The best books with realistic fight scenes

J.K. Swift Author Of Acre
By J.K. Swift

Who am I?

I love a good fight scene! It doesn’t need to be long and gruesome, but it must be visceral and make me nervous for those involved. Don’t get me wrong, I also love a good first-kiss scene but unfortunately, my past has made me more adept at recognizing and writing one over the other. I started training in martial arts at the age of nine and continued for thirty years. I don’t train much these days but I took up bowmaking a few years back and now spend a lot of time carving English longbows and First Nations’ bows. I recently also took up Chinese archery.

I wrote...


By J.K. Swift,

Book cover of Acre

What is my book about?

Brother Foulques just wants to stay in Acre and perform his sworn duties as a Knight Justice. Instead, the young Hospitaller Knight of Saint John must undertake a dangerous journey from the Holy Land to a remote village nestled deep in the Alps, the "Spine of the World." His mission: buy 500 peasant boys and return them to Acre to be trained as Soldiers of Christ. Pursued across the Mid-Earth Sea by slavers, Brother Foulques and his charges are about to be thrust into a confrontation with the greatest warriors the East has ever known: the Mamluks. Once warrior-slaves, the Mamluks have overthrown their masters and now turn their eyes on Christendom itself. What chance does one Hospitaller and an army of children have?

The books I picked & why

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Legend: Book One of the Drenai Saga

By David Gemmell,

Book cover of Legend: Book One of the Drenai Saga

Why this book?

Druss the Legend!

David Gemmell’s action scenes blew me away as a young reader. He doesn’t leave anything to the imagination but instead plants a crisp, vivid image into your brain and dares you to look away. But he knows you won’t. Or can’t. Legend is his first book and it was always in the back of my mind as I was writing my own saga because they both tell the story of a siege for the ages. Gemmell was an avid reader of history and is known for saying how he always wanted to write historical fiction but found it too depressing with how infrequently the good guys won. Isn’t that the truth? But I think that’s why underdog stories based on historical events are so compelling.

Wolf of Wessex

By Matthew Harffy,

Book cover of Wolf of Wessex

Why this book?

Mathew Harffy has a lot going for him in the historical fiction world. His fight scenes are not overly technical and are easy to follow. They have just the right amount of blood and gore to make you believe the characters are really in danger but are not simply gratuitous violence. What I really love about this book is his voice when he writes descriptions of the forest and the people who live in it. I grew up in the woods of a small town in Canada, and I know how the forest can be a peaceful, tranquil setting one moment and then suddenly transform into a place of shadows and dread. Judging by the cover of this book, I think Harffy knows this as well.

The Archer's Tale: Book One of the Grail Quest

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of The Archer's Tale: Book One of the Grail Quest

Why this book?

Bernard Cornwell’s fight scenes are what I would call emotional rather than technical. You feel his fights, the vibration of sword against shield, the panic of your feet slipping in the mud, the fear rising up in your guts that will allow only a half-crazed scream to come out of your mouth. If you’re looking for a manual on sword fighting, Cornwell is not your man. But if you want to be put in a character’s armor while someone is trying to skewer him with a spear, no one does it better. I was drawn to this book because it was about an archer, and I know how hard it is to write fight scenes with archers in them. I am an amateur bowyer and having made more than a few bows I know how much skill it takes to make and use these weapons. Cornwell did a lot of research around bowmaking for this book and it shows.


By Robert Shea,

Book cover of Shike

Why this book?

An oldie, but I loved this book! It was actually two books when originally published (Time of the Dragons and Last of the Zinja). Set mostly in Mongolia and Japan, it tells the story of a warrior monk who falls in love with a Japanese princess who becomes a consort to Kubilai Khan (Ghenghis Khan’s grandson). As a kid, I loved the TV show Kung-Fu with David Carradine and Jebu (the main character) is a much bigger, badder version of Cane. Like Cane, Jebu is a half-blood but his barbarian side is the one that shows through so he is huge and red-haired. Lots of good action in this one. 


By R.A. Salvatore,

Book cover of Homeland

Why this book?

There are so many good things to say about the Dark Elf Trilogy but the reason I read it was because my brother gave it to me and said, “You should read this. It’s got lots of good fighting.” The way Salvatore wrote his fights completely engrossed me. And not just me. Heavy readers of fantasy (I’m a lightweight as I split my time between fantasy and historical fiction) say he is one of the best. Sure the fight scenes were fantastical, but Salvatore has a way of grounding them in reality with little things (like Drizzt’s double downward block with his scimitars) that everyone can imagine. He describes movement like someone who has had some training himself, or perhaps he just had a misspent youth that resulted in some practical experience! 

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