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Historical Fiction for Adults

Historical fiction set in the Middle Ages. Some of these selections are appropriate for mature Young Adults.

  • The Archer's TaleThe Archer's Tale
    Bernard Cornwell

    An epic tale of revenge and honor featuring Thomas of Hookton, an archer in the English army during the 14th century, and the bastard son of a recently murdered priest whose family claims it once possessed the Holy Grail. First book of The Grail Quest trilogy.

    Paperback: 464 pages

  • A Bloody Field by ShrewsburyA Bloody Field by Shrewsbury
    Edith Pargeter

    Henry IV of England becomes jealous of the friendship between his son Prince Hal and a knight known as Hotspur in this account of events leading up to the 1303 battle of Shrewsbury. A must read for anyone interested in the War of the Roses or the events that led up to it.

    Paperback: 378 pages

  • The Bruce TrilogyThe Bruce Trilogy
    Nigel Tranter

    The life of Robert Bruce, from spoiled young nobleman to devoted husband and father, to rebellious patriot to hermit to undisputed King of Scotland. The three books of the trilogy, The Steps to the Empty Throne, The Path of the Hero King, and The Price of the King's Peace are published here in one volume.

    Paperback: 1047 pages

  • The Canterbury PapersThe Canterbury Papers
    Judith Healey

    Alais, a bored and somewhat bitter member of the 13th century French nobility, is approached by Queen Eleanor, who asks her to retrieve a cache of highly personal letters hidden in England's Canterbury Cathedral. When Alais reaches Canterbury, she finds not only the letters missing, but also discovers a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

    Paperback: 368 pages

  • Here Be DragonsHere Be Dragons
    Sharon Kay Penman

    Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's daughter, Joanna. At first reluctant to wed her father's enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her husband. But as King John's attentions turn again to subduing Wales – and Llewelyn – Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love.

    Paperback: 720 pages

  • In a Dark Wood WanderingIn a Dark Wood Wandering
    Hella Haasse

    Set during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), the narrative creates believable human beings from the great roll of historical figures. Here are the mad Charles VI, the brilliant Louis d'Orleans, Joan of Arc, Henry V, and, most importantly, Charles d'Orleans, whose loyalty to France brought him decades of captivity in England.

    Paperback: 594 pages

  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter ScottIvanhoe
    Sir Walter Scott

    England is in turmoil, torn by fierce and bitter hatred between Norman and Saxon. Rival claimants to the throne have plunged into bloody civil war. Prince John, taking advantage of Richard's absence while fighting in the Crusades, plots to have himself crowned king. Richard returns and vows to take his revenge on John, but he will need a courageous and able warrior on his side – a warrior like Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Disinherited by his father, disowned and dishonored, Wilfred allies himself with Richard. In many adventures he will battle knights in deadly tournaments, scale castle walls, be wounded, captured, and rescued by the infamous Robin Hood, and find true love with the fiery Rowena.

    Paperback: 544 pages

  • The JesterThe Jester
    James Patterson

    The title character is, when introduced in 1096, an unassuming innkeeper in a French village oppressed by the local nobleman. To earn his freedom, Hugh de Luc joins the Crusades for a torturous, bloody march toward Jerusalem that ends with him escaping the madness around him by deserting back to France, in possession of some minor treasures – or so he thinks. Back home, he finds the life he dreamed of returning to has been destroyed by the odious nobleman. Seeking revenge, Hugh adopts the guise of a jester in order to enter to the nobleman's castle.

    Paperback: 496 pages

  • King HereafterKing Hereafter
    Dorothy Dunnett

    The life of Thorfinn II (1009-1057), Earl of Caithness and Orkney and then – in Dunnett's reconstruction – King of Scotland and the figure on whom Shakespeare's Macbeth was based.

    Paperback: 736 pages

  • The Lady and The UnicornThe Lady and The Unicorn
    Tracy Chevalier

    Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned by the Parisian nobleman Jean Le Viste to design a series of large tapestries for his great hall. While Nicolas is measuring the walls, he meets a beautiful girl who turns out to be Jean Le Viste's daughter. Their passion is forbidden, given their class differences; its only avenue of expression turns out to be the magnificent tapestries. See: Editor's Picks for more about The Lady and the Unicorn.

    Paperback: 256 pages

  • The Last TemplarThe Last Templar
    Michael Jecks

    Murder and mayhem set in medieval Devonshire and Cornwall, featuring the Keeper of the King's Peace, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, and Bailiff Simon Puttock. First volume in the extensive "Knights Templar" series.

    Paperback: 375 pages

  • The Brother Cadfael seriesA Morbid Taste for Bones
    Ellis Peters

    The 12th century: it is an unsettled time in British history. The throne is in dispute, shire is pitted against against shire, town against town, King against Queen, and sibling against sibling. Brother Cadfael, a Welsh ex-Crusader who has joined a monastery in Shrewsbury, finds himself unable to escape the turbulence that surrounds him. Repeatedly he is called on to solve mysteries, usually involving a murder or two. First volume in the Brother Cadfael series.

    Paperback: 208 pages

  • The Name of the RoseThe Name of the Rose
    Umberto Eco

    William of Baskerville, a 50-year-old monk, is sent to investigate a death at a Benedictine monastery. During his search, several other monks are killed in a bizarre pattern that reflects the Book of Revelation. Highly rational, Baskerville meets his nemesis in Jorge of Burgos, a blind monk determined to destroy heresy at any cost.

    Paperback: 552 pages

  • The Dame Frevisse seriesThe Novice's Tale
    Margaret Frazer

    A Benedictine nun and amateur sleuth, Dame Frevisse of the rural cloister of St. Frideswide, becomes involved in unholy passions, property disputes, political secrets, familial rivalries, treachery and murder in 15th century Oxfordshire, England. First volume in the Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery series.

    Paperback: 240 pages

  • The Pillars of the EarthThe Pillars of the Earth
    Ken Follett

    The building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge in 12th-century England is the focus of this novel. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists.

    Paperback: 992 pages

  • The ReckoningThe Reckoning
    Sharon Kay Penman

    The betrothal between Simon de Montfort's 13-year-old daughter Eleanor and Welsh prince Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, which had ended with her father's death, has been reinstated. Now, en route to meet her husband, Eleanor is kidnapped by pirates acting at the behest of Edward I, who opposes his cousin's marriage. Spanning the years 1271-83, the story shifts from Wales to the scattered de Montforts living in France and Italy and to Edward's court in England.

    Paperback: 608 pages

  • SherwoodSherwood
    Parke Godwin

    In his telling of the Robin Hood legend, Godwin offers a fresh, intriguing version set 100 years earlier than usual, in the time of William the Conqueror. After the uprising against William is put down and his father is killed, Robin goes home to inherit his father's land and title. En route, he encounters Marian, who has lost her home and family. Robin finds carrying out the king's edicts intolerable and flees to Sherwood.

    Paperback: 544 pages

  • Shield of Three LionsShield of Three Lions
    Pamela Kaufman

    Eleven-year-old Alix is the daughter of a baron along the Scottish border whose lands are among the best in England. When her family is killed and her lands seized, Alix is forced to flee from the only home she's ever known. Her one hope is to plead her case to King Richard the Lion Heart, who is preparing to go on Crusade. Disguised as a beautiful young boy, Alix is befriended by King Richard, becoming his favorite page. Their relationship sets tongues wagging and places Alix in considerable danger as the battle for Jerusalem unfolds.

    Paperback: 496 pages

  • The Sunne in SplendorThe Sunne in Splendor
    Sharon Kay Penman

    In this stirring historical novel, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III from his villainous role in history as the hulking, evil hunchback. This dazzling recreation of his life is filled with the sights and sounds of battle, and the passions of the highborn. Most of all, it brings to life a gifted man whose greatest sin was that he held principles too firmly for the times in which he lived, and loved too deeply to survive love's loss.

    Paperback: 944 pages

  • Time and ChanceTime and Chance
    Sharon Kay Penman

    This sweeping saga re-creates the drama, intrigue, and passion that distinguished the lives of Henry Plantagenet, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Thomas Becket. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, bound by passion and ambition, certain to leave a legacy of greatness. But while lust would divide them, it was friendship – and ultimately faith – that brought bloodshed into their midst.

    Paperback: 544 pages

  • The WallaceThe Wallace
    Nigel Tranter

    Follow William Wallace's rise from his humble beginnings, to rebel and champion of the commoners. It peaks with his knighting by Robert Bruce and appointment as Guardian of Scotland, ending with his betrayal and execution. Written by Scotland's premiere historical novelist; highly recommended.

    Paperback: 446 pages

  • When Christ and His Saints SleptWhen Christ and His Saints Slept
    Sharon Kay Penman

    Maude, the daughter of King Henry I of England, is in contention for the English throne with her cousin Stephen, the son of William I. This is a rousing and detailed account of the 12th-century struggle between them; both held valid claims and had shifting supporters.

    Paperback: 768 pages