Historical Delight
by Annette McCleave on November 17th, 2009

There are books that stick to historical facts with quiet, relentless honesty, and other books that play fast and loose with the facts. The truth is, I can enjoy both. But the book needs to be done well, and the story needs to be entertaining.

Who hasn’t read a book where some anachronistic element pulled them from the story? Either dialog we all recognize as modern, or some part of the setting that underscores a blatant lack of research. It can be annoying, because the pacing of the story takes a hit while you stop to wonder—did that really happen?

But haven’t most of us experienced the opposite delight, as well? The author who manages to sneak in some wonderful period detail that makes you smile, or—gasp—even educates you? Gifted storytellers like Elizabeth Chadwick have taken me into history in a wonderfully enjoyable—and accurate—way.


But I’m not so tied to the TRUTH that I can’t look past it.

Take Naomi Novik’s books, for example. She took the Napoleonic Wars and merged them with a world that includes dragons. Yes, dragons. In effect, she created an alternate universe that stays remarkably true to many of the historical realities of the times and completely turns others on their heads. Her books are a tasty buffet of epic history and pure fantasy.

Cover art for His Majestys Dragon Naomi Novik

Our own Kim Lenox does an amazing job with the Victorian era in her Shadow Guards series, as well. Am I learning history from these books? Maybe the odd bit. But that’s not why I’m reading them. I’m reading them because they do what they’re supposed to do—they entertain me. They draw me into that world, as implausible as it may seem, and they use the rich tapestry of history to make the stories come alive. Can I really ask for more?

Do you have a favorite book or series that blends reality and fiction in a satisfying way?

3 comments to “Historical Delight”

  1. 1

    I’ve always enjoyed Amanda Quick’s historicals, and because of them I learned about the corn wars and what mews are. Do I believe every word Jayne writes is gospel? Nope. But like you said, we don’t read them for the historical content. Learning stuff is just a happy coincidence, and when an author incorporates true events and you find out that actually happened, it really does make the story more satisfying–in a smug, “Hey, I just read about that!” sort of way :wink:

  2. 2

    Absolutely, Zita! I love that feeling. :-)

  3. 3

    The “Outlander” series is my favorite series that blends both fact and fiction seamlessly teaching me the odd bit of historical trivia and entertaining me throughout the entire book…
    I do not depend on any book written for entertainment to teach me about past history but at the same time like Zita states the true events add color and flair and make the story much more satisfying in the end……
    I also of course love pure “fantasy” because after we read to escape whatever stress life throws and for sheer joy of the written word.

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