The best historical fiction novels about extraordinary women from history

Who am I?

I'm a hybrid author from Bulgaria, and my work mostly focuses on historical fiction and fantasy. History has always been mainly centered around the male point of view. But many female heroes would also like to tell us their stories. My fascination started with the women Haiduks of Bulgaria, which gave birth to my first book Sirma. And the more I researched, the more I realized countless historical female figures worldwide deserve just as much attention. I hope this list is enriching to all readers and helps them see their captivating point of view.

I wrote...

Sirma: A historical fiction novel about a woman Haiduk

By Reni Stankova,

Book cover of Sirma: A historical fiction novel about a woman Haiduk

What is my book about?

Sirma's life changed forever when she lost her two best friends to mountain outlaws. The village elders did nothing, fearing the wrath of Hamza Bei—the head outlaw in the area. So, Sirma disguised herself as a man and forms a new mountain gang dedicated to protecting the villages and searching for Hamza Bei to put a stop to his tyranny. Her life is one of clashing with gangs of outlaws, surviving in the mountain wilderness, and keeping her comrades from finding out they were led by a woman. This is a novel about the Haiduk movement in Eastern Europe during the reign of the Ottoman Empire.

The books I picked & why

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Far Away Bird

By Douglas A. Burton,

Book cover of Far Away Bird

Why this book?

This is a historical novel about the life of Theodora, Empress of Byzantium. She was born in the sixth century and worked as a prostitute, but eventually became the most powerful woman in the Byzantine Empire. The book is very introspective and we learn a lot about Theodora's inner world. Even though the world throws the worst at her, she still finds the strength to continue onward and keep a sense of justice and positivity.

Brides of Rome: A Novel of the Vestal Virgins

By Debra May Macleod,

Book cover of Brides of Rome: A Novel of the Vestal Virgins

Why this book?

Brides of Rome offers a unique look into the life of the Vestal Virgins of Rome. The story is told through the viewpoints of several fascinating women, one of which is a vestal virgin, and another one is Cleopatra. Each one has a battle of her own and although some find a bitter end, others survive and thrive. The Roman Empire is notorious for its mistreatment of women, but this book shows a refreshing look at some that received the respect they deserved.

The Sekhmet Bed: The She-King: Book 1

By Libbie Hawker,

Book cover of The Sekhmet Bed: The She-King: Book 1

Why this book?

The Sekhmet Bed is only the first book of the story of the only female pharaoh of Egypt Hatshepsut. Note that she was not a queen, but a pharaoh. The first book mainly focuses on the life of her mother and the familial and religious perils she went through until she gave birth to the future female pharaoh. By the last few chapters, we will see Hatshepsut as a child and will be compelled to follow her story through the series. Ancient Egypt is a culture that had a place in my heart ever since I was a child, so reading a story about one of its great women rulers was an absolute treat.

Peacemaker's Dream: The Story of the True First Lady of America

By Sue Wright,

Book cover of Peacemaker's Dream: The Story of the True First Lady of America

Why this book?

This historical novel centers around the life of a young girl called Pocahontas, who bears witness to the colonization of Jamestown. And unlike the popular Disney version, Peacemaker's Dream shows us the real life of this amazing heroine. We see her transition from a child to an adult, while getting involved with the colonists, and find out how heavy the price of peace can be. Truly, an eye-opening experience.

The Flower Boat Girl

By Larry Feign,

Book cover of The Flower Boat Girl

Why this book?

The Flower Boat Girl is a historical novel about the life of Zheng Yi Sao, the most successful pirate in history (and, yes, a woman). Sold as a child to a floating brothel, at 26 she buys her freedom, but then is kidnapped and forced to marry a pirate. From there, she uses her strength and cunning mind to carve her destiny and practically make history. I loved this book, because it gives us an honest portrayal of a pirate's life and how a woman has no place in it, yet one woman makes it against all odds.

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