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Historical Fiction - England and Wales

Our medieval historical fiction book summaries are loosely organized chronologically, though we've grouped books by the same author. Each author is unique in his or her perspective on the culture and events taking place in England and Wales from ancient times through the period of the Crusades.

Buy Medieval Historical Fiction Books about England and Wales
Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell
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by Bernard Cornwell

Historical fiction author Bernard Cornwell takes us to mesolithic Britain and speculates on the construction of the great temple of Stonehenge in this epic story of three brothers competing for leadership within their tribe. Compelling speculative fiction based on a time of myth and fascination.
Heretic by Bernard Cornwell
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Grail Quest Series
by Bernard Cornwell

Set in the 14th century during the Hundred Years' War, young archer Thomas of Hookton serves his king and searches for the Holy Grail and his family's mysterious link to this relic. We follow both his wartime adventures and his Grail quest in this outstanding series.

The Archer's Tale, Book 1, - "A brutal raid on the quiet coastal English village of Hookton in 1342 leaves but one survivor: a young archer named Thomas. On this terrible dawn, his purpose becomes clear: to recover a stolen sacred relic and pursue to the ends of the earth the murderous black-clad knight bearing a blue-and-yellow standard -- a journey that leads to the courageous rescue of a beautiful French woman, and sets him on his ultimate quest: the search for the Holy Grail."

Vagabond, Book 2 - Still nursing his wounds from the Battle of Crecy, Thomas is sent by the king to look into the matter of his father's inheritance, which is obscurely connected to the Holy Grail. But others are on the trail as well. Thomas discovers more about his father, and his cousin and arch-enemy, Count of Astarc Guy Vexville - the Black Knight.

Heretic, Book 3 - while pursuing the Black Knight (suspected of being his father's killer and of having the Grail), Thomas saves a young woman named Genevieve about to be burned as a heretic. On the run, they learn of a diabolical plot to counterfeit the Grail for unholy purposes - the action and romance continue unabated to a rousing conclusion.
Caesar by Colleen McCullough
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Caesar: A Novel (Masters of Rome Series)
by Colleen McCullough

This is book five in Colleen McCullough's massively satisfying historical fiction series on ancient Rome. We've included this volume because it deals with the time period 54-48 BC, Caesar's "mopping up" of resistance in Britain and his defeat of the Gauls under Vercingetorix. Lengthy, richly detailed, her series focuses on the Roman political intrigues, taking us through to Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon.
London by Edward Rutherfurd
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by Edward Rutherfurd

Tracing the history of London from Roman times all the way to the Blitz in World War II, Rutherfurd's novel is one of those massive tellings of numerous vignettes where characters seamlessly flow one into the other, leaving no memory behind (a la James Michener), but yet tells a magnificent story of one of the great cities of the world.

His other three millennium-spanning historical novels are Sarum: The Novel of England (10,000 years on the Salisbury Plains, including Stone Henge and Salisbury Cathedral), The Forest (traces upteen generations through their lives in the New Forest near present-day Bath), and The Princes of Ireland : The Dublin Saga.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
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The Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

Acclaimed spy thriller author Follett has created an epic masterpiece in this 12th century tale entwining the lives, loves, struggles and betrayals of characters involved in building that great monument to God and medieval faith, a magnificent cathedral. Set in the anarchy of Stephen's reign, this is the book Follett was meant to write.
When Christ and His Saints Slept
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When Christ and His Saints Slept
by Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman is perhaps the best medieval historical fiction writer now working. We first fell in love with her writing years ago, with her wonderful book on Richard III, The Sunne in Splendour.

When Christ and His Saints Slept is the first novel in a projected trilogy about Henry II and that most fascinating of powerful women, Eleanor of Aquitaine. This first volume begins with the death of Henry I in 1135 AD - leaving the kingdom to his daughter Maude - but cousin Stephen beats her to it and civil war results. The sequel is Time and Chance.
Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
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Welsh Trilogy
by Sharon Kay Penman

Penman has also written a terrific Welsh Trilogy set in the 13th century and revolving around the conflicts between King John (never a good guy) and Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, who seeks to unite his country. All three of the books may be read separately and are well worth it:

Book 1 in the Welsh Trilogy: Here Be Dragons (Llewelyn versus and King John)
Book 2 in the Welsh Trilogy: Falls the Shadow (Simon de Montfort versus King Henry III)
Book 3 in the Welsh Trilogy: The Reckoning Llewelyn ab Gruffydd, Prince of Wales versus Edward I (he who wanted Scotland also, but ran into Wallace).
Katherine by Anya Seton
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by Anya Seton

We were absolutely delighted to see that Anya's Seton classic historical romance, Katherine, has been re-released in a new edition. It's one of our favorite books, and we could not recommend it more highly.

From the book's description: "This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954." Best of all, this is a true story - don't pass it by.
Shield of Three Lions by Pamela Kaufman
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Shield of Three Lions
by Pamela Kaufman

Young Alix, a girl with a grievance, must plead her cause before the king, Richard III, who is in France preparing to go on crusade. Alix cuts her hair and does the "boy" thing, running off to catch him before he leaves - naturally she ends up going to the Holy Land. The sequel, Banners of Gold, continues with Alix as a young woman seeking her husband. Very enthusiastic reviews.
The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter
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The Brothers of Gwynedd: Comprising, Sunrise in the West, the Dragon at Noonday, the Hounds of Sunset, Afterglow and Nightfall
by Edith Pargeter

Four novels in one volume by Edith Pargeter (aka Ellis Peters of Cadfael fame). Brothers tangle in 13th century Wales - each seeking power for himself through various machinations, including flirting with England's Henry III. Eventually, Llewelyn emerges in triumph as Prince of Wales. A great story of the Welsh people and their quest for national unity.
Down the Common by Ann Baer
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Down the Common
by Ann Baer

Baer published this first novel at age 82 - wow! Unlike conventional novels, Down the Common, subtitled A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman, doesn't provide a strong plot or focus on famous characters. Rather, it tells the simple story of Marion, her husband Peter Carpenter, their children and the other villagers - daily activities, illness and death, worries and small triumphs, sorrows and celebrations. Non-specific to any particular year or century, this is a wonderful and realistic glimpse into how common lives were led during the middle ages.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
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Doomsday Book
by Connie Willis

Willis is an award-winning science fiction writer, with several novels dove-tailed into a scenario in which future historians time-travel to complete their PhDs.

In this lengthy novel, a young woman is sent to 14th century England - but unfortunately not in the year planned. Instead, she ends up at a rural manor to which visitors bring the plague. She is immune, and the local uneducated priest, who witnessed her arrival, assumes her to be the incarnation of St. Katherine sent to their aid. Together, they nurse and care for those stricken with the deadly disease.

A powerful novel of courage, faith and suffering, Domesday Book is an absolute masterpiece and may stand as Willis' magnum opus. Heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, unforgettable.