Historical Fantasy

Rowland, Jennifer A B jennifer.rowland at imperial.ac.uk
Wed Sep 15 05:59:08 EDT 2004

Bettina wrote:
> Clarke had done something new and unique by combinig 
> historical fiction and fantasy "like LotR written by Jane Austen". 
> Apart from that being a very very strange metaphor, I thought 
> sponatously: That's not true, that has been done before. 
> So, if I define "historical fiction" as stories taking place in a
> recognizable past (mentioning some historical events, or 
> taking care to describe a cerain era), what titles with fantasy elements 
> can we find?

I think you're right. Several of the ones I thought of, like A College of Magics, are more like alternate pasts- they are set in what looks like the past of our world with magic, but the future of the book would not lead to our world, if that makes sense. Mary Gentle's Ash should qualify, though, (unless it's science fiction). Judith Merkle Riley's books. Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett's Armor of Light [*]  I'm sure I've read one by John M Ford set in the renaissance with magic. Doesn't Mercedes Lackey have a series set in a magical mediaeval Venice at the moment? And a series in a magical Victorian era?

Anyway, the presenter was wrong. (A mainstream reviewer being ignorant of fantasy and calling something new and unique when it isn't. I am so surprised.) Jonathan Strange does sound really good, I want to read it, and it may be very original in how it achieves its effects- if it is written in a Jane Austenish way, that would be interesting to read. But the concept of historical fiction mixed with fantasy is not new. (I'm sure Clarke knows that even though this reviewer dosn't.) 

[*] I just read that recently, liked it (though I think Point of Hopes is better) was impressed at how well they created Elizabethan England and Scotland- and then had a moment of my suspension of disbelief tripping violently over a mention of tree-frogs peeping in the background. Oops. Still, that was the only one I spotted, and maybe in their world the colonists of America did a thriving business in exporting exotic frogs?

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