41 Historical Fantasy Books to Revive Your Imagination

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41 Historical Fantasy Books to Revive Your Imagination 45

Historical fantasy books combine the two genres of books I love the most: historical fiction and fantasy. Books are the only real way to delve into the past and the past is what makes us who we are.

What better way to add a little spark to our lives than to add a little fantasy? This list has everything from historical fantasy set in medieval times and Victorian England to time travel and WWII historical fantasy novels. These are historical fantasy books that we have read and loved and we hope you love them too.

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Table of Contents

Time Travel Historical Fantasy Books

Scribe of Siena

Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

A perfect summer read about a neurosurgeon who is transported back to Siena in the time of the plague.  The narrative makes me feel like I am in Italy.  

Depicted as Outlander meets Girl with a Pearl Earring, at its heart, it is a love story. I could not put this historical fantasy book down and finished it as a perfect start to the summer reading season.

The Jane Austen Project

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn

As part of a group of workers from the future, Liam and Rachel are sent back in time to diagnose Jane’s illness, and help her complete her next book.

I love the grittier side of this historical fantasy novel. It doesn’t romanticize the time period, very similar to the way Diana Gabaldon shows the harsh realities of life in the Highlands or onboard a ship at sea.

little shop of found things

Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Little Shop of Found Things was totally what I thought it would be and I was so pleasantly surprised.  Part historical fiction and part historical fantasy novel, this book is perfect for fans of Outlander. 

Xanthe and her Mother are starting a new life in their newly acquired antique shop.  Xanthe has always had the ability to touch objects and have them “sing” their story to her.  When she touches an old chatelaine, she feels more connected to this object than anything else she has ever touched. 

When she finds herself inextricably transported to 1605, she must find a way to get herself home and help someone from the past.  When she meets Samuel, an architect, she wonders if she will have the strength to leave.

Anticipation

Anticipation by Melodie Winawer

What a wonderful historical fiction that combines part of the amazing history of the Byzantine empire with science and some magic. This combination across genres also with the authors wonderful story telling was a hit with me.

The Story tells of Elias and his many lives over 800 years protecting the city he is connected with. IN 2015, Helen and her son have come to Green on a much needed vacation. The two stories come together beautifully.

Historical Fantasy Books Set in Scotland

a river enchanted

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross

Rebecca Ross’s historical fantasy books are sweeping magical stories. This particular one is about the island of Cadence and its warring inhabitants. It’s also a love story between Jack, a bard who can sing to the elements, and Adaira, the heiress of the East.

The story slowly builds but ends on a cliffhanger, which concludes in the second book of the duology. The story is perfect for fans of books like Outlander because it’s inspired by Scotland. This is one of our favorite books on the list of adult fantasy novels and books set in Scotland.

outlander

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #1)

How do we love Outlander? We cannot count the ways. There is a reason this is one of my favorite books of all time.

This epic story begins in 1945 when Claire Randall and her husband take a second honeymoon to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate being reunited after the war. When Claire touches one of the standing stones, she is transported to 1743.

This is when the real story begins. In order to stay safe as an English woman in Scotland, she must depend on Jamie Frasier for protection. This book is definitely at the top of our list of best romance novels of all time but you will love it equally if you love historical fiction, magical realism, romance, or witches. This is one of the iconic and epic time travel romance books that has it all and is perfect for a list of books like A Discovery of Witches. It was easy to include this on the best fantasy books for adults as well.

Do you love Outlander? Check out our post with 21 Books for Outlander Fans!

Historical Fantasy Books Set in Ancient Greece

The Odyssey 1

The Odyssey by Homer

There is a reason this boat book is one of my favorite books of all time. I just find this classic tale to be so entertaining. This is one of the OG adult fantasy novels

  It’s a classic for a reason. Odysseus’s struggle to get home to his family is truly epic. Those Greeks sure knew what they were doing.

I’m constantly pickup up something new and reading it along with A Thousand Ships and The Lost Sisterhood gave me so much to think about.

a thousand ships

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I absolutely loved this take on the traditional greek stories surrounding the Trojan War. They are all told by the women in the mythology which is certainly a perspective that doesn’t get much play.

Penelope’s chapters in particular had me laughing out loud. I can’t recommend this one more to greek mythology lovers.

Circe

Circe by Madeline Miller

The Odyssey is one of my all-time favorite books and I think I read Du’Laires Book of Greek Myths more than any other book when I was in middle school. Which means I ADORED Circe!

Circe, the nymph who is but a footnote in Du’Laires and gets overshadowed in The Odyssey was a fascinating goddess I can’t believe I knew so little about. I’m desperate to read Madeline Miller’s first book – The Song of Achilles now.

If you have never read the Odyssey, you can still enjoy this book!

If you love historical fiction check out our Ultimate List of Historical Fiction Books

Historical Fantasy Books set in Victorian England

the rose garden


The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

I read this book in only a few days because I loved it so much.  This is another book that I read this month that is perfect for fans of Outlander.

After Eva’s sister dies, she heads back to Cornwall England to find peace and rest.  What she discovers is more than she expects when she finds herself inexplicably back in time.  As her heart begins to feel again, can she find a way to heal her broken heart and find love?

paper magician

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

I kept hearing about this book and when I finally got it, I didn’t put it down until I was done.  It was such a different look at the idea of magic. I loved this historical fantasy novel.

Ceony has graduated from Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined and is disappointed when she is assigned to be bonded to the paper. Once magicians bond with one magic, it is the only magic they can ever practice. When Ceony encounters a dark magician, she must use every piece of magic she knows to save her mentor.

night circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Every word captivated me from beginning to end and I couldn’t put it down. The story was magical- both literally and figuratively and the descriptions are so vivid.

The stage has been set for a magical competition between the pupils of two very powerful magicians. The stage: the night circus. The pupils, a man and a woman, are unsure of the rules, unsure of how to win or when the competition will end. As the competition continues, the opponents fall in love- a situation that only complicates their predicament.

This is magic in a way that I never imagined it before. The story has twists and surprises that left me wondering how I didn’t see what was right there all along.

Not only can you find this book in our list of the Best Romance Novels of all Time, but you can also find it on our list of The Best Carnival and Circus Books, 24 Books Like the Hunger Games. And now, you can find books just like it in our post of Books Like the Night Circus. Can you tell we love this book?

Napoleonic Era Historical Fantasy Books

jonathan strange

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

This book. So many people recommended it to me because of my love for Harry Potter. The writing style was Victorian, which fit the book’s time period but felt hard to read at times. The story, however, is full, complex, and epic.

In nineteenth-century England, people believe that magic has disappeared until Mr. Norrell reveals his powers. He then takes Jonathan strange as a student. But when Strange is drawn to darker magic, the two men develop a rivalry that can change history in this historical fantasy novel.

Temeriare

His Magesty’s Service (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik

I cannot believe that I had not heard of this epic series by Naomi Novik. I love her most recent books and stumbled upon this series after hearing someone talk about it.

Captain Laurence is serving in the British Navy when his ship captures a French ship with a dragon egg. Knowing that the dragon must receive its master immediately, Capt. Laurence becomes that master. Suddenly, Laurence and the dragon, Temeraire, find themselves in the Aerial Corps trying to defeat Napoleon and his army. This epic historical fantasy series is a must read.

Medieval Historical Fantasy Books

The White Queen

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen is one of my favorite Philippa Gregory novels, revolving around Elizabeth Woodville and her relationship with the King of England. I love the magical elements of this book as Elizabeth and her mother were said to be witches.

It’s really a wonderful story. I learned so much about the tumultuous history of Britain. Also of note, Elizabeth was the mother of the boys in the tower which this book covers as well.

the lost queen

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

If you love Outlander, The Mists of Avalon, or The Clan of the Cave Bear, then you will love this story. Set in Britain when Christianity is poised to become the religion of the country, a future queen swore to the old-ways is learning how to balance the needs of her people and her religion with the role she’s expected to play.

Meanwhile, her twin brother is training to be the man history knows as Merlin. The first in a new trilogy about Arthurian legend, I’m looking forward to the next book coming out in September.

mists of avalon

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

An alternative telling of the tale of King Arthur, featuring the Lady of the Lake, Paganism vs. Christianity, and an epic struggle for power.

Merlin and the Lady of the Lake practice pagan witchcraft, as they try to keep the old ways alive against the new religion gaining popularity, the choices they make for Arthur’s kingdom inspire the tale we know so well.

The mini-series adaptation of this book is wonderful too and well worth the watch!

Historical Fantasy Books Set in the US

Revelle

Revelle by Lyssa Mia Smith

This prohibition-era historical fantasy novel was inspired by Moulin Rouge! It’s filled with romance, carnival performers, and a magical community on an island near New York.

Luxe (our Satine) can use her magic to create illusions to give people exactly what they want but what her family needs is money. When Dewey, a time-traveling smuggler, asks her to help him become mayor by pretending to be his fiance, she thinks her prayers are answered.

Until she meets Jamison, a poor commoner with no magic to speak of. They begin an illicit relationship that might spell doom for them all. This YA historical fantasy novel held me captive. It was so original!

The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller

Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller

This historical fantasy takes place in WWI era US. Woman have abilities that most men do not have.  They can fly and manipulate the elements.  Robert is one of the few men that can practice empirical philosophy. He has always wanted to join the US Sigilry Corps’ Rescue and Evacuation Department, an elite team of flying medics.

I loved reading it although it is really not what I expected.  It has the feel of an historical fiction but, with an obvious fantasy element as well. With a touch of romance and a thrill as well, this book is so unique.

the golem and the jinni

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Chava arrives in New York in 1899. She is a Golem whose master has died on the voyage. When. Rabbi recognizes her for the creature that she is, he takes her in.

Ahmed is a Jinni who is in Manhattan but is still not free. When Amed and Chava meet, they fall in love. This historical fantasy combines fables from two cultures in this magical read.

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

I adore Susanna Kearsley’s historical fiction stories. This book is told from multiple characters perspectives across two different time periods. There is a romance in each time period that do not fully develop until closer to the end.

Instead, the present-day focus in on Charley trying to learn about Lydia  Wilde. Lydia is a girl who grew up in the historic home-turned-museum, of which Charley is now the curator. Charley is determined to find out the truth behind Lydia’s star-crossed love – a French soldier being held captive by the Wilde family. This book combines a little bit of magic with romance and history.

Historical Fantasy Books with Slavery

The Underground railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I absolutely loved this book and it was one of the first reviews we ever did on the blog. I love the way this book examined the underground railroad with a touch of magical realism.

The story is about Cora and Caesar, two run-away slaves in the south who run away to the underground railroad which, in this book, is an actual railroad.

Each stop along the way is reminiscent of a different place in history and it is interlaced with actual ads placed for runaway slaves. This book is profound and beautiful and a must-read.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame Smith

I liked this vampire book where Abraham Lincoln’s history is changed and the deaths that surround him are at the hands of the vampires. 

In this book, US history is subtly changed to include vampires in politics and also having a major role in the Civil War.  The changes and mentions of different historical figures as vampires are just enough that it could be plausible (if vampires were actually a thing). This book is NOT a romantic vampire trilogy but rather, a dark revision of history.

the water dancer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

When I started this book, I was unsure how I felt about the writing. ⁣The prose is lyrical and poetic but I wasn’t sure where the story was going.

I felt it winding a lot rather than developing. ⁣ As the story progressed, I became invested in Hiram and wanted to see where the story went. The element of magic reminded me a little bit of the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Have you read this book? What did you think?

beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison

HOW HAVE I NEVER READ TONI MORRISON BEFORE? I swear I thought I had read this book, but after reading The Toni Morrison Book Club, I realized I hadn’t. When my library hold finally came up for this one, I realized it would fit the February prompt for the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, so I jumped right into it.

Morrison is easily one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever read. Beloved haunted me while I was reading it. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

WWII Historical Fantasy Books

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman and other WWII historical fantasy books

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

I love Alice Hoffman and for me, this was her best book yet.  During WWII, in Germany, Hanni Kohn knows that she must do something to save her daughter from the Nazis In desperation, she seeks out someone who can make a Golem take her daughter to safety. 

 Instead of the Rabbi, it is his daughter Ettie who helps and creates Ava.  The life of the three women is forever intertwined.  This beautiful historical fantasy story about love, life, and friendship is more than I could have hoped for.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a book that is narrated by Death. He tells the story of Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany in 1939. Liesel is living with her foster parents, and learning to read from stolen books.

She also shares these books with the Jewish man who is hiding in her basement. This book is brilliant, powerful, poignant, and unforgettable. While technically a YA book, this historical fantasy book is literary fiction at its finest.

briar rose

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

This book was such an unexpected beauty for me.  Books about the Holocaust are most often inherently extremely heavy.  I love the way this book takes the story of Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty) and turns it into a story about the Holocaust. 

It does not trivialize the atrocities of that time but rather, it makes the subject more approachable to a younger audience.  Beautifully written and well done.

Alternate Reality Historical Fantasy Books

Life after Life

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

This masterful work by Kate Atkinson is a family drama, historical fiction, and magical realism all rolled into one fantastic book.

Ursula Todd is born one night in 1910 and died before taking her first breath. She is born again on the same snowy night in 1910 as so the story continues. Ursula lives her life over and over hoping that she can get it right and change her story.

Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon and other alternate reality historical fiction books

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

A friend of mine insisted that I read this book when he discovered I had never read a Chabon book. I can honestly say that I would NEVER have picked this book on my own.

A failed Israel leading to the Jewish state being formed in the wilds of Alaska? A Yiddish police force solving murders before their state reverts back to US occupancy? No thanks… but instead… I enjoyed it! ⁣It’s grittier than my normal picks, but I love the subtle details, the little bits of world-building about the area, and the faux history.

112263

11/22/63 by Steven King

This historical fantasy book was brilliantly researched and had an amazing premise in which Jake Epping steps into a time hole to stop the assassination of Kennedy. Every time he leaves history, time resets itself. This means that if something does not go right, he can reset the clock and try again.

The historic details in this book were immaculate but, as much as everyone loved this book, I thought that it was much too long. You have to be prepared for almost 900 pages.

World Building Historical Fantasy Books

game of thrones

A Game of Thrones: Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

This is a book that I learned about after I watched the series on HBO. In my case, watching the show first helped me remember (and put a face to) the plethora of characters within this series.

Truth be told, I still needed reminders now and then. Winter is coming. The House of Stark is preparing for winter after a centuries-long summer. They must prepare to defend themselves from the creatures behind the wall.

There is no way to briefly summarize this epic world-building historical fantasy with powerful women and an intricate, captivating story.

Darker Shade of Magic and other world building historical fantasy books

Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic Book 1) by V.E Schwab

In this historical fantasy, travel between parallel Londons is possible through powerful magicians known as Antari. Kell is one of the last Antari who lives in Red London and who serves as an ambassador. He is also a smuggler.

When Kell is robbed by Delilah, a pickpocket and petty thief, he is forced to bring her on an adventure she always dreamed of despite the life of deadly peril.

This is London like you have never imagined it before. The characters, while flat at first, begin to have more depth as the story continues.

the city of brass

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

I read this book a few years ago when we first started the blog. This book was one of the stories that got me back into reading historical fantasy books, one of my favorite genres to read.

This historical fantasy takes place in 18th-century Cairo. When Nahri accidentally summons Dara, a Djinn warrior, she is swept to Daevabad, the City of Brass.

Soon Nahri must learn who to trust in a city when magic cannot shield her from the danger that threatens from all around her.

YA Historical Fantasy Books

my lady Jane

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

I listened to the audible version of this book and I was hysterical. It is a twist on the historical tale of Lady Jane Grey the 9 days Queen.

Instead of Catholics and Protestants, this book gave us people who could transform into animals and those who could not. It was ridiculous but funny and the authors cleverly wove in historical details and sayings attributing them to the characters.

Gilded Wolves and other YA historical fantasy books

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

This YA historical fantasy that takes place in Paris in 1889 where coercion, magic, betrayal, and murder are the norm.   At the Exposition Universalle World Fair is an artifact that will give the owner magical Forging abilities.

Severin and his fiercely loyal friends come together to take the artifact in the hope of also obtaining Serverin’s inheritance. Severin finds himself torn between his loyalty to his friends and his desire for revenge.

Serpent and Dove and other historical fantasy books

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Louise Le Blanche is a witch, Reid Diggory is a witch hunter, but when they are forced to be married Lou has to keep her identity a secret and try not to fall for her handsome husband.

Set in the pre-industrial age in Paris, France, this historical fantasy book is perfect for lovers of YA! It’s got funny, fierce heroines, a steamy love story, and a cast that is actually diverse! I devoured all three books in this series.

All That Glitters

All That Glitters (Enchanteé #1) by Gita Trelease

Camille is an orphan who must use magic to transform pieces of metal into money in order to buy food for her sister. But when the magic starts to fail, Camille must use dark magic to transform herself into a baroness in the court of Louis the 16th.

Soon, the dark magic takes its toll and Camille must make a choice between reality and magic. When revolution erupts, Camille must determine how to survive.

The Lovely War and other historical fantasy books

Lovely War by Julie Berryir?source=bk&t=beyondth06 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=3d6ee39d2b5d0e26bc7f578d95ac9cb4& cb=1601478566491

This book’s premise had me a little skeptical, Greek Gods telling a love story set in WWI? I didn’t think it was up my alley. I must have had it recommended to me almost a dozen times now, and now I’m the one recommending it.

It was two, sort of three, love stories in one book, but it touched on racism, PTSD, and the sacrifices of war. It was so well handled that I was sad to see this historical fantasy novel end.

For more YA fantasy books, be sure to check out our post!

Historical Magical Realism Books

Once Upon a River and other magical realism historical fantasy books

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield has been a must-read author for me since I first read The Thirteenth Tale. Her latest was just as captivating, with a bit of magic and mystery mixed in.

When an almost drowned child is found in the river, three separate families lay claim to her. This historical fantasy story is filled with drama, love, and loss. The story is compelling, but the writing is spectacular.

One Hundred Years of Solitude and other Oprah Book Club List Books ranked.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

For the record, I read this book BEFORE Oprah picked it! We spent a semester learning about this book my Senior Year. Each person was assigned a symbol to report on throughout the book each week.

Mine was goldfish -part of the symbolism of amnesia and the duality between amnesia and nostalgia. Yep. I still remember the lesson about this historical fantasy book.

The Miniaturist and other historical fantasy books

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

This fiction novel has some historical fantasy elements in its story of love and betrayal. When Nella arrives at her new home with her new husband, he presents her with a cabinet-sized replica of their home.

He also introduces her to the miniaturist who gives her the freedom to decorate however she wants with extraordinary tiny creations that are so much like their real-world counterparts.

For more Magical Realism Books, check out our post.

More Historical Fantasy Books

What is your favorite Historical Fantasy Book?

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