Holland, Cecelia. Jerusalem.

NY: Forge Books, 1996.

Holland is one of the very best historical novelists writing in English, and has been for fifty years now. She and I are of an age and I’ve been a fan of hers since the beginning. She wrote Firedrake as an undergrad and got it published her first year out of school, and I bought it within a few months of its appearance. (I now own all of her books, mostly in First Editions, a few of them signed.) Her style is so tight it’s nearly telegraphic; it has been said that if Hemingway had written historical novels, this is what they would look like.


Lovett, Charlie. The Lost Book of the Grail.

NY: Penguin, 2017.

I’m a book lover and always have been, so a well-written, well-plotted intellectual thriller about librarians and bibliophiles is exactly my cup of tea. This is Lovett’s third novel of that sort — the first two being the very enjoyable The Bookman’s Tale (involving Shakespeare) and First Impressions (Jane Austen)– and this one is well up to that standard.


Stevenson, Noelle. Nimona.

NY: Harper, 2015.

EXPLOSIONS! SCIENCE! SHARKS! NERDS! SYMBOLISM! Yep, that’s the kind of graphic novel this is. It won a bunch of awards, not only from other artists but from its (mostly) teenage readers, as well. Lord Ambrosius Goldenloin is the Official Hero here and Lord Ballister Blackheart is the Bad Guy, but neither of them is really terrible — even though the former hacked off the latter’s arm back when they were students together. Now, Ambrosius works for the Institution while Blackheart tries to keep the kingdom’s growing police state from impinging on its subjects any further.


Hill, Paul. The Anglo-Saxons at War, 800-1066.

Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword, 2012.

Ever since doing my undergrad history degree in the 1960s, I’ve had a strong and continuing interest in both the early medieval period and in pre-gunpowder military history, so I was pleased to happen upon this well-written work by a noted expert in both subjects. Hill is a well-known lecturer and past curator of the Anglo-Saxon museum at Kingston-upon-Thames, where a number of the Saxon kings were crowned, and he’s produced several previous volumes on closely related topics.


Published in: on 14 February 2018 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2012.

The author has apparently aimed this series (it’s up to at least eight books now) at the teen market — and I mean that in the most denigrating way possible. She seems to think that as long as there’s a swashbuckling female lead, plus magic and a bit of romance, the reader won’t notice the plot holes, the seriously non-credible characters, or the gratuitous overwriting. Celaena Sardothien is the most able and successful hired assassin in the kingdom (or empire, or whatever it is) of Adarlan, even though she’s only eighteen.


Taylor, Jodi. A Second Chance.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2014.

The “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, about time-traveling British historians in the not-too-distant future, has more than a few strange elements, including a bit of mythological fantasy thrown in (Kleio, the Muse of History, is also the Director’s steely-eyed PA). This third episode takes the mix to a whole new and rather complicated level.


Cave, Roderick & Sara Ayad. The History of the Book in 100 Books.

Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2014.

As a kid, I learned to appreciate books as physical artifacts, as much as for their content. In high school, I learned to love the smell of rare and used bookstores. And in library school, in the late 1960s, I finally took a few courses in the history of books and printing, where I learned about papermaking, the history and practice of typesetting, and the arts of illustration and bookbinding.


Anderson, Poul. The High Crusade.

NY: Doubleday, 1960.

The “Golden Age” of science fiction ended in the late 1940s, just as I was learning to walk, but I was certainly aware of the great days of Astounding and Analog, a short while later, when John Campbell was publishing some of the best SF ever from some of its greatest authors. Poul (a Grand Master) was one of those, with a long series of very popular, and often award-winning, novels. And this was one of the best of them.


Published in: on 7 November 2016 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cornwell, Bernard. Warriors of the Storm.

NY: HarperCollins, 2016.

Cornwell has been following known history pretty closely in his excellent series about the gradual making of England in the 8th century, but there are lots of natural gaps and lulls in that history, so this ninth installment is almost entirely fictional for a change.


Holland, Cecelia. Ghost on the Steppe.

NY: Atheneum, 1969.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cecelia Holland is one of the premier creators of historical fiction in English, and has been for more than forty years. One of her early books, and still one of her best, was Until the Sun Falls, about the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe in the generation after Genghis Khan.