“I didn’t know how long I had been in the king’s prison.”First line in The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Welcome to this post for Wyrd and Wonder where I’m looking at Fantasy books that kind of make you believe they take place in a historical version of our own world. They don’t actually, but the authors have taken a great deal of inspiration from historical settings to build their Fantasy world. This is quite common for Fantasy books, but I have found some that take it just a step further than your vague Medieval Europe setting.
Books Set in the Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo
The Grishaverse is made up of three series so far that all take place in the same world. The nations within this world are heavily inspired by real-world countries such as Russia and The Netherlands. Bardugo has taken several cultural aspects such as the languages and architecture of these countries and given them a tiny twist to fit into her fantasy world. However, it’s still very clear where she got the inspiration from, almost making it feel like these books take place in the real world.
Gentleman Bastard by Scott Lynch
The historical feel from these books comes from Lynch’s incredible attention to detail in his world-building. He spends a lot of time describing the cities our con artists find themselves in, and it gives the reader a sense of familiarity. Inspiration has been drawn from Italy in particular, but there’s also some French in there, and it generally feels like you’re following scheming nobles from 18th century Europe.
Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Even though I DNF’d this book, it was still obvious to me that this book is basically set in a historical version of France. Not really though, because it’s still a Fantasy world, but finding parts of the world-building that isn’t French-inspired would be difficult.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
A quartet of books set in an Ancient-Rome-like world that will make you feel like you’re about to step into the gladiator arena. You can feel the Roman inspiration in everything from weapons and clothes to power structures and politics, and Tahir even included Augurs which were real-life “characters”, although she did give them a Fantasy makeover. Later on in the series, she also adds some Middle Eastern influence into the mix.
The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski
The Witcher has one of the most Medieval-Europe-inspired settings out there but has added some fantastical creatures and magic to make it Fantasy. It still leaves a lot of the culture including how the common folk lived their lives and what they valued.
The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
We’re staying in Europe but moving south to the countries near the Mediterranean, but particularly Ancient Greece. The nations in The Queen’s Thief are small and reminiscent of old Greek city-states such as Sparta and Athens, and the Greek inspiration is also obvious in the names of the characters such as Eugenides.
Those were some Fantasy books that feel historical even though they aren’t, but they still might be of interest to readers who like both Fantasy and Historical Fiction. As I can only really talk about books I’ve already read, please feel free to share some books you feel are missing from this list in the comments.