The most recommended books about the Dark Ages

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to the Dark Ages, and here are their favorite Dark Ages books.
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Book cover of Shadowland

R. A. Whitworth Author Of A Retreating Tide

From my list on breaking the fantasy cliché with mythical themes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I was a child the world has fascinated me. I’ve grown up with a deep love of reading and passion for the natural world, so much so that this often inspires both my writing and my artwork. As an artist and writer I seek to showcase the wonder and magic in the world. I have been able to draw upon ancient legends for inspiration into how people’s minds worked in the deep past and use it to enrich my writing further to cement the stories into our world and become more tangible. As a part-time adventurer, it’s only natural that my novels should be that.

R. A.'s book list on breaking the fantasy cliché with mythical themes

R. A. Whitworth Why did R. A. love this book?

I loved this book! Telling the story of a storyteller's life before eventually revealing his true identity, this novel is based during the end of Roman occupation in England and tells a new version of how Merlin came to be. Since the dark ages have always been of interest to me, thanks to numerous visits to living museums depicting the era and growing up with the mysteries of the era thanks to so much being lost in record from that era, exploring the what could have or just exploring the era through a book is just fascinating for me.

By C.M. Gray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where did King Arthur come from?

Britain lies in the shadows, deserted by its Roman masters. When the Saxons invade at the invitation of Vortigern — traitorous leader of the Britons — the tribes must unite to reclaim the land they see as their birthright.

And in the turmoil of a country torn apart by war, one man must rise to lead them, and become the one true king.

Praise:

★★★★★ - "Gray has a real gem starting with his subject, and carries it through with an excellent delivery."

★★★★★ - "Flawlessly weaves history, legend and imagination."

★★★★★ - "Magical…


Book cover of The Sins of the Father

Theresa Tomlinson Author Of A Swarming of Bees

From my list on throwing light into the Dark Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent much of my childhood living close to Whitby Abbey and heard many stories of the famous Saint Hilda. As a mother of three, I began writing stories, initially to entertain my children, and eventually published many historical stories for children and young adults – twice shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I moved back to the Whitby area in my 60s determined to write for an older age group and indulge my lifelong fascination for the Anglo-Saxon period. I took the half pagan Fridgyth character from my Young Adult adventure mystery – Wolfgirl - and developed her role as a warm, curious, flawed, investigator. I'm working on a third Fridgyth the Herbwife novel.

Theresa's book list on throwing light into the Dark Ages

Theresa Tomlinson Why did Theresa love this book?

This is the second book in an exciting series. I loved the first book, which told the story of the fierce Mercian King Penda! The Sins of the Father focuses on the life of Penda’s more sensitive, less warlike son, Ethelred. Annie Whitehead (who is also a respected historian) brings vibrantly to life many of the people and places that I’m interested in, more from the point of view of the ancient Kingdom of Mercia, rather than Northumbria. Familiar characters appear and I find it so interesting to view them from a different angle. These books are not murder mysteries, but utterly fascinating historical novels, which vividly capture both the humanity and battles for power in the ancient kingdoms.

By Annie Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A father's legacy can be a blessing or a curse...
AD658: The sons of Penda of Mercia have come of age. Ethelred, the youngest, recalls little of past wars while Wulf is determined to emulate their father, whose quest to avenge his betrayed kinswomen drew him to battle three successive Northumbrian kings.
Ecgfrith of Northumbria is more hostile towards the Mercians than his father was. His sister Ositha, thwarted in her marriage plans, seeks to make her mark in other ways, but can she, when called upon, do her brother's murderous bidding?
Ethelred finds love with a woman who is…


Book cover of What Remains of Heroes

Jamie Edmundson Author Of An Inheritance of Ash and Blood

From my list on dark characters, dark sorcery, or dark age history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I published my first book in 2017 and I’m currently working on book number 11. In that time, I’ve got to know some great indie authors and read some great indie fantasy. These five titles are a selection. I could easily have done this exercise ten times over with different authors and titles. But if you’re looking to see what indie fantasy has to offer, or simply searching for your next engrossing read, I think these will do the trick.

Jamie's book list on dark characters, dark sorcery, or dark age history

Jamie Edmundson Why did Jamie love this book?

Another book that leans into the grimdark genre but also with the ambitious scope of epic fantasy.

The world is human, but with some pretty terrifying creatures in it. The character work is excellent – each of the three POVs is a complex individual, an outsider, and none are heroes. But each is being pushed by a plot that suggests something terrible is going to happen if they don’t get their collective acts together. 

By David Benem,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lannick deVeers used to be somebody. A hero, even. Then, he ran afoul of the kingdom’s most powerful general and the cost he paid was nearly too much to bear. In the years that followed, his grief turned him into a shadow of his former self, and he spent his days drowning his regrets in tankards of ale. But now an unexpected encounter casts Lannick upon an unlikely path to revenge. If he can just find the strength to overcome the many mistakes of his past, he can seize the chance to become a hero once more. And with an…


Book cover of The Song of Heledd: At the Hall of Cynddylan

Theresa Tomlinson Author Of A Swarming of Bees

From my list on throwing light into the Dark Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent much of my childhood living close to Whitby Abbey and heard many stories of the famous Saint Hilda. As a mother of three, I began writing stories, initially to entertain my children, and eventually published many historical stories for children and young adults – twice shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I moved back to the Whitby area in my 60s determined to write for an older age group and indulge my lifelong fascination for the Anglo-Saxon period. I took the half pagan Fridgyth character from my Young Adult adventure mystery – Wolfgirl - and developed her role as a warm, curious, flawed, investigator. I'm working on a third Fridgyth the Herbwife novel.

Theresa's book list on throwing light into the Dark Ages

Theresa Tomlinson Why did Theresa love this book?

This is another historical novel set in my favourite time period AD 600’s, this time in Powys. The main character is Heledd – a peace-weaver bride, she is human, flawed, compelling, and courageous. The background detail is vivid and well researched, but what I love most about this book is the lyrical style of writing, which may almost give the reader the sense that the story is being sung,  reflecting with feeling and humanity, the real Anglo-Saxon poetry that has come down to us. Here is a powerful sense of sadness, regret, and gathering doom, lifted by moments of pure joy – a true lament!

By Judith Arnopp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In seventh century Powys at the hall of King Cynddylan of Pengwern, the princesses, Heledd and Ffreur attend a celebratory feast where fifteen-year-old Heledd develops an infatuation for a travelling minstrel. Their illicit liaison triggers a chain of events that will destroy two kingdoms and bring down a dynasty. Set against the backdrop of the pagan-Christian conflict between kings Penda and Oswiu The Song of Heledd sweeps the reader from the ancient kingdom of Pengwern to the lofty summits of Gwynedd where Heledd battles to control both her own destiny and those around her. Judith Arnopp has carried out lengthy…


Book cover of Peace-Weavers and Shield Maidens: Women in Early English Society

Theresa Tomlinson Author Of A Swarming of Bees

From my list on throwing light into the Dark Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent much of my childhood living close to Whitby Abbey and heard many stories of the famous Saint Hilda. As a mother of three, I began writing stories, initially to entertain my children, and eventually published many historical stories for children and young adults – twice shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I moved back to the Whitby area in my 60s determined to write for an older age group and indulge my lifelong fascination for the Anglo-Saxon period. I took the half pagan Fridgyth character from my Young Adult adventure mystery – Wolfgirl - and developed her role as a warm, curious, flawed, investigator. I'm working on a third Fridgyth the Herbwife novel.

Theresa's book list on throwing light into the Dark Ages

Theresa Tomlinson Why did Theresa love this book?

I first came across this short book when researching for stories set in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Kathleen Herbert, (herself a historical novelist) provided not only excellent information, but also a practical vision of the period specifically from a woman’s point of view. It is easy to read and presents the information in an accessible way; perhaps one of the earliest books focussed on women’s history.

By Kathleen Herbert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Peace-Weavers and Shield Maidens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An account of the earliest Englishwomen; the part they played in the making of England, what they did in peace and war, the impressions they left in Britain and on the continent, how they were recorded in chronicles and how they come alive in heroic verse and jokes.


Book cover of Lancelot

Angus Donald Author Of The Last Berserker

From my list on Dark Ages and Vikings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered writing in my twenties when I was living alone in a hut in a remote village in Indonesia with no electricity. I began a novel to fill the lonely acres of time and found myself transported by my own imagination. I realised this interior world was one I could happily inhabit for life. It took me years to get there; I was a journalist for 15 years, and 44 before my first novel—Outlaw, about a gangster-ish Robin Hood—was published; but I haven’t stopped writing fiction since. I now have 17 novels under my belt, some of them bona fide bestsellers, and aim to keep writing till I drop. 

Angus' book list on Dark Ages and Vikings

Angus Donald Why did Angus love this book?

Kristian was also inspired by Bernard Cornwell, and this elegiac Arthurian novel openly proclaims his debt. Set in the same 5th-century world, Kristian tells the story of the famous love triangle from the perspective of the dashing wife-stealer, Lancelot.

The language he uses is poetic and poignant; and while we know in our hearts it will all end tragically, you can’t help cheering for Lancelot and his love Guinevere, and feeling sympathy for poor Arthur, and hoping it will all work out happily somehow.

By Giles Kristian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

________________

Conn Iggulden called it 'a masterpiece' while The Times hailed it 'a gorgeous, rich retelling of the Arthurian tale' . . .
________________

In Britain, Rome's legions are but a distant memory.

And Uther Pendragon is dying.

Enemies stalk the land.

Into this uncertain world a boy is cast - an outsider, plagued by memories of those he's lost.

Under the watchful eye of Merlin, the boy begins his journey to manhood. He meets another outcast, Guinevere - wild, proud and beautiful. And he is dazzled by Arthur - a warrior who carries the hopes of the people like…


Book cover of The Stars, Like Dust

Massimo Marino Author Of The Law

From my list on the rise and fall of Galactic Empires.

Why am I passionate about this?

My dad was a subscriber of “Astounding Stories." If you know the magazine, it is famous not only because it featured the giants of science fiction genre, but also for its colorful and imaginative covers. I didn’t have the right to read those stories until later, when dad thought I could understand them, but I loved the covers and imagined myself stories which started from them or used the scenes as inspiration for a short story which I wrote for myself. The science fiction bug wormed into my brain at that time. Then, I just devoured every novel which landed at home and kept writing. 

Massimo's book list on the rise and fall of Galactic Empires

Massimo Marino Why did Massimo love this book?

It is not possible to talk about “galactic empires” in SF and not naming/checking Asimov’s masterpieces. Asimov describes in breathtaking detail a highly complex yet credible and vivid universe and follows its evolution and the struggles in a historical buildup, encompassing several novels. Expect to feel like watching History Channel of the Future: you will see an empire rise, swell outward, stabilize, destabilize, fall, experience a Dark Age that lasts 30,000 years, and then rise again. Asimov based many of the details of his empire on the Romans, their history, and their Empire. Impossible not to feel how real his Galaxy thus becomes: here and there you will have the sensation that something familiar is unfolding in front of your eyes… if you have studied classics and history, that is. Asimov’s Galactic Empire is thus recognizable and with a familiar shape, and at the same time, it is the epitome…

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mankind has conquered space and moved toward the starry heart of the galaxy. Earth is a planet of no importance, riddled with radioactivity by long-forgotten wars.

When assassins target his rooms and news arrives that, many light-years away, his father has been murdered, student Biron Farrill flees for his life.

Stunned, grief-stricken, and outraged, Biron is determined to uncover the reasons behind his father's death, and finds himself entangled in a web of deep-space rebellion, espionage, and political intrigue.

Asimov's Galactic Empire novels are among the earliest stories by one of the twentieth century's greatest visionaries. Filled with ideas and…


Book cover of In Search of the Dark Ages

Andrew Varga Author Of The Last Saxon King: A Jump in Time Novel

From my list on detailed, fun, and easy to read Anglo-Saxon history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a lifelong student of history. Even as a child I would devour history books or watch documentaries on TV telling tales of past wars of heroic battles. This passion eventually turned into a degree in History from the University of Toronto. I have also visited countless museums, castles, ruins, and historic sites throughout Europe and North America. My particular interest in Anglo-Saxon history came during my university years when I took some Old English language courses. Poems like the Battle of Maldon and Beowulf were my gateway to the rich tapestry of lives and events that made up the Anglo-Saxon era.

Andrew's book list on detailed, fun, and easy to read Anglo-Saxon history

Andrew Varga Why did Andrew love this book?

This book provides a very accessible introduction to the early history of England up to the Norman invasion.

Instead of looking at particular topics or themes, the book focuses on the great people of this period and dives deep into history in an attempt to construct the stories behind these famous names. But this book isn’t just about king and queens, it also provides lots of detail about the lives of the peasantry and how the various power struggles affected them.

By Michael Wood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Search of the Dark Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Updated with the latest archaeological research new chapters on the most influential yet widely unrecognised people of the British isles, In Search of the Dark Ages illuminates the fascinating and mysterious centuries between the Romans and the Norman Conquest of 1066.

In this new edition, Michael Wood vividly conjures some of the most important people in British history such as Hadrian, a Libyan refugee from the Arab conquests and arguably the most important person of African origin in British history, to Queen Boadicea, the leader of a terrible war of resistance against the Romans.

Here too, warts and all, are…


Book cover of Creative Mythology

William H. Coles Author Of The Art of Creating Story

From my list on improving your prose writing and creation of fiction story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author of literary fiction and nonfiction on the creative writing process. My passion is to provide resources for writers who want to create stories as artful literature that will last. A few years ago, I created a website that contains all my fiction and non-fiction, a newsletter, a workshop, and a blog. The website has received over five million visits. I've published six novels, thirty-seven short stories, thirty essays, twenty-six interviews, and dozens of literary quizzes. My fiction has received over fifty+ awards. I’ve written and presented an online video course: Creating Literary Story with Thinkific. I continue to serve writers who are eager to improve.

William's book list on improving your prose writing and creation of fiction story

William H. Coles Why did William love this book?

This book, and others by Campbell, has valuable ideas about humanity and mythology that are endlessly useful to fiction writers. Not about craft. About stories. And you’ll get a sense of how stories shape our world. And it has the effects of myth on human existence, fascinating from both a historic and cultural perspective.

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This volume explores the whole inner story of modern culture since the Dark Ages, treating modern man's unique position as the creator of his own mythology.


Book cover of I Shall Return with Winter

Jamie Edmundson Author Of An Inheritance of Ash and Blood

From my list on dark characters, dark sorcery, or dark age history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I published my first book in 2017 and I’m currently working on book number 11. In that time, I’ve got to know some great indie authors and read some great indie fantasy. These five titles are a selection. I could easily have done this exercise ten times over with different authors and titles. But if you’re looking to see what indie fantasy has to offer, or simply searching for your next engrossing read, I think these will do the trick.

Jamie's book list on dark characters, dark sorcery, or dark age history

Jamie Edmundson Why did Jamie love this book?

CF Welburn writes beautifully, and this book is no exception.

We begin with a revenge plot, but this story takes us in unexpected directions. There is an air of mystery around Oben’s journey to take revenge on his Viking-inspired enemies – is he an agent of prophecy? How will his experiences change him, and those he meets?