Back to the past..

Posted On 2 February 2016

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 24 responses


Every Tuesday over at the  The Broke and Bookish we all get to look at a particular topic for discussion and use various (or more to the point ten) examples to demonstrate that particular topic.  The topic this week is:

‘Top Ten Historical Settings You Love’

I love reading books with historical settings, alternate history or figures from the past that are brought back to us on the page through the flights of fantasy.  My choices this week are:

  1. Ancient Greece: The Just City by Jo Walton.  This series takes us back to ancient times where the Gods are experimenting.  The Goddess Athene has created a city populated by children who will be taught and raised by a few chosen people.  The idea is loosely based on Plato’s idea for a Republic, where people could strive to achieve excellence.  The story includes both past and futuristic ideas, it uses time travel and brings in characters such as Sokrates.  I really enjoyed this.  It’s very thought provoking and I love reading stories where Gods are playing their games!
  2. Ancient Rome: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston.  What a fantastic combination of history and fantasy.  The Shards of Heaven takes us to a period just after Caesar’s death where Rome is on the brink of civil war with Caesar’s ambitious adopted son going to war with Antony and Cleopatra.  An absolutely compelling story that centres not on those characters that we know so well but on those on the periphery telling an altogether different and intriguing tale and a search for ancient artefacts.
  3. Iron Age: Skin by Ilka Tampke.  This is a wonderful book filled with ancient myth and folklore.  The story brings to us a country on the brink of Roman invasion. The people of Caer Cad believe that ‘skin’ is their heritage.  It’s what makes them part of the tribe.  Ailia is without ‘skin’, in other words her heritage is unknown and therefore although she serves the tribe she is unable to take part in ceremonies, learn or wed.  However, in a strange twist of fate she is chosen by the tribal ancestors ‘mothers’ and embarks on a journey of knowledge.
  4. Iron Age: Age of Iron by Angus Watson.  This book is absolutely brilliant.  I loved it.  A little bit of magic, druids, warriors, bloodshed, laughter and amazing characters.  No shortage of action and a country poised for war.  What’s not to love!
  5. San Francisco 1800s: The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M H Boroson.  Set in San Francisco’s China Town this book brings to us a young Daoist Priestess called Li Lin who has ‘yin’ eyes – meaning she can see spirits.  This story is so wonderfully fresh and original and Li Lin is a character that I really enjoyed reading about.  There is plenty of action and the story has almost a Ghibli feel to it.  Fantastic monsters coupled with kung fu and Chinese gangsters plus fast pacing that have you jumping from one incredible dilemma to the next.
  6. The Regency period: Longbourn by Jo Baker.  Taking Austen’s well loved classic and looking at the story through a different perspective. We follow the story of Sarah, one of the servants from the Bennett household.  This is a fascinating look at the life of one of the servants during this period.  It’s not the story’s intention to revisit Lizzy and Jane but more to use the family and setting to highlight something different and it works so well.  Highly recommended.
  7. Regency period: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.  An epic work of fantasy set during the Napoleonic Wars where magic is once again being made popular and the doorways to the land of the fae are once again opening.
  8. Russia: 1812 – 1917: The Danilov Quintet by Jasper Kent is set in Russia and brings to us creatures known as the voordalak.  It’s a supernatural historical thriller and the series covers the period 1812 – 1917 covering the French invasion and culminating with the Russian Revolution.  It brings a whole new slant onto the historical happenings of the time combining real historical events with supernatural creatures.
  9. The Roaring 20s. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray.  A book about diviners: people who can see into the future.  This is a beautifully written book that brings to us a dark story full of horror.  A story where people go to sleep at night but can’t be woken up in the morning.  This is a subtly crafted layered book with something evil lurking at it’s heart combined with an intriguing conspiracy.
  10. 1960s Los Angeles: Made to Kill by Adam Christopher.  Raymond Electromatic is a private detective and coincidentally the last Robot.  His PI work is really a cover because Ray is actually a hitman but, at the start of the novel, he’s hired by a young brunette and how can he refuse such temptation as a big bag of gold.  A blend of noir detective, spies, sparkling Hollywood actors and actresses and twisted plots to take over the world.

24 Responses to “Back to the past..”

  1. Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I love Ancient Greece and Rome as well! I haven’t read any of your mentions for them, so I’m definitely looking those up. I did really enjoy The Diviners too, still have to pick up Lair of Dreams.

    Great post!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Lair of Dreams was great – I hadn’t realised there was a book prior to that one before I picked it up but I still really enjoyed it.
      Lynn 😀

  2. S. C. Flynn

    Iron Age! Hmm, must read more of that.

    • imyril

      Funny, that was my thought too. I read a lot *about* it doing my degree (archaeology), but I haven’t read a lot of fiction set it in. I might have to fix that.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved both these books and they are both completely different.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Tammy

    These are great examples. It makes you realize just how many SFF books have some kind of historical setting!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I know – I had plenty more examples that I could have used – there are loads of historical settings in SFF – like, all the steampunk. Gaslight. Flintlock.
      Lynn 😀

  4. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    Ancient Greece and Rome would be my top 2 as well 🙂 I’d probably throw Ancient Asia up there too.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ohh, Ancient Asia – sounds fascinating – if you think of some good recommendations throw them my way please.
      Lynn 😀

  5. jessicabookworm

    I read a lot of historical fiction in the Tudor, Victorian, War of the Roses and the 1920s periods. I would like to read more from older time periods though, because I love Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptians times too.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think you would love Shards of Heaven – it’s so good. The writing is really, well, easy to read to be honest and it’s written from the perspective of peripheral characters which I really enjoyed. A great piece of fantasy writing mixed with real life historical events.
      Lynn 😀
      ps. I loved reading anything from the Tudor period. Have you read the Shardlake novels? I think they’re great and you’d probably like them. I haven’t read any of the Mantel novels? I haven’t but just wondered if you had what you made of them.

      • jessicabookworm

        You’ve definitely sold me on Shards of Heaven I’ve put it on my wish list. I have heard great things about the Shardlake novels but sadly I haven’t read any of them myself. While I have Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel on my TBR shelf – I hope to get round to it soon after really enjoying the BBC’s adaptation of it 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        I haven’t read any Mantel either but wondered if you had as we both seem to like books from that era. The Shardlake novels are really well done – they’re more in the bracket of mystery (early detective) but the writing is really strong.
        Lynn 😀

  6. jenclair

    I loved The Just City, and I have (but have not started) The Girl with Ghost Eyes!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I thought Girl with Ghost Eyes was great. It reminded me a little of the Ghost Bride in some respects (have you read that one?) but I enjoyed it more. I liked the setting and the mingling of gangster, spirits and kung fu.
      Lynn 😀

  7. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    “Shards of Heaven” was so fascinating that I felt the need to refresh my memory of that historical period and the real characters peopling the story.
    And I still have “Skin” on my list since I saw your review… 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I did the same – as soon as I finished reading I went to see what I could find out about the period and the characters. A really good book.
      I enjoyed Skin – I liked all the elements that made up the daily life, it’s very light on fantasy but even so.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Greg

    I like the sound of your Regency picks. That’s a nice cover to Longbourn, I haven’t seen that one. I like that one better than the one I’ve seen.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a great cover and it’s also the one that originally drew my eye and made me want to read it. I loved that book and would happily read more in a similar vein.
      Lynn 😀

  9. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I loved The Just City and The Shards of Heaven. I should probably check some more of these out.

  10. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    When I saw this topic I immediately thought Ancient Rome of course…but completely forgot about the Iron Age! I love that historical period…well, the way Angus Watson writes it anyway 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I know – I love Age of Iron. I don’t even understand myself why I haven’t read No.2 yet – obviously I just like torturing myself!
      Lynn 😀

  11. proxyfish

    I have to read Age of Iron! And not just because I bought Reign of Iron in a sale before realising it wasn’t the first! 😛

    • @lynnsbooks

      That’s the kind of thing I usually do! You have to read it – definitely. It’s really good.
      Lynn 😀

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