Historical fiction with a dash of magic

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This list of historical fiction novels originally appeared in our historical fiction newsletter, Past Tense. register here to receive historical fiction recordings straight to your inbox!

When I think of historical fiction and historical fantasy, I generally think of them as entirely separate genres. But actually, historical fantasy is a subgenre of both fantasy and historical fiction. It’s a perfectly valid and fun confluence of genres!

Lately, I’ve been exploring historical fiction that fits the themes of witches, horror, and magic, because historical fiction is so much more than just WWII books. (Not to say that some of these books aren’t great either.) So historical fiction with a dash of magic seems like the ideal thing. These five examples explore different periods and settings in history, but a slight touch of woven magic makes them a little less plausible and all the more fantastical.

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

In Golden Age New York, three women come together to use their magic to stay strong in a time when society was determined to contain them. When Beatrice Dunn responds to a strange ad – “Respectable Lady Seeks Dependable Shop Girl. Those opposed to magic don’t need to apply” – she’s not sure what to expect. What she gets is Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair, owners of a teahouse that sells more than tea leaves.

book cover of The Whisper of the Bees

The Whisper of the Bees by Sofia Segovia

Found under a bridge covered in a blanket of bees, Simonopio seems to some the stuff of superstition, cursed by the devil. But Simonopio is very fond of his adoptive family, who see him simply as a boy who needs a home. And he’s determined to use his gifts of premonition and his flock of protective bees to protect them from anything that threatens them.

Cover of the book Les Belles

The pretty by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

In a world reminiscent of Parisian society where manners and reputation are paramount, a young woman is drawn into the steamy love affair of a famous showman and his uncle’s ruthless wife. Nina is dazzled when Hector Auvray comes to town, hoping to learn more about the telekinetic powers he is known for, powers that she herself possesses. Hector helps Nina perfect her gifts, but his affections are secretly withheld, already sworn to another: Nina’s aunt Valerie, her first love. But despite her weirdness, despite the powers that society shuns in a woman, despite her love for beetles and the innocence she will soon lose to an older man playing with her heart, Nina has a greater potential than any of them. realize.

book cover of The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

When Hiram’s mother is sold, he is stripped of all his memories of her. But he also has a rare power left, the one that, years later, saves him from drowning. He left with the determination to escape slavery, traveling from the plantations of Virginia to the dangerously idealistic movements of the North. Even though he gets involved in the underground moment to free people from slavery, he never forgets his determination to save the family he left behind.

Book cover of The Legacy of Orquídea Divina

The legacy of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Although half of this beautiful novel of magical realism is set in the present day, the other half explores Orquídea Divina’s past as part of a traveling circus in Ecuador, slowly revealing the answers her grandchildren seek in the present. The subtle magic woven throughout makes this book all the more poignant, with the gifts and curses of a family’s past stretching into the present.

If you liked these historical and fantasy fiction books, you might also like 10 Genre-Blending Fantasy Books.

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