Category Archives: historical fiction

God Knows

Our book today is Joseph Heller’s 1984 novel about the Biblical King David, God Knows – and it serves as yet another illustration of one of literature’s odd quirks: how often writers are best known and longest remembered for books other than their masterpieces. Examples multiply like toadstools, especially in the undiscriminating 20th century, where […]

tamburlaine must die!

Our book today is Louise Welsh’s 2004 novella Tamburlaine Must Die, which takes the form of a frenzied account of Christopher Marlowe’s last few days on Earth, as narrated by the famous playwright himself in an easy quasi-modern idiom Welsh has here perfected. The book is as beautiful and intense as a snow-squall, and in […]

Big Fat Historical Novels – A Dozen from the 1980s!

It’s a damn lonely business, writing a novel, and that loneliness only increases the longer the novel is – this (and the ironclad guarantee of poverty) is the best-known deterrent to the writing life. But there’s one kind of novel that’s even lonelier than all the rest, one kind where the length is virtually required, […]


Our books today form the “Emperor” series written by Conn Iggulden – all the paperbacks of which bear the same ominous blurb, “If you liked Gladiator, you’ll love Emperor!” I liked Gladiator, but a blurb such as that on a piece of Roman historical fiction is indeed ominous – because Gladiator was almost pure fantasy, […]

The Floating Book

Our book today is Michelle Lovric’s lush and utterly confident first novel The Floating Book, which takes its readers to the very beginnings of print culture by taking them to 1468 Venice, where Wendelin von Speyer and his assistants Bruno Uguccione and Felice Feliciano have just set up the city’s first printing press – which […]

The Serpent’s Tale

Our book today is The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin, her follow-up to 2006′s Mistress of the Arts of Death, one of the best historical novels we here at Stevereads have read in many, many years. You’d think that fact would have made us eager to read The Serpent’s Tale, but truth be told, it […]

A Heaping Helping of Historical Fiction!

A list has been suggested, called for, even implored, and we here at Stevereads never turn away from a good juicy list. We consequently fired off the appropriate memos and admonitions to the pertinent research departments, telling them to postpone our upcoming Best and Worst Books of 2007 listings (and, it need hardly be added, […]

Daughter of York

Our book today is Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith, whose previous historical novel was A Rose for the Crown. That previous book handily embodied every single thing historical fiction can do wrong: creaky dialogue, anachronisms on every page, escapism offered in the place of fact. The past was in many, many respects a […]

Duchess of Aquitaine!

Our book today is Margaret Ball’s historical novel Duchess of Aquitaine, with its charmingly chummy subtitle, ‘A Novel of Eleanor’ (brave, foolhardy Ball, trusting that none of her prospective readers will read the book’s title, then read the subtitle and say ‘who’s this Eleanor chick?’). The book’s heroine is, of course, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one […]

a book-list!

Sooner or later, I’ll get around to posting a sooper-dooper ultra-definitive historical fiction list, one that will guide you all in every time-period and every seeking mood. But in the meantime, I thought I’d fire off a quick sub-list of baubles to tempt the mind’s eye! 1. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault – certainly […]


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