not surprising that so many readers want to know more about its creator. The recent biography and documentary have both spurred greater interest in the life of this enigmatic woman, and in her debut novel, Chicago writer McNees imagines a New Hampshire summer that changes the life and outlook of 22-year-old Louisa. Putnam/Amy Einhorn, April.

There are two novels here which I noted back when their publishing deal was arranged; this is one of them. As Publishers Marketplace noted (in a lengthier excerpt) in March 2009: Set in the mid-19th century, My Name is Mary Sutter follows a remarkable young midwife from Albany, New York whose hope of becoming a surgeon far exceeds what her family, physicians, and medical schools of her time are willing to accept, prompting her to travel to Washington, DC to work in the Civil War hospitals. Viking, May.

A debut historical mystery set in late 18th-century Ireland, featuring rebellious English governess Mary Wollstonecraft as protagonist. I hadn't been familiar with Wollstonecraft's time in Ireland before reading this novel's premise and am looking forward to reading more. Nancy Means Wright will be guest blogging in mid-March about her heroine. Perseverance Press, April.

India-born novelist Sundaresan's fourth epic, next in a series following The Feast of Roses, will bring to light the story of two Mughal princesses, Jahanara and Roshanara, fighting for power and respect in 17th-century India's royal court. If you've read John Shors's Beneath a Marble Sky, you'll probably want to read this new take on Jahanara's story as well. Atria, March.

Many of us have been reading about The Stolen Crown's journey from idea to manuscript to publication via Susan's blog. A novel of the Wars of the Roses, it will follow how Katherine Woodville's life transforms after her older sister, Elizabeth, secretly marries Edward IV of England. I don't expect to see any spell-casting (or much of Melusine) in this one. Sourcebooks, March.

Tiger Hills made a splash in the publishing world when it reportedly received the largest advance Penguin India ever paid for a debut novel (seven figures), so expectations are high. It's being described as a cross between an Indian Thorn Birds and Gone With the Wind, a multi-generational epic set on an Indian coffee plantation between 1878 and World War II. Mandanna, born in India, is an equity professional based in New York. Grand Central purchased US rights for publication in 2011, and the UK edition will be out this April 29th from Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

When I posted about this deal in April '08, I mentioned it would be on my TBR as soon as it appeared. I didn't have to wait that long, though. I was pleased to be offered a manuscript copy last fall and enjoyed it immensely. Watermark centers on a mute young woman's journey to discover her literary voice, pulling readers into a corner of the Middle Ages not often seen: 14th-century Narbonne, a city where fear and suspicion mingle with memories of southern France's troubadour past. Avon A, April.


  1. So many books! So little time.

    I have read The Terror by Dan Simmons which is probably a combination of historical and SF more than straight historical.

    Can't wait for Christopher Gortner, Susan Higginbotham and Elizabeth Chadwick and looking forward to seeing how Deanna Raybourn does with new characters.

    I read Lesley Downer's first book a couple of years ago. I liked it I guess, but not enough to rave about it. My review is here

    Love the sound of Tiger Hills!

  2. Thank you, Sarah! All those titles look great.

  3. There are a ton of books I want from that list. Not surprising, of course is the Louisa May Alcott one. I also forgot about My Name is Mary Sutter, which I also wanted to read. So thanks for posting it.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to post these. My wish list grows and grows. Can't wait to May.

  5. Thanks for mentioning my book, Sarah! Looking forward to the rest!

  6. Thank you for these recommendations which look great!

  7. Thank you so much for your recommendations, Sarah - Mt TBR is becoming a Sierra! (and thanks for mentioning my new book:) I'm looking forward to visiting your blog in May.

  8. I too am looking forward to some of these books; lucky you for getting ARCs of some of them! (tried to e-mail Deanna Raybourn's publicist, but no go). Happy reading!

  9. Thanks for the comments, all!

    Thanks for the review link, Marg. Funny that an earlier blog post of mine led you to the first book (which I haven't yet gotten around to!). It's the setting that attracts me to both.

    Katherine, actually the ARC I requested of the Raybourn was for a print publication rather than the blog (maybe they differentiate?), and it won't be in my hands for long, though I'll buy my own copy when it comes out. I'm very interested in looking it over, though.

  10. Thanks for this great list! A few comments:

    1) The Susan H. book is on Katherine Woodville (who is becoming the 15th century Anne Boleyn, a la Philippa Gregory . . .) but the cover art (a painting?) is pure 18th century.

    2) I'm looking forward to Fifth Servant - how DO people create such unfamiliar worlds?

    3) Sigh. I realize that vampires are in, but I'm hoping that they don't get dragged into THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST. Transylvanian history is so much more layered.

    4) Are you going to PLA? Will there be ARCs there? I can pass on the other swag, but ARCs are like chocolates - you just have to take ONE MORE.

  11. (I'm another Sarah who also loves historical fiction).

    Blog-author Sarah mentioned reading more about Mary Wollstonecraft in Ireland - try Janet Todd's group bio DAUGHTERS OF IRELAND. There are some loose ties to Lady Emily (Duchess of Leinster) in Stella Tillyard's ARISTOCRATS.

  12. (This is blog-owner Sarah. There seem to be a lot of Sarahs who are historical fiction fans, no?)

    I don't think DEAD TRAVEL FAST is supposed to have any paranormal elements. I'll attempt to glance through my copy without spoiling the storyline for myself, if at all possible.

    Alas, no PLA for me this year. I've been before, and there were plenty of ARCs. I'm sorry I missed Midwinter, esp after seeing the towering galley piles at the publishers' booths. I don't care too much about other swag either but can't pass up the ARCs.

    Thanks for the recommendation of Todd's bio. I've heard of it. I enjoyed ARISTOCRATS, too.

    I want them ALLL
    Torturous post.

  14. Just got Black Hills in the mail yesterday to read and review- I'm excited! I sadly know so little about American western history.

    The Indian one sounds really good, too! And of course the Chadwick.