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Who doesn’t love the immense world building and incredible characters found in the fantasy genre, but throw in some real-life historical flare to pull all the magic into our own world and we are hooked! This year there are so many great historical fantasy books coming out it was hard to choose just a few. From 14th century India to 20th century New York, the time and place for fantasy lovers to step into is vast and exciting as ever.
Victory City by Salman Rushdie
A goddess speaks through Pampa Kampana. In the fourteenth-century in southern India, nine-year-old Pampa encounters a goddess. She is given her powers and is told she will be instrumental in the rise of a great city called Bisnaga or “victory city”. Over the next 250 years, the city grows from the magical seeds Pampa sewed herself into a society where women have agency in a patriarchal world. But as time goes on, the city becomes more complex and its leaders more corrupt. As the city falls into ruin—Pampa is at the center.
The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry
Hy-Brasil is the only home Biddy has ever known. Her life on the hidden magical island is quiet, a reality she finds increasingly stifling, and she longs for a chance to explore the outside world. That chance comes when her guardian, a magician named Rowan, doesn’t return from his mysterious travels. Biddy must venture into the outside world to save him from his enemies, but the more she learns about her past, the more she questions Rowan and herself.
Weyward by Emilia Hart
Three generations of women—across five centuries—have one thing in common, they are all unusual women. In 1619, Altha Weyward is accused of witchcraft, but the magic her mother taught her is not rooted in spells but in the natural world. In 1942, Violet is trapped in her crumbling family estate and longs for an education and a chance to travel the world as a biologist. She also longs for her mother, rumored to have gone mad before her death, who left her an engraved locket and the word “weyward” scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom. In 2019, Kate flees London to escape her abusive partner. She arrives at the Weyward Cottage she inherited from her great aunt she barely remembers. But she begins to suspect that Violet had a secret, one hidden in the bones of the cottage since the 17th century.
The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner
On the outskirts of Paris, France, Vaudeline D’Allaire speaks to the dead. It’s 1873, and her skills are wanted by grieving widows and investigators alike, but Lenna Wickes is skeptical of the occult and afterlife. However, she came to Paris for answers about her her sisters death and Vaudeline can help her. When the London Seance Society requests that Vaudeline help investigate a high profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy and the two strike up a companionship that’s blooming by the day. In London, they find themselves in extreme danger as they battle the most powerful men in the city. Regardless of the risk and who is responsible, Lenna is determined to avenge her sister’s death.
Lone Women by Victor Lavalle
Adelaide Henry is in trouble. It’s 1915, and she is forced to flee to California. She makes her way across Montana, carrying an enormous steamer trunk wherever she goes. The trunk is locked at all times, and when it’s open, the people around Adelaide start to disappear. Her secret sin killed her parents, and she plans to take advantage of the government’s offer of free land to anyone who can tame it and become one of the “lone women.” But Adelaide is not alone, and the secret she tries so hard to keep locked away—may be the only thing that can help her survive.
The Great Reclamation by Rachel Heng
Ah Boon can locate bountiful, moveable islands no one else can find. Born into a fishing village during the waning years of British rule in Singapore, fishing never interested Ah Boon. He is a gentle boy and prefers to spend his days playing with the neighbor girl Siok Mei. But when he discovers his newfound ability, he feels a sense of obligation and possibility and that this is could be a chance to impress the girl he loves. When the Japanese army invades, and the resistance rises, the future of the fishing village is in jeopardy. The nation is hurdling toward rebirth and Ah Boon and Siok Mei must decide who they want to be and what they are willing to give up.
Magician and Fool by Susan Wands
Pamela Colman Smith is an outsider by Victorian London standards. Newly arrived from New York, she illustrates tarot cards for the Golden Dawn, a new occult group. Her cards are powerful, created using her second sight, and draw the attention of the infamous magician Aleister Crowley. When she refuses, he threatens her, saying that if she doesn’t give up the card’s power, he will harm her muses. But two of Pamela’s idols, the actors Henry Irving and William Terriss, take her under their wing. They tutor her in acting and teach her courage and quickly become her muses. Henry the Magician and William the Fool. To defeat Aleister, Henry and William must transform into living embodiments of the Magician and the Fool, and Pamela must develop her own magical strength.
Sun and the Void by Gabriela Romero Lacruz
Reina is stuck living on the outskirts. Her only hope for a better life is an invitation from a grandmother she’s never known. The journey is dangerous, and she’s attacked by creatures that stalk the region. Her grandmother, Doña, intervenes and saves her from the verge of death. Reina, dependent on Doña’s magic to live, will do anything to earn her favor—even the bidding of a god that whispers to her at night. Eva tries to hide her oddities, but magic calls to her. While she tries to fight the temptation, and knows using magic is punishable by death, it is hard to deny her power. She walks a dangerous path, and in the end, she’ll become something she never imagined. Both women are on a quest for belonging.
He Who Drowned the World by Shelley Parker-Chan
After tearing southern China from its Mongol masters, Zhu Yuanzhang burns with a new desire. She wants to seize the throne and crown herself as emperor. Although, Zhu isn’t the only one with imperial ambitions. Madam Zhang, a courtesan to the south, wants the throne for her husband, and she is strong enough to wipe Zhu off the map. Unbeknownst to the southerners, there is another contender who has maneuvered his way into the capital. The scorned scholar Wang Baoxiang and his lethal court games threaten to bring the empire to its knees. He plans to make him the most degenerate Great Khan in history. To stay in the game, Zhu must make a risky alliance with an old enemy: the talented but unstable general Ouyang. All contenders will do whatever it takes to win. But the price may be too much even for the most ruthless is this stunning sequel to She Who Became the Sun.
A Power Unbound by Freya Marske
After the death of his twin sister Jack Alston, Lord Hawthorn, thought he was done with magic. But with the threat of a dangerous ritual taunting every magician in Britain, he is drawn back into that world. Jack finds himself helping an unlikely group of friends track down the final piece of the Last Contract before their enemies do the same. Unfortunately, they need Alan Ross’s help. A writer and a thief, he’s as greedy as he is defensive. And the aristocratic Lord Hawthorn is everything Alan hates. But the thief is everything Jack wants in one gorgeous, infuriating package. As the plot to seize unimaginable power comes to a head at Jack’s ancestral home, Alan and their allies become entangled in a night of secrets, champagne, and bloody sacrifice. The foundations of magic in Britain will be torn up by its roots by the end.
The Star and the Strange Moon by Constance Sayers
Gemma Turner has one last chance to make it as an actress. When she’s offered a role in an edgy horror film, she knows she has to take this oddball opportunity and make it work. While filming though, she disappears. At least to the outside world that’s what appears to have happened. For Gemma though, she’s transported to a world where the film is real, monsters and all, and in order to survive she must perform her part perfectly. Decades after the disappearance, a film student, Christopher Kent, joins others in the screening of Turner’s film and is bewildered by the unseen footage that is released every decade showing the actress long after she vanished. Entrapped by the mystery, Christopher Kent attempts to unveil what has happened while trying to avoid being trapped like Gemma.
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