The best historical fiction with a whisper of fantasy

Who am I?

I’ve loved history since I was a child and majored in it at university. So it makes sense that historical fiction is my favourite reading genre. It allows me to travel the world during other times. Not only do I learn about places and cultures of other eras, I get to do it through story. And that is like being there. Sprinkle in a bit of fantasy—not so much that I must imagine a make-believe world—but enough to add another layer of interest to the existing one, and the experience becomes that much richer. The historical elements remain true, but the story takes on a new dimension.

I wrote...

The Druid and the Dragon

By Kristin Butcher,

Book cover of The Druid and the Dragon

What is my book about?

Maeve is a simple farm girl who daydreams when she should be doing chores. She gets lost in wild imaginings so often that folk thinks there's something wrong with the girl who sells eggs in the village. But when she meets a Druid seer who claims she has the gift of sight, and then a dragon who tells her she has a role to play in the future of the kingdom, her fate is set. With war on the horizon, Maeve must dig deep within herself to discover who she really is if she is to survive the dangers ahead.

By Maeve's side, readers make their way through Celtic Ireland, rife with dangers and mysteries along a challenging path of adventure, espionage, and self-discovery.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).


By Diana Gabaldon,

Book cover of Outlander

Why this book?

Like most readers I was immediately drawn into this first book of the series and gobbled it up. On a holiday with her husband in post-WW II Inverness, nurse Claire Randall inadvertently walks through standing stones and is transported to the rugged moors of 18th-century Scotland. Almost immediately she meets young Jamie Fraser, and thus begins one of the greatest adventures and love stories of literature. Unable to return to her own time, Claire is forced to fit in as best she can, and readers experience the culture, people, and politics of the time right along with her. It is fascinating to watch Claire adapt to her situation while applying 20th-century medical and historical knowledge to 18th-century Scotland without altering history.

The Chrysalids

By John Wyndham,

Book cover of The Chrysalids

Why this book?

This is one of my all-time favourite books. Most classify it as science fiction—of which I’m not a fan—but the author described it as ‘logical fantasy’ when he wrote it in the 1950s, so I’m going with that. The setting is a post-apocalyptic agricultural community in Southwestern Labrador. As a result of nuclear fallout, the chances of breeding true are low, and mutants are weeded out and ostracized to a desolate area known as the Fringes. All fear those who live there. When David and a group of other young people with telepathic abilities are discovered, they have no choice but to flee, and the Fringes is their only option. Though there’s a fantastic element to the story, Wyndham makes you believe it’s possible.

The Crystal Cave

By Mary Stewart,

Book cover of The Crystal Cave

Why this book?

I have always been intrigued by Merlin and Arthur Pendragon, and I’ve read everything Mary Stewart has written about them. There is something about castles and kings and magic that is irresistible. It’s all too fantastic to be real—or is it? These are the elusive elements that initially prompted me to attempt writing historical fantasy. This first book of the Arthurian Saga focuses on Merlin’s childhood and emerging gift of sight and places the reader firmly in 5th century Britain. Stewart brings the period to life through her vivid recounting of political treachery, secrets, and inevitable war. The novel is great fun and sets the scene for the introduction of Arthur in the next book.

The Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold,

Book cover of The Lovely Bones

Why this book?

This is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve ever read. The author takes a horrendous subject—the brutal murder of teenage Suzie Salmon (based on a real murder) and recounts it in such a way that it becomes a tender story. It takes place from 1973 to 1981 in a small town near Philadelphia. The only fantasy element is that the story is narrated by the victim. She can see her parents and siblings and knows their thoughts and feelings as they search for her killer and struggle to find meaning in their lives after her death. She also provides some insight into where she is since she died. I dare the hardest heart not to be touched by this novel.

The Water Dancer

By Ta-Nehisi Coates,

Book cover of The Water Dancer

Why this book?

This novel is set in the Southern U.S. prior to the Civil War, a time and place I seem drawn to in my reading. Slave Hiram Walker is the illegitimate son of the plantation owner. His mother was sold away when he was young, and though Hiram has a photographic memory, he can’t remember her, a fact that troubles him. Unforeseen circumstances reveal he also has the gift of conduction—an ability to transport himself across great distances, a skill that comes in handy as he escapes and becomes involved in the Underground Railway. The fantasy element aside, this is primarily historical fiction at its finest with multiple storylines that are all eventually resolved. Coates creates a time and place that truly come alive.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murders, wizards, and telepathy?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murders, wizards, and telepathy.

Murders Explore 302 books about murders
Wizards Explore 63 books about wizards
Telepathy Explore 29 books about telepathy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking, Celia, a Slave, and Voyager if you like this list.