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.
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?