The 10 Best Authentic Medieval Historical Fiction Books

Medieval historical fiction is a genre that transports readers to a time of knights, kings, and epic battles. It blends the rich tapestry of history with the limitless possibilities of the imagination. In this article, we will explore the factors that make medieval historical fiction so captivating and discuss the importance of authenticity in this genre. We will also present the top ten medieval historical fiction books that you should add to your reading list, whether you are a beginner or an avid fan.

The 10 Best Authentic Medieval Historical Fiction Books

Why Medieval Historical Fiction Captivates Readers

Medieval historical fiction has a unique ability to draw readers into a world that is both familiar and fantastical. There are two key factors that contribute to its appeal: the allure of the medieval era and the blend of history and imagination.

The allure of the medieval era

The medieval period, spanning from the 5th to the 15th century, is a time of great historical significance and intrigue. It was a time of kings and queens, knights and ladies, castles and battles. It was a time when chivalry was the code of conduct and honor was everything. The era is defined by its monumental events, such as the Crusades and the rise and fall of powerful kingdoms, as well as its captivating culture and way of life.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the medieval era is the contrast between the opulence of the nobility and the harshness of life for the common people. It was a time when the divide between the rich and poor was immense, and where the slightest mistake could mean the difference between life and death. This dichotomy creates a rich tapestry for authors to explore and for readers to become lost in.

The mystique of this time period, combined with a romanticized notion of chivalry, courtly love, and valiant knights, has captured the imaginations of countless generations. The tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, and Joan of Arc have become legendary and continue to inspire new stories and adaptations.

The blend of history and imagination

One of the defining features of medieval historical fiction is its ability to seamlessly weave historical fact with creative storytelling. Authors meticulously research the time period to provide readers with an authentic backdrop while also injecting their own imaginative plotlines and characters.

For example, in Bernard Cornwell’s “The Last Kingdom” series, the protagonist is a fictional character who interacts with real historical figures such as King Alfred the Great and the Danish warlord Guthrum. This blend of accurate history and engaging fiction allows readers to become immersed in the past while being entertained by exciting narratives and unforgettable characters.

Medieval historical fiction also allows authors to explore themes that are still relevant today, such as power struggles, loyalty, love, and betrayal. By setting these themes in the past, authors can provide a fresh perspective on age-old issues and offer insights into human nature that transcend time and place.

In conclusion, the allure of the medieval era and the blend of history and imagination make medieval historical fiction a captivating genre that continues to enthrall readers of all ages.

The Importance of Authenticity in Medieval Historical Fiction

Authenticity is essential in any historical fiction, and medieval historical fiction is no exception. To create a truly immersive experience, authors must pay close attention to accurate historical details and the role of language and dialogue in their stories.

Accurate historical details

It is crucial for authors to conduct thorough research on the geographic and historical context of their stories in order to create a believable setting. Without accurate historical details, the story can feel shallow and unconvincing. This includes details such as clothing, architecture, customs, and social structures. By getting these details right, authors can transport readers to a different time and place, allowing them to fully immerse themselves in the story.

For example, in a medieval historical fiction story set in England, the author would need to research the types of clothing worn by people of different social classes, the architecture of the buildings, the customs and traditions of the time, and the social hierarchy. By incorporating these details into the story, the author can create a rich and immersive world that will captivate readers.

Additionally, incorporating real historical figures and events into the narrative not only lends credibility to the story but also provides readers with a more comprehensive understanding of the time period. By accurately depicting historical events and figures, authors can give readers a sense of what life was like during that time.

The role of language and dialogue

The language used in medieval historical fiction should reflect the unique vernacular of the era while still being accessible to modern readers. Authors must strike a balance between using archaic language to maintain authenticity and crafting dialogue that is easy to understand and enjoyable to read. This delicate balance helps transport the reader to the past while maintaining their engagement.

One way to strike this balance is to use modern language for the narration and descriptive passages while incorporating more archaic language in the dialogue. This allows readers to easily understand the story while still feeling immersed in the time period.

Another important aspect of language in medieval historical fiction is the use of regional dialects. Different regions of medieval Europe had their own unique dialects, and incorporating these into the story can add an extra layer of authenticity. However, authors must be careful not to overdo it, as too much dialect can be difficult for readers to understand.

In conclusion, authenticity is key to creating a successful medieval historical fiction story. By paying close attention to accurate historical details and language, authors can create a world that is both believable and engaging. Whether it’s through incorporating real historical figures and events or using regional dialects, every detail counts when it comes to creating a truly immersive experience for readers.

Top 5 Medieval Historical Fiction Books for Beginners

If you’re new to this enthralling genre, consider starting your journey with these five accessible yet captivating books. Medieval historical fiction can transport you to a different time and place, full of chivalry, romance, political intrigue, and epic battles. These books are perfect for anyone looking to immerse themselves in this fascinating world.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge Book 1)

Set in 12th-century England, this epic novel tells the story of the construction of a magnificent cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The novel is based on the real-life experiences of the people who built the great cathedrals of Europe, and it immerses readers in the daily life, politics, and religious beliefs of the time. Interwoven with a richly detailed historical backdrop, the novel follows the lives and tribulations of the characters whose fates are connected to the cathedral’s creation. From Tom, the master builder, to Prior Philip, the spiritual leader of the community, to Aliena, the strong-willed noblewoman who fights for her family’s survival, the characters are complex, relatable, and unforgettable.

As you read The Pillars of the Earth, you’ll be transported back in time to a world of knights and ladies, peasants and monks, where the struggle for power and survival is constant. You’ll witness the challenges and triumphs of the human spirit, as people come together to achieve something greater than themselves.

A World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler

The World Made by Hand Novels

This novel is set in a post-collapse future, where traditional medieval life has taken over as the dominant way of life. Readers follow the protagonist, Robert Earle, as he navigates the life and politics of the Independent Republic of Cornudenia. Kunstler’s vision of a future world without modern technology is both fascinating and terrifying, as it raises questions about what it means to be human and what we value most in life. As you read A World Made by Hand, you’ll be drawn into a world of scarcity, where resources are scarce and survival is a daily struggle.

At the same time, you’ll be inspired by the resilience and ingenuity of the human spirit, as people find new ways to live and thrive in a world without the conveniences of modern life. Kunstler’s writing is both poetic and realistic, as he paints a vivid picture of a world that could be our future.

The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael

This 20-book series, set in 12th-century Shrewsbury, revolves around the adventures of the herbalist and detective monk, Brother Cadfael. Each book presents a new mystery to be solved, wrapped up in historically accurate details and complex human relationships. Peters’ writing is both engaging and informative, as she brings the world of medieval England to life with her descriptions of people, places, and events.

As you read The Cadfael Chronicles, you’ll be transported back in time to a world of monks and nobles, where the line between good and evil is often blurred. You’ll witness the struggles of people to find justice and truth in a world where power and wealth often rule the day. And you’ll be inspired by the intelligence and compassion of Brother Cadfael, who uses his knowledge of herbs and his understanding of human nature to solve even the most difficult cases.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The Name of the Rose

In this masterfully written novel, an intellectually curious monk named William of Baskerville and his apprentice, Adso, must solve a series of mysterious murders within an isolated Italian monastery in the early 1300s. Eco’s writing is both erudite and entertaining, as he weaves together philosophy, theology, and history to create a complex and fascinating world.

As you read The Name of the Rose, you’ll be drawn into a world of secrets and conspiracies, where the search for knowledge can be deadly. You’ll witness the clash of ideas and beliefs, as people struggle to understand the mysteries of the universe and their place in it. And you’ll be inspired by the courage and intelligence of William and Adso, as they use their wits and knowledge to uncover the truth.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Red Queen: A Novel (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels Book 2)

The first in the Cousins’ War series, this powerful novel tells the story of Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. Gregory weaves political intrigue, dynastic warfare, and heartfelt human emotion in this gripping portrayal of one woman’s determination to see her son on the English throne. As you read The Red Queen, you’ll be transported back in time to a world of kings and queens, where the struggle for power is often a matter of life and death.

You’ll witness the challenges and triumphs of Margaret Beaufort, as she navigates the treacherous waters of the English court and fights for her son’s future. And you’ll be inspired by her strength and resilience, as she faces adversity with courage and determination.

These five books are just the beginning of your journey into the world of medieval historical fiction. As you read more books in this genre, you’ll discover new worlds and characters, and you’ll be transported to different times and places. Whether you’re looking for adventure, romance, mystery, or political intrigue, you’ll find it all in the pages of these captivating books.

Top 5 Medieval Historical Fiction Books for Avid Readers

For those well-versed in the genre, here are five challenging and equally rewarding medieval historical fiction novels to sink your teeth into.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Gargoyle

A contemporary tale interwoven with the medieval, the novel follows the story of a severely burned man who, while recovering in a hospital, is visited by a mysterious woman who claims they were lovers in medieval Germany.

You can find this book here.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall: A Novel

The first in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall delves into the life and mind of the eponymous royal advisor during the tumultuous period of the English Reformation and King Henry VIII’s desperate quest for a male heir.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book: A Novel of the Oxford Time Travel Series

Though predominantly science fiction, The Doomsday Book nonetheless transports readers to a meticulously researched 14th-century medieval England. A time-traveling historian, Kivrin, must navigate the challenges of the age, including the scourge of the Black Death, to find her way back to her own time.

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

The Wake: A Novel

Written entirely in its own version of Old English, The Wake tells the story of an Englishman named Buccmaster as he fights against the Norman invaders after the Battle of Hastings. The novel’s linguistic challenge immerses readers in a truly authentic medieval experience.

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Company of Liars: A Novel

Set in 1348, Company of Liars follows a group of nine strangers as they travel together through plague-stricken England. As they journey onward, dark secrets and personal demons emerge, creating a tale that blends history, fantasy, and psychological intrigue.

Embark on a literary adventure through the medieval era with these thoughtfully selected books, each providing thrilling tales full of historical wonder and fictional intrigue. Happy reading!


When was the medieval period?

The medieval era, commonly referred to as The Middle Ages and the Dark Ages, is used to describe the period between the fifth and the fifteenth centuries.

Who writes the best historical fiction?

Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory are considered to be among the greatest writers of historical fiction and have each written several novels that explore different periods of history, including the Dark Ages.

Does medieval fiction always feature fantasy?

No – the medieval era is a common setting for many fantasy narratives because of the prevalence of knights, court politics, and chivalry. However, there are many pieces of medieval fiction that do not feature fantasy.

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