100 books like A Mortal Bane

By Roberta Gellis,

Here are 100 books that A Mortal Bane fans have personally recommended if you like A Mortal Bane. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

Reading this book is like listening to your incredibly knowledgeable historian friend talk about medieval society over drinks. Janega’s turns of phrase and sharp observations make me laugh, and at the same time, I feel my mind soak up knowledge like a sponge.

This book is about what medieval people thought and why, going back to the philosophies and influences of ancient Greece and Rome. It tackles medieval beauty standards, sexual practices, family life, and work life. It addresses fart jokes and eyeliner, as well as ideas about biology and class disparities. We see women farming, ruling, weaving, brewing, and writing.

Janega argues that it is through seeing the past truly that we can "imagine new futures," making the necessary changes for "a more equitable world."

By Eleanor Janega,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Once and Future Sex as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What makes for the ideal woman? How should she look, love and be? In this vibrant, high-spirited history, medievalist Eleanor Janega turns to the Middle Ages, the era that bridged the ancient world and modern society, to unfurl its suppositions about women and reveal what's shifted over time-and what hasn't.

Enshrined medieval thinkers, almost always male, subscribed to a blend of classical Greek and Roman philosophy and Christian theology for their concepts of the sexes. For the height of female attractiveness, they chose the mythical Helen of Troy, whose imagined pear shape, small breasts, and golden hair served as beauty's…


Book cover of Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England

Cara Hogarth Author Of My Lady of the Whip

From my list on medieval sexuality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Cara Hogarth emigrated from England to Australia as a child, but always wished she hadn’t. So she studied medieval history at university in order to travel back in time and place. Now that she’s bagged a PhD (on Chaucer’s raunchy Wife of Bath), she prefers to write historical fiction in order to truly immerse herself and her readers in the past. She finds academic history a fantastic inspiration for her fiction writing, but is always seeking out historical novels that hit just the right balance between research, humor, and page-turning plot. Warning: her novels can get quite steamy!

Cara's book list on medieval sexuality

Cara Hogarth Why did Cara love this book?

Published by Oxford University Press, Common Women is an academic rather than a popular history of medieval English prostitution, and its author is an expert in medieval sexuality.

I adore the wealth of historical detail founded on original research that Karras presents. It’s a goldmine of inspiration for those of us who write fiction set in medieval England. Where else can you learn about the cross-dressing prostitute John Rykener, the Bishop of Winchester’s brothel empire in Southwark, or discover names like Clarice Clatterballock?

By Ruth Mazo Karras,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Common Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An account of the lives of prostitutes in Medieval England relations, which covers their treatment under the law, and concludes that prostitution was central to the medieval understanding of feminity.


Book cover of Wine of Violence

Cara Hogarth Author Of My Lady of the Whip

From my list on medieval sexuality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Cara Hogarth emigrated from England to Australia as a child, but always wished she hadn’t. So she studied medieval history at university in order to travel back in time and place. Now that she’s bagged a PhD (on Chaucer’s raunchy Wife of Bath), she prefers to write historical fiction in order to truly immerse herself and her readers in the past. She finds academic history a fantastic inspiration for her fiction writing, but is always seeking out historical novels that hit just the right balance between research, humor, and page-turning plot. Warning: her novels can get quite steamy!

Cara's book list on medieval sexuality

Cara Hogarth Why did Cara love this book?

Wine of Violence is Book One in a medieval mystery series set in an English convent.

No, this is not a salacious romp about monks and nuns getting saucy behind monastery walls. However, sexuality does play a major role in the characters’ thoughts and actions, and in a very believable and relatable way.

The young prioress-sleuth battles against her lust for a handsome priest, who in turn was forced into the priesthood for making love to another man. Oh, and the aged murder victim (also a monk) was found with his severed penis in his hand.

A well-researched mystery, and one of the few medieval-set novels I’ve come across to offer a sympathetic depiction of same-sex love.

By Priscilla Royal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wine of Violence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is late summer in the year 1270 and England is as weary as its aging king, Henry III. Although the Simon de Montfort rebellion is over, the smell of death still hangs like smoke over the land. Even in the small priory of Tyndal on the remote East Anglian coast, the monks and nuns of the Order of Fontevraud long for a return to tranquil routine. Their hopes are dashed, however, when the young and inexperienced Eleanor of Wynethorpe is appointed their new prioress over someone of their own choosing. Nor are Eleanor's own prayers for a peaceful transition…


Book cover of The Fires of Lust: Sex in the Middle Ages

Cara Hogarth Author Of My Lady of the Whip

From my list on medieval sexuality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Cara Hogarth emigrated from England to Australia as a child, but always wished she hadn’t. So she studied medieval history at university in order to travel back in time and place. Now that she’s bagged a PhD (on Chaucer’s raunchy Wife of Bath), she prefers to write historical fiction in order to truly immerse herself and her readers in the past. She finds academic history a fantastic inspiration for her fiction writing, but is always seeking out historical novels that hit just the right balance between research, humor, and page-turning plot. Warning: her novels can get quite steamy!

Cara's book list on medieval sexuality

Cara Hogarth Why did Cara love this book?

This history of medieval sex is aimed at a non-academic readership and covers topics from the theology of sex in Eden, medieval definitions of incest (don’t sleep with your god-parents), and the fact that any abnormal sexual activity was considered sodomy (hint: stick to the missionary position).

In short, medieval attitudes to sex were very different from our own. This is a tricky thing to portray in historical fiction, especially historical romance. I’ve covered my copy of this book in pencil scribbles. A readable and entertaining popular history featuring a great cover image straight from a medieval manuscript!

By Katherine Harvey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The medieval humoral system of medicine suggested that it was possible to die from having too much - or too little - sex, while the Roman Catholic Church taught that virginity was the ideal state. Holy men and women committed themselves to lifelong abstinence in the name of religion. Everyone was forced to conform to restrictive rules about whom they could have sex with, in what way, how often, and even when, and could be harshly punished for getting it wrong. Other experiences are more familiar. Like us, medieval people faced challenges in finding a suitable partner or trying to…


Book cover of Stephen: The Reign of Anarchy

Marc Morris Author Of The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England

From my list on medieval Britain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell into medieval history from the moment I arrived at university, when I looked at a lecture list that included the Norman Conquest, King John and Magna Carta, Edward I – in short, the subjects of the books I have gone on to write. The attraction for me was that the medieval centuries were formative ones, shaping the countries of the British Isles and the identities of the people within them. After completing my doctorate on the thirteenth-century earls of Norfolk I was keen to broaden my horizons, and presented a TV series about castles, which was a great way to reconnect with the reality of the medieval past.

Marc's book list on medieval Britain

Marc Morris Why did Marc love this book?

The reign of King Stephen (1135–1154) was characterized by chaos and disorder, as he and his cousin Matilda fought over the succession to the English throne. This makes it a challenge to offer a coherent account, but Carl Watkins succeeds where others have failed in his short history of Stephen’s reign. The whole book, minus its academic endnotes, runs to under 90 pages, but it packs a considerable punch, thanks to Watkins’ elegant and enviable prose style. 

By Carl Watkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Stephen risked being seen as a man who never quite transcended the essential flawed-ness of his claim to be king. His actions betrayed uneasiness in his new skin'

Remembered as a time in which 'Christ and his saints slept', Stephen's troubled reign plunged England into anarchy. Without clear rules of succession in the Norman monarchy, conflict within William the Conqueror's family was inevitable. But, as this resonant portrait shows, there was another problem too: Stephen himself, unable to make good the transition from nobleman to king.


Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

Jill Wallace Author Of War Serenade

From my list on impossible odds and satisfying endings.

Why am I passionate about this?

My ultimate read is when the action is fast, but the character's discovery of self is slow. Besides, being engrossed in the challenges of others makes my own pale by comparison. The author needs to get me to empathize with the characters - even if their struggles are nothing like my own - and once they’ve done that, I’ll be in for the long haul! Journeying through life’s mire and finding the rainbow with a character you believe - and believe in - makes for the ultimate in vicarious living. And ‘Heck, YES’ to a satisfying ending!

Jill's book list on impossible odds and satisfying endings

Jill Wallace Why did Jill love this book?

OMG. I have recommended this book to more people than any other. It’s truly a historical fiction masterpiece. I read slowly but my eyes flew over these titillating pages as if I was a famished glutton and had to devour them quickly lest they disappear. The intrigue! The avarice! The anarchy!

It is an ambitious literary project that splashes over the colorful canvas set in 12th-century England. If, like me, you love the complexities of the human condition, read this book and prepare for the rapture that is virtuoso storytelling.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

18 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…


Book cover of The Summer of the Danes

Tracey Warr Author Of Daughter of the Last King

From my list on reads in idiosyncratic bookshops and lovely libraries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love a library, an eccentric bookshop, or the roadside book exchange cupboards where I live in rural southwest France. There is serendipity and synergy in what can be found through browsing (as opposed to purposeful searching). I am the author of five historical novels set in medieval Europe and centred on strong female leads. Idiosyncratic bookshops and lovely libraries bring unexpected twists to my research and writing. My six-year-old grandson recently started to read after his mum and I read many bedtime stories to him. It was a thrilling moment to hear him join the ranks of readers. Writing is inspired by and learned from voracious reading. 

Tracey's book list on reads in idiosyncratic bookshops and lovely libraries

Tracey Warr Why did Tracey love this book?

Found at Animal Kitchen Bookshop in Narberth, Wales, which has now, sadly, disappeared.

A bookshop that looked like a pet shop from the outside and was piled high with books in absolutely no order inside. After an hour’s happy trawling, I asked the owner if he had any Ellis Peters.

He fished out a box from under his desk and I took as many as I could carry.

This is my favourite Cadfael medieval murder mystery because of its setting in Gwynedd Wales and the appearance of Cadwaladr, who I was very interested in researching at the time.

Like my Welsh trilogy, The Summer of the Danes is set during ‘The Anarchy’, the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1144, a strange calm has settled over England. The armies of King Stephen and Empress Maud have temporarily exhausted each other. Brother Cadfael considers peace a blessing, but a little excitement never comes amiss to a former soldier and Cadfael is delighted to accompany his young friend, Brother Mark, on a mission of church diplomacy to his native Wales, not expecting to be caught up in yet another royal feud. The Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd has banished his brother Cadwaladr, accusing him of the treacherous murder of an ally. The reckless Cadwaldr has retaliated by landing…


Book cover of An Excellent Mystery

Jeanne M. Dams Author Of Murder in the Park

From my list on historical mysteries that make the period come alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I used to hate history, until I made the startling discovery that history wasn’t about dates and wars—the stuff we had to memorize in high school—but about people. And what can be more absorbing than people? When I started my first historical series, set in the very early 20th century in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana, I delved into the local newspaper and learned that the people of the time and their problems were very much like today’s. That pulled me in, and never let go. Now, researching the 1920s, I’m meeting people who might live next door. It’s so much fun!

Jeanne's book list on historical mysteries that make the period come alive

Jeanne M. Dams Why did Jeanne love this book?

I love all of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael books for so many reasons.

One is the crisp excellence of writing, one is her illuminating description of her medieval setting, one is her endearing protagonist, one is her exceptional plotting. This particular title has a most intriguing plot and a thoroughly satisfying resolution.

I chose the book (which I have reread many times) with a satisfied smile. And finally, the books are set in the England I so love, even if her setting is 11 centuries ago. 

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Excellent Mystery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the year of our Lord 1141, August comes in golden as a lion, and two monks ride into the Benedictine abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul bringing with them disturbing news of war- and a mystery. The strangers tell how the strife between the Empress Maud and King Stephen has destroyed the town of Winchester and their priory. Now Brother Humilis, who is handsome, gaunt and very ill, and Brother Fidelis, youthful, comely- and mute- must seek refuge at Shrewsbury.

From the moment he meets them, Brother Cadfael senses that they are bound by something deeper than their…


Book cover of One Corpse Too Many

Elizabeth Flynn Author Of Game, Set and Murder

From my list on unravelling knotty murder mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed murder mysteries, with spy novels coming a very close second. I like the puzzle aspect of the story and the unravelling thereof. From early in my childhood I have written and it has never occurred to me to write in any other genre than Crime Fiction. I do like, however, both in my own output and that which I read, to gain an insight into other people’s lives and histories. I like to learn about the surroundings in which the stories are set. Also, for me a must, the characters have to be rounded and three dimensional.

Elizabeth's book list on unravelling knotty murder mysteries

Elizabeth Flynn Why did Elizabeth love this book?

This is the second in a murder series with a historical slant. Brother Cadfael, ex-crusading soldier-turned-monk is an intriguing character in himself. He runs the monastery’s herb garden in Shrewsbury in 12th Century England. When he is asked to bury 94 bodies of people who died because of the fighting between King Stephen and Empress Maud, he discovers a total of 95 corpses and realises that a very clever murder is lurking in the town.  

By Ellis Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Corpse Too Many as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brother Cadfael discovers a murder amid the wreckage of Shrewsbury Castle in this mystery series featuring “a colorful and authentic medieval background” (Publishers Weekly).

In the summer of 1138, war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud takes Brother Cadfael from the quiet world of his garden into a battlefield of passions, deceptions, and death. Not far from the safety of the abbey walls, Shrewsbury Castle falls, leaving its ninety-four defenders loyal to the empress to hang as traitors. With a heavy heart, Brother Cadfael agrees to bury the dead, only to make a grisly discovery: one extra victim that…


Book cover of Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior

Elizabeth Norton Author Of Elfrida: The First Crowned Queen of England

From my list on England’s medieval queens.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by England’s medieval queens since picking up a copy of Norah Lofts’ Queens of Britain as a child. I studied Archaeology at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, focussing on the Anglo-Saxons. While my PhD and later work primarily focuses on the Tudor period, I have remained passionate about medieval queenship, writing the first biography of Queen Elfrida, as well as a longer book, England’s Queens, containing mini-biographies of every woman who served as reigning queen, consort or king’s wife. It has been a pleasure to share my top picks (from amongst many other wonderful titles), which I feel really bring England’s medieval queens to life.

Elizabeth's book list on England’s medieval queens

Elizabeth Norton Why did Elizabeth love this book?

There is no better place to start this list than with Empress Matilda, England’s first reigning queen. Matilda, who vied for the English throne against her cousin, King Stephen, has always been a personal favourite of mine. She came tantalisingly close, in 1141, to securing her coronation and recognition of her rule. I was therefore very excited to read Catherine Hanley’s expertly written biography. I love the detail given on Matilda’s actions, with Hanley’s research impeccably detailed. This is one of the most valuable accounts of the life of an early English monarch.

By Catherine Hanley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A life of Matilda-empress, skilled military leader, and one of the greatest figures of the English Middle Ages

"[Matilda] will attract a growing audience interested in stories of women challenging the male-dominated European past."-Alexandra Locking, Medieval Review

"A lively and authoritative account."-Katherine Harvey, Times Literary Supplement

Matilda was a daughter, wife, and mother. But she was also empress, heir to the English crown-the first woman ever to hold the position-and an able military general.

This new biography explores Matilda's achievements as military and political leader, and sets her life and career in full context. Catherine Hanley provides fresh insight into…


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