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  • October10th

    Extraordinaires coverI’m happy enough with my Extraordinaires series SS front cover smallbeing called Steampunk, but I’m more and more coming to think of it as Historical Fantasy.

    And by Historical Fantasy, I don’t mean Alternate History (stories in a world like our own that has taken a different historical path) or standard Fantasy that’s set in a world somewhat like our own except for added magic – (see my Laws of Magic for this).

    I’ll take a stab a definition of Historical Fantasy, even though I understand that definitions are tricky: Historical Fantasy is a story set in an actual, definable historical time and location, but with elements of the fantastic included such as magic, gods or imaginary creatures.

    Yes, it’s arguable and on the margins there are exceptions and ‘should be includeds’, but that’s the fate of every definition.

    Historical Fantasy can be a real joy if you love Fantasy, but have grown tired of the standard Fantasy setting – a quasi-mediaeval, Northern European milieu. Historical Fantasy uses the best aspects of Fantasy in fresh, new places.

    Here’s my list of Five Great Historical Fantasy Novels

    Bridge of Birds – Barry Hughart

    Oh, do read this book. Barry Hughart called it ‘A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was’ and it’s an utter delight as Master Li (‘I have a slight flaw in my character’) and Number Ten Ox, his assistant, have a series of remarkable adventures in a magical landscape full of extraordinary characters. It’s rollicking, hilarious, suspenseful, eye-opening and the ending is both profound and moving.

    The Stress of Her Regard – Tim PowersThe-Stress-of-Her-Regard1-194x300

    Tim Powers is one of the masters of Historical Fantasy. In The Stress of Her Regard he takes us early 19th century Europe and the world of the Romantic Poets. Shelley, Keats and Byron are substantial characters, and the remarkable night at the Villa Diodati  where Mary Shelley created Frankenstein in the presence of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Dr John Polidori. This is the central part of a vast and brooding story that weaves in and out of the gaps in history. Sensational!

    TemeraireTemeraire – Naomi Novik

    Now we’re in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, but with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

    Soldier of the Mist – Gene Wolfesoldier of the mist

    One of our great speculative fiction writers, Gene Wolfe wrote one of the great Historical Fantasy books in Soldier of the Mist which is set in the Greek-Persian wars in the fifth century BCE. The main character suffers a head injury and so has amnesia – but he can also see gods, spirits and supernatural creatures. It’s a majestic book.

    The Terror – Dan Simmons

    Some might put this in the horror basket, but I’m going to appropriate it for Historical Fantasy, mostly because of the amount of research that’s gone into this cracker of a novel. It traces the ill-fated Franklin Expedition of 1845, in which two steamships went searching for the fabled North-west Passage through the icy seas to the north of Canada. It’s no spoiler to tell you that everyone dies, for that’s the historical record. Simmons, however, uses chilling(!) Inuit mythology to explore a possible reason. It’s breathtaking.

  • May17th

    Reader feedback time: a recent fan letter dictionaryloved the Laws of Magic partly because it ‘has me looking up words very page? (which is what I absolutely love about your books)’.

    Finding the right language level is a crucial aspect of writing for young people, but I maintain that this doesn’t have to mean dumbing down. In fact, as my young reader pointed out, encountering an extended vocabulary can be part of the joy of reading.

    Writing in a quasi-Edwardian mode, as in the Laws of Magic and The Extraordinaires series has given me licence to indulge one of my great loves – words. The old fashioned settings allow me to use words that simply wouldn’t be appropriate if I were writing in the here and now – and it encourages me to use the subjunctive, as I just did in this sentence. Read More | Comments

  • March14th

    Looking to make sure you get your copy of Extraordinaires 2 quick smart? Go here to order!

    SS front cover

  • February19th

    And here it is, the book trailer for ‘The Subterranean Stratagem’, the second book of ‘The Extraordinaires’ series.

    More magic, more mayhem, more mystery and much, much more Kingsley and Evadne!