All these books take place at a specific time and place in Earth’s past. Other than that one nod to reality, all bets are off.
In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.
But when the Eastwood sisters—James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna—join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote—and perhaps not even to live—the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.
There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.
“A love letter to folklore and the rebellious women of history.”
The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of triumph. As part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage, they are as scientifically supported an enterprise as has ever set forth.
As they enter a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, though, they are stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, with diminishing rations, 126 men fight to survive with poisonous food, a dwindling supply of coal, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is far more terrifying.
There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror constantly clawing to get in. As yet another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the terror gets closer, the captain and his men begin to fear that there is no escape.
“The best and most unusual historical novel I have read in years.”
―The Boston Globe
Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. Human sacrifice and the magic of the living blood are the only things keeping the sun in the sky and the earth fertile.
A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. It should be a usual investigation for Acatl, High Priest of the Dead—except that his estranged brother is involved, and the the more he digs, the deeper he is drawn into the political and magical intrigues of noblemen, soldiers, and priests-and of the gods themselves…
“Part murder mystery, part well-researched historical novel and part fantasy.”
Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is one of the few men who practice empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, heal the injured, and even fly.
He’s always dreamed of being the first man to join the US Sigilry Corps’ Rescue and Evacuation Department, an elite team of flying medics, but everyone knows that’s impossible: men can barely get off the ground. When a shocking tragedy puts Robert’s philosophical abilities to the test, he rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study philosophy at Radcliffe College—an all-women’s school.
At Radcliffe, Robert hones his flying skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable and unruly women. Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young hero of the Great War turned political radical. But Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought against decades before.
With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.
“[A] wealth of worldbuilding in this deft, nonconformist historical fantasy set during World War I…Miller offers a nuanced adventure story that mixes romance, gunplay, and social awareness into its steampunk-ish revelry. A fun, fast-paced coming-of-age story laced with magic.”
That’s right. The Game of Thrones guy wrote a darn good vampire book, too.
Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer approaches him. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet; nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment any time soon. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare—and humankind’s most impossible dream.
“An adventure into the heart of darkness that transcends even the most inventive vampire novels . . . Fevre Dream runs red with original, high adventure.”
—Los Angeles Herald Examiner
A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s…Dodger.
Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.
From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.
“Masterful. Unexpected, drily funny and full of the pathos and wonder of life: Don’t miss it.”
Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.
But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.
“A tour de force of reclaiming the narrative, executed with impressive wit and insight.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.
Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
“With the grace of Sense and Sensibility, a touch of classic fairy tale magic, and an action-packed ending, this debut novel by an award-winning fantasy short story writer will appeal to fans of Jane Austen, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Susannah Clarke, and even Jasper Fforde.”
Once upon a time, a young boy called “Wart” was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldn’t possibly imagine. A future in which he would ally himself with the greatest knights, love a legendary queen, and unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values. A future that would see him crowned and known for all time as Arthur, King of the Britons.
During Arthur’s reign, the kingdom of Camelot was founded to cast enlightenment on the Dark Ages, while the knights of the Round Table embarked on many a noble quest. But Merlyn foresaw the treachery that awaited his liege: the forbidden love between Queen Guenever and Lancelot, the wicked plots of Arthur’s half-sister Morgause, and the hatred she fostered in Mordred that would bring an end to the king’s dreams for Britain—and to the king himself.
“Touching, profound, funny and tragic.”
—Los Angeles Times
One spring afternoon, the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow.
Written during the darkest period of Stalin’s repressive reign and a devastating satire of Soviet life, it combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem, each brimming with historical, imaginary, frightful and wonderful characters. Although completed in 1940, The Master & Margarita was not published until 1966 when the first section appeared in the monthly magazine Moskva. Russians everywhere responded enthusiastically to the novel’s artistic and spiritual freedom and it was an immediate and enduring success.
“By turns hilarious, mysterious, contemplative, and poignant . . . A great work.”
In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.
The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills.
When Takeo’s village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor—and to his own unimaginable destiny…
“Satisfyingly rich in incident yet admirably spare in the telling…Hearn has created a world I anticipate returning to with pleasure.”
—The New York Times Book Review
When the children of his village were struck with a mysterious illness, Number Ten Ox sought a wiseman to save them. He found master Li Kao, a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Together they set out to find the Great Root of Power, the only possible cure.
The quest led them to a host of truly memorable characters, multiple wonders, incredible adventures—and strange coincidences, which were really not coincidences at all. And it involved them in an ancient crime that still perturbed the serenity of Heaven. Simply and charmingly told, this is a wry tale, a sly tale, and a story of wisdom delightfully askew. Once read, its marvels and beauty will not easily fade from the mind.
“Li Kao may have a slight flaw in his character but the book has none. I recommend it unconditionally and I predict Barry Hughart has quite a future as a fantasy writer.”
—Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series
Over and again, the aged seeress Tamis scried all the possible tomorrows. In every one, dark forces threatened Greece; terrible evil was poised to reenter the world. The future held only one hope: a half-caste Spartan boy, Parmenion. So Tamis made it her mission to see that Parmenion would become the deadliest warrior in the world—no matter what the cost.
Raised to manhood in Sparta, bullied and forced to fight for his life every day, Parmenion had no notion of the unseen dimensions of magic and mystery that shaped his fate. He grew in strength and cunning. His military genius earned him the title Strategos in Sparta. His triumphs for the city of Thebes made him a hero. And finally his fate led him to the service of Philip of Macedon.
As Tamis had foreseen, Parmenion’s destiny was tied to the Dark God, to Philip, and to the yet-unborn Alexander. All too soon the future was upon them. Parmenion stood poised to defeat evil—or to open the gate for the Dark God to reenter the world.
The Sevenwaters series takes place in Ireland and Britain in the ninth century.
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives and they are determined that she know only contentment. But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift—by staying silent.
If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever. When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs that she will never able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all….
The ruling Asharites have come from the desert sands, worshipping the stars, their warrior blood fierce and pure. But over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, that stern piety has eroded. The Asharies empire has splintered into decadent city-states lead by warring petty kinds.
King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, adding city after city to his realm, even though Cartada is threatened by forces both within and without. Almalik is aided by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan—poet, diplomat, soldier—until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.
Meanwhile, in the north, Rodrigo Belmonte, the Jaddite’s most celebrated and feared military leader, is driven into exile in the wake of events following the death of the king he loved. Rodrigo leads his mercenary company south, to the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan.
In the exquisite lakeside city of Ragosa, Rodrigo Belmonte and Ammar ibn Kharian meet and serve, for a time, the same master. Sharing the interwoven fate of these two men from different worlds—and increasingly torn in her feelings—is Jehane, the beautiful, accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.
“A magnificent, deeply moving book.”
Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord… 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
“Marvelous and fantastic adventures, romance, sex . . . perfect escape reading.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
It was a time of legend, when the last shadows of the mighty Roman conqueror fade from the captured Isle of Britain. While across a vast sea, a bloody war shatters a peace that had flourished for two thousand years in the doomed kingdom of Atlantis.
Charis, a princess from Atlantis, escapes the terrible devastation of her land and meets the fabled seer and druid prince Taliesin, singer at the dawn of the age. Their incomparable love joins two astonishing worlds amid the fires of chaos, and spawns the miracles of Merlin and King Athur.
“Reminiscent of C. S. Lewis . . . Highly recommended.”
Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”
“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.
Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.
When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “Henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose. Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.
While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.
“[T]he funniest, most action-packed and weirdly well-researched account of the Civil War you’ll probably read in a long time. Grahame-Smith could be poised to become the Howard Zinn of vampire-related alterna-history.”
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo (an unhatched dragon egg), fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future—and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire, and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and a werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
“Carriger debuts brilliantly with a blend of Victorian romance, screwball comedy of manners and alternate history… This intoxicatingly witty parody will appeal to a wide cross-section of romance, fantasy and steampunk fans.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review
Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 is the site of one of the richest mineral strikes in American history, where veins of silver run like ley lines under the earth, a network of power that belongs to anyone who knows how to claim and defend it.
Above the ground, power is also about allegiances. A magician can drain his friends’ strength to strengthen himself, and can place them between him and danger. The one with the most friends stands to win the territory.
Jesse Fox left his Eastern college education to travel West, where he’s made some decidedly odd friends, like the physician Chow Lung, who insists that Jesse has a talent for magic. In Tombstone, Jesse meets the tubercular Doc Holliday, whose inner magic is as suppressed as his own, but whose power is enough to attract the sorcerous attention of Wyatt Earp.
Mildred Benjamin is a young widow making her living as a newspaper typesetter, and—unbeknownst to the other ladies of Tombstone—selling tales of Western derring-do to the magazines back East. Like Jesse, Mildred has episodes of seeing things that can’t possibly be there.
When a failed stage holdup results in two dead, Tombstone explodes with speculation about who attempted the robbery. The truth could destroy Earp’s plans for wealth and glory, and he’ll do anything to bury it. Meanwhile, outlaw leader John Ringo wants the same turf as Earp. Each courts Jesse as an ally, and tries to isolate him by endangering his friends, as they struggle for magical dominance of the territory.
Events are building toward the shootout of which you may have heard. But you haven’t heard the whole, secret story until you’ve read Emma Bull’s unique take on an American legend, in which absolutely nothing is as it seems…
“Emma Bull is really good.”
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is brilliant, fast-paced, and will give you sore wrists because it’s a thick, heavy book, but you will not want to put it down.
An expert in ancient languages is hired by a mysterious government agency to translate some documents that suggest that magic actually once existed in the world. But the advance of science caused magic to disappear in 1851. However, the existence of a two-hundred-year-old witch and some fancy technology allow a limited amount of magic to occur in this world, and soon the language expert and others are being sent back in time to repair history. And, if they’re lucky, bring magic back to the world.
“Quantum physics, witchcraft, and multiple groups with conflicting agendas, playfully mixed with vernacular from several centuries and a dizzying number of acronyms, create a fascinating experiment in speculation and metafiction that never loses sight of the human foibles and affections of its cast.”
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. This debut novel weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable into an inventive tale.
“[A] spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction.”
Latro is a Roman mercenary who receives a head injury that deprives him of his short-term memory. In return it gives him the ability to converse with supernatural creatures, gods and goddesses who invisibly inhabit the ancient landscape.
“[A] wonder, yes, a genius.”
―The Washington Post Book World on Gene Wolfe
I’m a huge Jonathan Stroud fan, and this is the book that got me hooked.
Nathaniel is eleven-years-old and a magician’s apprentice, learning the traditional art of magic. All is well until he has a life-changing encounter with Simon Lovelace, a magician of unrivaled ruthlessness and ambition. When Lovelace brutally humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to speed up his education, teaching himself spells far beyond his years.
With revenge on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all and summons Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old snarky djinni, to assist him. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal Lovelace’s greatest treasure, the Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.
In the year 1806, in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England, until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers and becomes a celebrity overnight. Another practicing magician emerges: the young and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s pupil and the two join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic and soon he risks sacrificing not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything else he holds dear.
“Immense, intelligent, inventive… Clarke is a restrained and witty writer with an arch and eminently readable style.”
Kindred is an astonishing, fantastic book. Author Butler is a master. This book is often considered science fiction, but it easily could be called fantasy.
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
“Truly terrifying… A book you’ll find hard to put down.”