Sunday, August 08, 2021

A gallery of twelve new ancient and medieval historical novels

While the WWII trend in historical fiction is still riding high, novels set in the more distant past still exist and have a strong readership base. Here are a dozen new and upcoming novels taking place in ancient and medieval times, all of which I've either read or have my eye on.  (On a personal note, I'm typing this, or trying to, while the newest addition to the household, a formerly stray tortie named Cocoa, is attacking my legs and climbing all over my desk and keyboard.  It's a challenge!)  On to the books...



In From the Ashes, Melissa Addey presents a colorful behind-the-scenes view of the Roman Colosseum's construction and grand opening through the eyes of an enslaved young woman, Althea, who must take charge after her master is subsumed with grief following the loss of his family during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. I've read this one and found it highly entertaining and moving, especially the scenes showing the startling disappearance of Pompeii. Letterpress Books, Feb. 2021. [see on Goodreads]



Karen Brooks always chooses singular heroines and intriguing historical periods for her fiction. The Good Wife of Bath, set in 14th-century England, promises to cast new light on the well-known, multi-married character from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  HQ Australia, July 2021; it will be published in the US next winter. [see on Goodreads]



Setting her debut in thirteenth-century Mongolia, F. M. Deemyad recounts the story of three princesses from different lands whose fates were closely linked to the empire of Genghis Khan. History Through Fiction, March 2021. [see on Goodreads]



The protagonist of Annie Garthwaite's debut novel is Cecily Neville, future matriarch of the Yorkist branch of the Plantagenet family, as she seizes the opportunity to see her political fortunes rise during England's War of the Roses. Viking UK, July 2021. [see on Goodreads]



There's been considerable buzz about Lauren Groff's Matrix, which retells the story of Marie de France, a rebellious young woman of seventeen when she's exiled to England to take charge of a faltering abbey of nuns in the late 12th century. Riverhead, Sept. 2021. [see on Goodreads]



In Elodie Harper's new novel, the "wolf den" of the title is the lupanar (brothel) in ancient Pompeii; this is an absorbing, fast-paced story recounting the lives of the women who live and work there, and it does so without delving into salaciousness. Yes, another novel on this list that's set in that well-known, tragic city.  The eruption of Vesuvius is still a few years in the future for this book, which is first in a series. Head of Zeus, May 2021. [see on Goodreads]



Johnson's romantic novel features two strong-willed leads: an heiress from Carthage and a Roman centurion, whose lives come together during the time of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps in 218 BCE. Bellastoria, April 2021. [see on Goodreads]



I enjoyed Fortune's Child, first in James Conroyd Martin's two-book series about Empress Theodora in 6th-century Byzantium, and am looking forward to reading this sequel, which centers on her years as empress as opposed to her earlier life. Hussar Quill Press, June 2021. [see on Goodreads]



Carol McGrath is skilled at bringing forth the personalities of lesser-known medieval royal women. Her subject in The Damask Rose, second in her She-Wolves trilogy, is Eleanor of Castile, queen of Edward I and prominent businesswoman in the thirteenth century. Headline Accent, April 2021. [see on Goodreads]



Christina of Markyate, not her birth name, was a 12th-century English anchoress from a wealthy family who denied herself worldly pleasures and dedicated herself to a spiritual life.  Having just finished Mary Sharratt's Revelations, I'm intrigued by Ruth Mohrman's novel about an earlier medieval mystic; the author has a doctorate in medieval literature. Cadoc Publishing, Jan. 2021. [see on Goodreads]



I've been looking forward to Anne O'Brien's novel about the 15th-century Pastons for some time. The Royal Game follows three women from this famous English family during their surprising rise to power.  HQ, September 2021.  [see on Goodreads]



Last but not least (the books in this post are alphabetized by author surname), The Moon God's Wife is also set the furthest back in time: the setting is Mesopotamia of 2300 BCE.  Shauna Roberts' novel imagines the story of Enheduanna, a high priestess of the goddess Inanna whose name has come down in history as the first recorded poet. Nicobar Press, July 2021. 

And here's Miss Cocoa, posing on a historical fiction book pile which has since been dismantled because I bought more shelves.  Happy International Cat Day from both of us!


12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the list for my future reading. Give Miss Cocoa a treat for being so cute!

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  2. Thank you for the list. I just missed out on three of them as they had been archived on Netgalley but I did get to request Matrix which I would really like to read. Making a note of them all as they all seem like excellent reading.

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    1. Good luck with Matrix and hope you get approved.

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  3. Some great looking stuff here, thanks!

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  4. "The Sky Worshippers" especially intrigues me - I recently finished Dana Stabenow's Silk and Song trilogy following an imagined granddaughter of Marco Polo across Asia and Europe and really enjoyed it. Nice to get away from the English Court sometimes! Thanks for the list.

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    1. I haven't read that trilogy, but it sounds good, and I definitely agree a change of scenery is a positive thing!

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  5. I will look for the Mongolian conquest novel. Have developed quite an interest in Mongolian history, as well as that of the Ottomans.

    As for Cocoa -- one fortunate feline U betcha! She looks so cute -- and so comfortable.

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    1. On the Mongolians, Stephanie Thornton's The Tiger Queens is very good also.

      Cocoa is definitely enjoying indoor life!

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  6. The constantly disappointing seattle and king county library systems had one of the books on order, none of the others at all.

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    1. I'll take a guess that the one on order is Matrix? Many of the others are independently published or published in the UK or Australia, which could explain the lack of library options. I hope more libraries consider these titles for their collections.

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