Historical fiction transports readers to different times and places, allowing them to experience a wide range of cultures, people, and events throughout history. From the classics to epic sagas and even those with a touch of fantasy, historical fiction book series can provide a truly captivating escape. In this article, we will explore some of the best historical fiction book series of all time.
Understanding the Appeal of Historical Fiction
Historical fiction is a genre that has captured the hearts and minds of readers for generations. It transports us to different times and places, allowing us to experience the past in a way that is both informative and entertaining. There are many reasons why historical fiction is so appealing, and in this article, we will explore some of the key elements that make it such a captivating genre.
The Merging of Fact and Fiction
One of the most appealing aspects of historical fiction is the way it blends real-life events and figures with fictional characters and stories. By doing so, authors are able to create a rich and immersive world that feels both familiar and new. The historical settings and events serve as a backdrop for the adventures and lives of memorable characters, allowing readers to become fully immersed in a different time and place. This blending of fact and fiction can also offer fresh perspectives on well-known events and people, making the subject matter even more engaging.
For example, in Hilary Mantel’s award-winning novel “Wolf Hall,” the author uses her extensive knowledge of Tudor England to bring to life the court of King Henry VIII. Through the eyes of fictional protagonist Thomas Cromwell, readers are able to witness the political intrigue, religious upheaval, and personal dramas of one of the most fascinating periods in English history.
Time Travel Through Literature
Another reason why historical fiction is so appealing is that it facilitates a kind of time travel through literature (if you want to travel through time more literally, check out our favorite time travel books you should read this year). By reading about the past, we are able to experience the sights, sounds, and emotions of bygone eras. Whether it’s following the footsteps of an ancient Roman, witnessing political intrigue in a royal court, or fighting on the battlefields of a distant war, historical fiction invites readers to imagine what life was like in times long past — a unique experience that few other genres can offer.
Take, for example, Ken Follett’s epic novel “The Pillars of the Earth,” which takes place in 12th-century England during the building of a cathedral. Through the eyes of fictional characters such as Prior Philip and Tom Builder, readers are able to experience the challenges and triumphs of medieval life, from the brutal realities of war and disease to the joys of love and community.
Exploring Different Cultures and Eras
Finally, historical fiction offers a window into different cultures, societies, and historical periods. By exploring diverse perspectives and cultural norms, readers can gain a better understanding of the world and the forces that have shaped it. Additionally, delving into the lives of people from diverse backgrounds can foster empathy, tolerance, and a deeper appreciation of the rich tapestry of human history.
For example, in “The Samurai’s Garden” by Gail Tsukiyama, readers are transported to Japan in the 1930s, where they follow the story of a young Chinese man who is sent to recover from tuberculosis in a small coastal village. Through his interactions with the local Japanese community, readers are able to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese culture, as well as the complex relationships between Japan and China during this period of history.
Historical fiction is a genre that has something to offer everyone. Whether you are interested in learning about history in an entertaining way, gaining new insights into the human experience, or simply experiencing the thrill of time travel through literature, there is a historical fiction novel out there that will capture your imagination. So why not pick one up today and embark on a journey through the past?
The Classics: Timeless Historical Fiction Series
Historical fiction has always been a popular genre among readers of all ages. It is a fascinating way to explore the past and experience it through the eyes of fictional characters. There are countless historical fiction books and series that have stood the test of time, enchanting readers for generations. Here are some of the classics that should not be missed:
The Aubrey-Maturin Series by Patrick O’Brian
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the Aubrey-Maturin series brings to life the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, naval surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin. Spanning 21 novels (with an unfinished manuscript as well), these books offer readers a gripping combination of thrilling naval battles, espionage, and intricate character development. Patrick O’Brian’s masterful storytelling and attention to historical detail make this series a must-read for fans of historical fiction.
The Aubrey-Maturin series is set in the early 19th century, a time of great change in Europe. The series is known for its attention to detail and accuracy, with O’Brian’s research and knowledge of the period shining through in every page. The books offer a fascinating insight into the life of sailors during this time, from the daily routines on board a ship to the dangers they faced at sea.
Aside from the historical accuracy, the series is also known for its vivid characters. Captain Jack Aubrey is a charismatic and brave leader, while Dr. Stephen Maturin is a complex and enigmatic figure, with his own secrets and motivations. The friendship between the two men is a central theme of the series, and their interactions are always a joy to read.
The Poldark Saga by Winston Graham
Winston Graham’s Poldark Saga comprises 12 novels, beginning with Ross Poldark’s return to England after serving in the American Revolutionary War. Set primarily in Cornwall, this engrossing series focuses on the life, loves, and adventures of Ross Poldark and those around him. From romance and political intrigue to mining and agriculture, the Poldark books offer a comprehensive look at 18th-century life in rural England, making it an enduring favorite among historical fiction enthusiasts.
The Poldark Saga is set in a time of great social and economic change in England. The series explores the lives of the wealthy landowners and the working-class people who lived in Cornwall during this period. The books offer a fascinating insight into the mining industry, which was a major source of wealth in the region at the time.
The characters in the series are well-developed and multi-dimensional. Ross Poldark is a flawed but sympathetic hero, while his wife Demelza is a strong and independent woman who defies the conventions of her time. The series also features a host of memorable supporting characters, from the scheming George Warleggan to the loyal servant Jud Paynter.
The Asian Saga by James Clavell
The Asian Saga is a collection of six novels exploring the East’s influence on the Western world and the clash of cultures throughout history. Notable titles include Shogun, which chronicles Englishman John Blackthorne’s adventures in feudal Japan, to Tai-Pan, which delves into the founding of Hong Kong by British merchants. James Clavell’s absorbing tales of adventure, romance, and cultural conflicts make the Asian Saga a beloved classic in historical fiction.
The Asian Saga is set in various locations across Asia, including Japan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. The series explores the complex relationships between the Westerners who came to Asia to trade and the local people they encountered. The books offer a fascinating insight into the cultural clashes that occurred during this period, as well as the political and economic forces that shaped the region.
The characters in the series are diverse and well-drawn, with many of them struggling to find their place in a world that is rapidly changing. John Blackthorne, the protagonist of Shogun, is a fascinating character, torn between his loyalty to his own culture and his growing understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture. The series also features strong female characters, such as Mariko in Shogun and Tess in Noble House, who defy the conventions of their time and fight for their own independence.
These three historical fiction series are timeless classics that have captivated readers for generations. Whether you are a fan of naval battles, rural England, or the complex relationships between different cultures, there is something for everyone in these books. So why not pick one up and transport yourself to another time and place?
Epic Sagas That Span Generations
Some historical fiction series stand out for their epic scope and multi-generational narratives. Here are three of those must-read series:
The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett
Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy is a monumental achievement in historical fiction. Spanning the entire 20th century, it follows five interconnected families — American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh — through the most significant events of the modern era. Beginning with Fall of Giants, which charts the rise of the First World War, and culminating with Edge of Eternity, set in the turbulent era of the 1960s, this series offers a sprawling and immersive look at history as it unfolds through compelling human stories.
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Time travel, romance, and adventure abound in the Outlander series, which follows English nurse Claire Randall as she is mysteriously transported from 1946 to 18th-century Scotland. Across the eight (and soon to be nine) novels, Claire’s life becomes inextricably intertwined with that of Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser, as the series takes readers on a journey through the Jacobite uprisings, the American Revolution, and beyond. Gabaldon’s skillful blending of history, romance, and adventure has made the Outlander series a modern classic.
The Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
This staggering 35-novel series follows the Morland family from the War of the Roses in 1434 to the outbreak of World War II. The Morland Dynasty delves into English history from both the perspective of the nobility and the common folk, giving readers a comprehensive look at the country’s cultural, social, and political evolution. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’ dedication to historical accuracy and her ability to seamlessly interweave fictional characters with real historical events make this series a remarkable accomplishment in the world of historical fiction.
Historical Fiction with a Touch of Fantasy
Some historical fiction series blend elements of fantasy and the supernatural with historical events, providing a unique and imaginative twist on the genre. Here are three such series:
The Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik
Imagine the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons. In the nine novels of the Temeraire series, this fantastical reimagining comes to life as the British war effort is assisted by a massive following of dragons and their crew. The series follows Captain William Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, as they confront enemies both in the skies and on the ground. Novik’s seamless blending of historical and fantastical elements, along with rich character development, make this series an enthralling and unique read.
The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal
Set in an alternate version of Regency England, the Glamourist Histories follow the life of Jane Ellsworth, a talented young woman adept at ‘glamour,’ a magical ability to manipulate light and create stunning illusions. Across five novels, Jane and her fellow glamourists face romance, intrigue, and adventure in a world where magic meets high society. Kowal’s beautifully crafted alternate history and engaging characters make this a captivating series for fans of historical fiction with a magical twist.
The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson
The Baroque Cycle is an eight-book series (published in three volumes) spanning the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This intricately plotted series follows a diverse cast of characters, ranging from Isaac Newton to pirates, as they navigate the scientific, political, and financial upheavals of the time. Blending elements of historical fiction, science fiction, and adventure, Stephenson’s ambitious and sprawling series offers a fascinating and immersive exploration of a transformative period in world history.
In conclusion, the world of historical fiction is vast and filled with captivating stories that transport readers to different times and places. From the timeless classics to epic sagas spanning generations and those with a touch of fantasy, there is something to suit every reader’s taste. Explore these remarkable book series and journey through the captivating and diverse realm of historical fiction.
What is the most gripping historical fiction series?
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series, and Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series are all fantastic options for any historical fiction fan looking for a new series.
Why should you read historical fiction?
Not only does historical fiction allow you to learn more about specific historical periods and figures, but it also provides readers with a new perspective on periods that are sometimes considered boring or uninteresting.
Who are the best historical fiction writers?
Ken Follett, Hilary Mantel, Bernard Cornwell, Sarah Waters, Colson Whitehead, and Diana Gabaldon all come out top on the historical fiction writers list.