Historical Fantasy: a {Project} Post

You’ve heard of fantasy, right? Of course you have.

But do you know what historical fantasies are?

Wikipedia has a definition that I rather like:

Historical fantasy usually takes one of four common approaches:

  1. Magic, mythical creatures or other supernatural elements co-exist invisibly with the mundane world, with the majority of people being unaware of it. In this, it has a close similarity to contemporary fantasy. This commonly overlaps with the secret history trope. Alternatively, the author’s narrative shows or implies that by the present day, magic will have retreated from the world so as to allow history to revert to the familiar version we know.[3] An example of this can be found in Lord Dunsany‘s The Charwoman’s Shadow, which takes place in Spain, but which ends with the magician in it removing himself, and all creatures of romance, from the world, thereby ending the Golden Age.
  2. It also can include an alternative history where the past or present has been significantly changed when an actual historical event turned out differently.[4]
  3. The story takes place in a secondary world with specific and recognizable parallels to a known place (or places) and a definite historical period, rather than taking the geographic and historical “mix and match” favoured by other works of secondary world fantasy. However, many if not most, works by fantasy authors derive ideas and inspiration from real events, making the borders of this approach unclear.
  4. Historical Fantasy may also be set in a fictional world which resembles a period from history but is not that actual history.

Some of my favorite historical fantasies (so says Goodreads/Amazon) are:The Entire Temeraire Series, beginning with:

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1) by Naomi Novik

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (Paperback)  by Susanna Clarke (to be fair, I haven’t read this one, only seen the series)

Glamourist Histories  by Mary Robinette Kowal

It looks like not even publishers and readers can agree about what is actually historical fantasy and what is not. I saw A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab, as well as The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg, and  A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan, on a list of ‘historical fantasy’, none of which are set in a world seen in history as we know it.

{Project} is a historical fiction. I’ve tried to stay as close to actual history as I can, including actual people, events, and places as often as possible in the narrative. Of course, with the introduction of magic, one has to stray a little… but I like to think that magic itself and the struggle within the story helps make history as we know it make a little more sense.

I LOVE this medium. I get to play in history (I love the past, as you probably know) and I get to explore and learn about people and events of which I had little knowledge. This genre gives me the excuse to buy more historical fantasy novels (Yay!) as well as books like this one: An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency London.

That’s all for now, folks! Have you read any historical fantasy? Which ones? Do you think you could write one?


2 thoughts on “Historical Fantasy: a {Project} Post

  1. I’ve always been terrified to write historical fantasy myself; I’m not sure why, whether I feel limited in my fantasy or intimidated by not doing the historical time period justice… Then again, I’ve not read much of the (true) genre at all. I think the closest I’ve come to reading historical fantasy would be The Red Necklace. It takes place during the French Revolution and contains elements of gypsy magic. You’ve made me curious to explore the genre a little more.

    1. Sarah, I definitely think that writing historical fantasy will be a stretching experience for me! I’ve bought a whole bunch of books on the time period and I’m pretty excited. I’m also pretty interested in the book you mention… Thanks!

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