The best novels about the Middle Ages with medieval warrior heroes

Who am I?

My passion for the Middle Ages began with castles. I lived in Germany for a time, where there are a lot of castles, and I got sucked into the whole romantic notion of living a castle life, though I’d probably have been more of a scullery maid than a princess. When I decided to try writing a novel, I figured castles had to be involved somehow. I started doing research on medieval subjects that would make a good book. Unfortunately, the time period I ended up choosing for my novel was the early 8th century—no castles. I spent over twenty years researching and writing my novel, so I hope I learned something. 


I wrote...

The Hammer of God

By Gina Miani,

Book cover of The Hammer of God

What is my book about?

Disowned by his father and imprisoned by his stepmother, Charles “the Hammer” rose to become the Leader of the Franks at a time when a massive Arab invasion threatened to devour all of Europe. Facing incalculable odds, he united a fractured kingdom to fight perhaps the most remarkable—and overlooked—battle in history: The Battle of Tours.

The Hammer of God is the story of a man who forged an empire and changed the face of war forever. It is also the story of a man who refused to be king.

The books I picked & why

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

The Wolf and the Dove

By Kathleen E. Woodiwiss,

Book cover of The Wolf and the Dove

Why this book?

I first picked up this book at a house where I was babysitting–and I couldn’t put it down. The next day I went to Waldenbooks (yes, I am that old), and bought a copy. This was the novel that sparked my love for medieval fiction and romance as well. I read it at least three times. You could say it stole my heart when I was sixteen.

The story takes place during the Norman conquest of England in 1066. As a teenager in the 70s who didn’t know anything about history before Vietnam, I was enthralled. It was also the first romance novel I’d ever read—but definitely not the last. Yes, the love story is a bit cliché, though Woodiwiss, who practically invented the romance novel, avoided explicit sexual content in her books, unlike romance novels of today. The historical descriptions of the time period are well-drawn, and the male romantic lead Wulfgar is no courtly gentleman but a fierce warrior with a lot of rough edges and bad manners—at first, anyway. I may feel totally different about this book if I read it today, but at the time, it lit a fire in my heart.

The Wolf and the Dove

By Kathleen E. Woodiwiss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wolf and the Dove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the Normans invade and sweep across Saxon England in 1066, lovely Aislinn of Darkenwald watches her father murdered outside her home. Wulfgar, the Iron Wolf of Normandy, arrives to rule Darkenwald, and one look at Aislinn leads him to claim her as his own. She hates the Norman conquering forces, but Wulfgar awakens a consuming passion in her that she can't deny. As she struggles with her growing love for Wulfgar, she does what she can to aid her conquered people and her bereaved mother. But a jealous lord conspires with Wulfgar's spoiled half-sister and Aislinn's very life is…


The Last Kingdom

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of The Last Kingdom

Why this book?

I’ve read pretty much everything by Bernard Cornwell, but The Last Kingdom (the first in a series of 13 novels) is most definitely my favorite, not only because it takes place during a time of English history I am most familiar with (very early Middle Ages), but because Uthred!! If you’ve seen the Netflix series, you know what I mean. I have a thing for warrior heroes, in case you haven’t noticed, and Uthred is the ultimate. The story is loosely based on a 9th-century warlord named Uthred the Bold—I recently learned that Cornwell is his descendent. Pretty cool. No one writes better historical content than Cornwell, blending fact and fiction so seamlessly, you’d think you were reading a very exciting history book.

The Last Kingdom

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Last Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first book in the epic and bestselling series that has gripped millions.

A hero will be forged from this broken land.

As seen on Netflix and BBC around the world.

In a land torn apart by conflict, an orphan boy has come of age. Raised by the Vikings, deadly enemies of his own Saxon people, Uhtred is a fierce and skilled warrior who kneels to no-one.

Alfred - Saxon, king, man of god - fights to hold the throne of the only land still resisting the pagan northerners.

Uhtred and Alfred's fates are tangled, soaked in blood and blackened…


Ivanhoe

By Walter Scott,

Book cover of Ivanhoe

Why this book?

The prose of this classic novel can be a little sticky to our 21st-century sensibilities, but in all other ways, Scott is a modern writer, addressing the issues of anti-Semitism and the corruption of the Church at a time when those things weren’t cool. Plus, we have another awesome warrior-hero in Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe and jousting to boot. Who doesn’t love a good tourney? My daughter and I hit the Renaissance Faires every year just to see men pretend to stab each other from horseback with long sticks. The plotting of this book is simply perfection—they just don’t write them like this anymore. It’s a hero’s tale with a big dollop of romance—my favorite.

Ivanhoe

By Walter Scott,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ivanhoe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ivanhoe is set in England in the 1190s, over a century after the Norman Conquest which saw William the Conqueror seize the English throne. A wealthy nobleman named Cedric, who is intent on restoring a Saxon to the throne, plans to wed Rowena, a beautiful young woman who is his ward, to the Saxon Athelstane of Coningsburgh. There’s just one small problem: Rowena has fallen in love with Cedric’s son, Wilfred of Ivanhoe. To get him out of the way so Rowena will marry Athelstane, Cedric banishes his own son from the kingdom. Ivanhoe (as Wilfred is known, by his…


The Greatest Knight

By Elizabeth Chadwick,

Book cover of The Greatest Knight

Why this book?

If I had to pick a perfect writer, Chadwick would be it. Her prose, her dialogue, her historical detail, and her characters are all pitch-perfect—it’s like she was reborn from the Middle Ages and is just reporting what she saw. This book is the first in a series about William Marshall, and if you don’t know who he is, you need to. Not only was he the greatest tournament champion ever, but an all-around exemplary soldier and statesman who saved the English crown at least a dozen times. Best of all, he lived during the most intriguing time of English history, the reign of Henry II, when the indomitable Eleanor was queen, and their four sons, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, and John, were wrestling for the throne. (Two of my favorite movies, A Lion in Winter and Becket, also take place during this fascinating period.) William’s story has gotten lost in the Plantagenet quagmire, so I am so thankful Chadwick brought him back into the limelight.

The Greatest Knight

By Elizabeth Chadwick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Greatest Knight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Historical fact and fiction are entwined in this engrossing story about the infamous William Marshal. He was the penniless young knight who was plucked from obscurity to become a royal favourite and went on to be described as 'the true Lancelot'. This is the fascinating fictionalised story of the jealousies, romance and conflict within the royal court that led to him becoming a forgotten hero.


The Pillars of the Earth

By Ken Follett,

Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

Why this book?

Ken Follett is not my favorite author—he’s overly fond of graphic sex scenes, and his characters tend to be two-dimensional, all good and all bad, lacking any nuances. Still, for the descriptions of the building of a cathedral alone, this book is worth wading through all 900 pages. Follett knows how to tell a story, even if it delves a bit too often into soap opera, and he keeps it moving with twists and turns you never see coming. It’s “epic” in every sense of the word, and his knowledge of medieval English life is quite extraordinary. 

The Pillars of the Earth

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Pillars of the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Oprah's Book Club Selection

The "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career-and begins where its prequel, The Evening and the Morning, ended.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.

The…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Middle Ages, knights, and World War 2?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, knights, and World War 2.

The Middle Ages Explore 303 books about the Middle Ages
Knights Explore 45 books about knights
World War 2 Explore 1143 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Winter King, The Killer Angels, and The Mists of Avalon if you like this list.