Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Six historical fiction novels that are almost fantasy

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well. Somers notes that sometimes that dash of uncertainty over what’s real and what may have seemed magical to those involved can elevate historical fact into near-fantastical fiction. At the B & N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog he tagged six historical fiction novels that are almost fantasy, including:
I, Claudius, by Robert Graves

The Romans were a superstitious lot, convinced that the gods influenced every moment of their lives and could be manipulated through offerings, sacrifices, and prayers. They often believed in magic and saw it everywhere, and even Rome’s masters weren’t immune to its influence. In telling the story of Claudius, proclaimed Emperor after his nephew Caligula was murdered, Graves offers us a perceptive, intelligent man who sincerely tries to be a good emperor—but who also sees prophecy, magic, and a hidden world of spirits everywhere he looks. Graves’ peerless writing makes the often dull business of ruling an empire seem fascinating, and the hero’s tragic life will make you feel pity for an emperor for perhaps the only time in your life, even as it transforms ancient Rome into a doomed fantasy kingdom.
Read about the other entries on the list.

I, Claudius also appears on Tracy-Ann Oberman's six best books list, the Telegraph's lists of the 21 greatest television adaptations of novels and the twenty best British and Irish novels of all time, Daisy Goodwin's list of six favorite historical fiction books, a list of the eleven best political books of all time, David Chase's six favorite books list, Andrew Miller's top ten list of historical novels, Mark Malloch-Brown's list of his six favorite novels of empire, Annabel Lyon's top ten list of books on the ancient world, Lindsey Davis' top ten list of Roman books, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best emperors in literature and ten of the best poisonings in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue