Frolicking in historical fiction and fantasy.
Sometimes I amaze myself. I don’t know why, but this past month I started reading three books at the same time- one on audio, one at lunch, and another at night- that are complete epics. All three- “Outlander”, “The White Queen”, and Game of Thrones book 3 “A Storm of Swords”- take place in the past and all of them have fantastical and magical elements.
You might think I’ve keeled over in pure exhaustion, but I’m rather inspired.
I love historical fiction. It’s fast becoming my new favorite go-to genre. Mysteries used to my coveted and favorite reads, but now that I’ve branched out into the world of fantasy, I’m happy when I can find a book or two that combines all elements. I’m relatively a newbie to fantasy. Sci-fi and fantasy just were never my genres of choice when it came to pleasure reading. But after reading Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind” for a book club meeting, I came to have a new appreciation for fantasy. And Game of Thrones is so character heavy and mind-boggling at times, but I absolutely love the series.
Also interesting (to me, anyway) is that the above books are also on TV. I only just begun the Outlander series on Starz, but I saw the mini-series The White Queen before I read the book, and I watched all three seasons of GOT before I picked up the first book. With these dense and historically meandering books, I’ve found it actually helps to watch the shows first. This is profound, in that it’s not something you will usually hear me say. I don’t think it’s cheating, really, to watch the shows in tandem or before reading the novels. Think of the show as a companion piece and handy visual guide to the books!
Side bar: I know Game of Thrones is not necessarily “historical fiction”, as Westeros and environs are pure fantasy. But the books feel as though they are set in the middle ages, sort of on a parallel universe as ours.
I can’t say why, exactly, I’m in love with historical fiction. I know several people who can’t stand this genre, for whatever reason. But I get so excited when history comes alive. I like to revel in what life was like all those years ago. In the case of “The White Queen”, I am always delighted when a new story about the Tudor era debuts. Reading about history in texts and documents never quite captures the true spirit of a person ,and who is to say, after 500 years, that what we are reading is even really true? But stories have so much leeway to create a character, and in the context of factual events I feel like I’m right there.
“Outlander” knocked my socks off. It’s not the type of book that will appeal to everyone, though. For one thing, it’s a time travel novel. That right there can immediately turn people away. It has all of the trappings of being a romance novel, but it’s not a romance either. As for fantasy, well it’s not so heavy on that, but it dives just a twinge into fantasy-like situations (I won’t give away any spoilers here). And this is a dark book. When I say dark, I mean DARK. Rape, torture, spousal and child abuse are all fair game here and author Gabaldon doesn’t shy away from any of it. Really, “Outlander” is a sweeping epic set in 18th century Scotland. With men in kilts. And some pretty explicit sex scenes. Think the TV show Game of Thrones set in the Highlands and you are all set.
Anyone second guessing historical fiction now?