Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reading on a Theme: YA Historical Fiction Inspired by Real Historical Figures

I have really been in the mood to read historical fiction and historical fantasy lately. I've been particularly taken by books whose main characters are actual historical figures. High, high marks to every one of these books. For this post I gathered a variety of characters and settings as well as straight historical fiction and fantasy. All are set prior to 1700. Anyone read any of these? Did you love these books as much as I did?

Vlad the Impaler:
In her newest book Kiersten White recasts Vlad the Impaler, famous for being the historical inspiration for Dracula, as a smart and terrifyingly vicious girl, Lada Dragwlya. The book is narrated by both Lada and her brother Radu. Ransomed to the Ottomans in 1442, the two meet and become friends with Mehmed, the future Sultan, and the novel's other towering figure. With great character development, lots of political intrigue, a high-stakes love triangle, and fabulous historical atmosphere, this book explores issues of gender equality, sexuality, religion, familial relationships, and politics in a sophisticated and unflinching way. A true tour de force. And I Darken is out June 28, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

Lady Jane Gray: 
My Lady Jane is the story of Jane Gray who ruled England for nine days after the death of Edward VI. But this book doesn't tell the same story that you've learned about in history class. I knew the book was revisionist, but I didn't know what exactly the authors (there are three:
Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows) had changed until after I started the book. This made for a fun and highly amusing surprise. It's obvious the authors had a fantastic time writing this book together, and that translated to a really fun time for the reader. There were many laugh-out-loud moments in the reading of this book. I loved every moment of this book and was so sad to see it end! My Lady Jane was out June 7, 2016.

Captain Blackbeard:
It's the year 1697 and Anne is a servant in Master Drummond's household. It is her sole desire to escape his service until his son, Edward, comes home from sea. Edward wants only to return to sea, but his father is dead-set against it. Things get even more complicated when Edward and Anne fall in love. Debut author Nicole Castroman takes the reader back in time in this historical fiction about Blackbeard before he became a pirate. I really enjoyed the setting and the feel of the Blackhearts. Anne is a great character with lots of drive and spunk. The ending felt a little abrupt, but I am happy to say a sequel was recently announced! Blackhearts was out February 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Ginevra de' Benci:
Ginevra de' Benci is the subject of one of Leonardo's first portraits and the only painting by Leonardo in North America. I can attest that she is absolutely lovely in person. In her novel, L.M. Elliott imagines what Ginevra's character might have been like, the circumstances around the commission of the portrait, and her relationship with the young Leonardo. This novel makes Renaissance Florence come alive. All the art mentioned in the book is real (keep the internet handy so you can look them up), as are the festivals, the clothing, the courtly traditions, and most of the characters. The basic facts of Ginvera's life are true and Ms. Elliott then fills in the gaps and gives her personality. I'd recommend this book for any art or history lover. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Alexander the Great:
In Legacy of Kings, Eleanor Herman brings her prowess as a historian and storyteller to the world of ancient Macedonia where a young Alexander the Great is poised to take the throne. I have always loved ancient history and mythology and I love a well done alternate history. In many ways, this book was meant for me. Told through a number of perspectives, the book follows several characters on their roads to self-discovery. Filled with magic, political drama, curses, and journeys but rooted in real places and events, Legacy of Kings is a great pick for both fantasy lovers and history lovers. I enjoyed seeing how Ms. Herman incorporated the mythology and personalities of the ancient world.

And I Darken, My Lady Jane, Da Vinci's Tiger, and Legacy of Kings reviewed by JoLee.
Blackhearts reviewed by Paige.

P.S. More historical fantasy here.

P.P. S. More books about real historical figures here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post! I ABSOLUTELY loved And I Darken. Im glad I wasnt the only one that praise it for the rich and strongly written book. It is definitely a stand out to me for 2016 with its take on Vlad as a girl and how historical events were woven into the stort. I cant wait for the sequel! I will also give the other titles a go ☺


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