a discovery of witches book cover

Historical Fiction with a Dash of Magic: A Reading List

(If you’re here only for the reading list, scroll down. The table of contents that should appear at the top of this post apparently doesn’t display on the WordPress reader.)

There is rain in the weather forecast. Days upon days of cold, dreary, rainy days. A reading list titled, “Historical Fiction with a Dash of Magic,” sounds like the perfect antidote. I can’t wait. I will curl up with tea and blankets and cats, listen to the rainfall, and read book after book after book.

Yesterday’s doctor’s appointment didn’t happen. Just as I was about to leave the house, I received a phone call letting me know it would need to be rescheduled. It’s now on my calendar for the same day, same time next week. Until then, I will do what I must to stay calm and not let my imagination spiral out of control. (Dementia Fears)

Or, rather, if my imagination needs to be put to use, I will apply it to reading stories, immersing myself in new adventures and worlds, and making new friends.

Reading and book related posts:
* Benefits of a Digital or Screen Detox for ADHD Symptoms
* Appreciating Stillness
* Digital Detox Update: Books! So Many Books!
* Thoughts on “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society”

If you’ve kept up with my recent reading and book posts, you’ll likely have noticed the disclaimer I add to the bottom of each one. It goes something like this:

“This post contains affiliate links. I would prefer that you not use them. If possible, please support your local library instead.”

You’ve likely inferred from this that I am a huge supporter of local libraries. If so, you are correct. I have always loved my local libraries, everywhere I have ever lived.

As the years have progressed, I have come to love libraries not only for the pleasure I feel upon visiting one but for the digital services they provide as well. The internet is a blessing in many ways, not the least of which is library web sites.

I spend a ton of time on my library’s site, bouncing between different books, adding some to the extensive “for later” list saved under my account, putting others on hold, seeing what books are currently available and deciding which ones to pick up the next time I visit.

Of great assistance in these efforts are the reading lists generated by librarians both at my library and other libraries around the country, because through some magic of the internet that I am not privy to, reading lists seem to be shared between libraries.

Thus, if I look at the page for one of my favorite books, A Discovery of Witches, I will see a list of reading lists that contain A Discovery of Witches.

For no reason I can recall, I did happen to look at the page for A Discovery of Witches the other day. One of the lists in which this book has been placed is titled, “Historical Fiction with a Dash of Magic.”

Historical Fiction with a Dash of Magic. Oh, my.

As you can imagine, there are thousands upon thousands of reading lists on the site that are available to peruse, and I have perused many. This, however, is the first I’ve stumbled upon that reached through my computer screen, grabbed me by the front of my shirt, and pulled me inside my computer.

It is as though it was created just for me. Those on the list I’ve already read are books I consider all-time favorites. The rest are calling to me and I am wishing I could read all of them at once.

Thus, here are the next few books I will be reading.

Caveat: I still haven’t finished March by Geraldine Brooks. It has been a bit slow-going so far, and I’m struggling. I’ll give it a bit longer, as I think I might now be past the initial build and getting into the meat of the story. But once I finish (or give up on) March, I will start on this list.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Web Site of Erin Morgenstern; https://erinmorgenstern.com/writing/the-night-circus/

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

One morning in 1945, a boy is driven by his father to a mysterious place hidden away in the heart of the old city: The Cemetery of Lost Books. There, Daniel Sempere finds a cursed book which will change the course of his life and plunge him into a labyrinth of intrigue and secrets concealed in the dark soul of the city.

The Shadow of the Windis a literary thriller set in Barcelona in the first half of the 20th century, from the fading splendour of Modernism to the shadowy post-war world. The Shadow of the Wind has elements of mystery, historical, and comedy of manner genres but it is most of all a tragic love story which echoes through time. With great narrative power, the author reveals plots and intrigues as though opening up a Russian doll in an unforgettable tale about the secrets of the heart and the magic of books, maintaining the mystery until the last page.I will never forget the morning when my father took me to visit The Cemetery of Lost Books for the first time…

Web Site of Carlos Ruiz Zafón; http://www.carlosruizzafon.com/en/la-sombra-del-viento/index.php

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

(Already read)

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.

Web site of Deborah Harkness; https://deborahharkness.com/all-souls-world-home/the-all-souls-world-books/

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

(Already read)

In 1946, after WW II, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family. But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones—such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain.  She walks through a cleft stone in the circle….and disappears. Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform. This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank—and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall—though for other reasons.

In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen. So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall—and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry. The story rolls on from there…

Web site of Diana Gabaldon; http://www.dianagabaldon.com/books/outlander-series/outlander/

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

(Loved this movie, didn’t even realize it was based on a book, and the book is the first in a series. Huzzah! I have a new series to dive into!)

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Web site of Ransom Riggs; http://ransomriggs.com/books/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children/

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for a couple who have never been able to conceive. Jack and Mabel are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone, but they catch sight of an elusive, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and leaves blizzards in her wake. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in the Alaska wilderness, life and death are inextricable, and what they eventually learn about Faina changes their lives forever.

Web site of Eowyn Ivey; https://eowynivey.com/writing/the-snow-child/

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

(I grabbed this one from the library already, and I am excited to start it once I finish March. According to the description on Amazon, this has been made into a television miniseries on Masterpiece on PBS.)

In looking for the author’s book description I found this delightful blog post by her. Her writing style is quite entertaining! https://jessieburton.co.uk/the-miniaturist.html

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Description of The Miniaturist on Amazon

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821. In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

Web site of Hester Fox; http://hesterfox.com/the-witch-of-willow-hall/

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

(Oh yay! Another that’s the first in a series!)

July 1209: in Carcassonne a 17-year-old girl is given a mysterious book by her father which he claims contains the secret of the true Grail. Although Alais cannot understand the strange words and symbols hidden within, she knows that her destiny lies in keeping the secret of the labyrinth safe . . .July 2005: Alice Tanner discovers two skeletons in a forgotten cave in the French Pyrenees. Puzzled by the labyrinth symbol carved into the rock, she realises she’s disturbed something that was meant to remain hidden. Somehow, a link to a horrific past – her past – has been revealed.

Web site of Kate Mosse; https://www.katemosse.co.uk/novels/labyrinth/9781409156390/

Don’t those all look amazing? Are there any you have already read? What did you think of them? Are there any that you haven’t read and now want to pick up?

As per usual, the disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I would prefer that you not use them. If possible, please support your local library instead.

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