The only thing better than an engrossing fantasy world is fantasy embedded in a rich, historical setting. Whether via the dazzling parties of Victorian England or the vibrant streets of 1920s Shanghai, these historical fantasies bring to life real settings of the past, with a twist of magic, monsters, and more.
Historical Fantasy Books That Will Transport You to Different Worlds
1. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights is a thrilling retelling of Romeo and Juliet is set in 1926 Shanghai. With rival gangs running the streets red, the multicultural city hums to the tune of debauchery—while the country sits at the brink of Civil War. Former flapper Juliette Cai has just returned to her home-city, proud to assume her role as the heir of the powerful Scarlet Gang. But when a mysterious monster threatens a plague of madness on the whole city, she must team-up with the heir to the rival Russian White Flowers, Roma Montagov, who was Juliette’s first love—and first betrayal.
2. Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron
Set in the Jim Crow South, Daughters of Jubilation tells the story of Evalene Deschamps, a black teen who must find her place among a family of women gifted with magical abilities. Her family calls their magic jubilation—a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery. And as Evvie’s talents awaken, something dark comes loose and threatens to resurface. When the demons of Evvie’s past finally shake free, she must embrace her mighty lineage, and summon the power that lies within her.
3. Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller
The legends of King Arthur have always laced magic into medieval England. However, in Thomas Wheeler’s retelling of the legend, he imagines what would have happened if the Sword of Power chose a Queen. The Lady of the Lake is the true hero in this cinematic twist on the tale of King Arthur. Look out for the original series starring Katherine Langford coming soon to Netflix!
4. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
In this take on King Arthur, Bree Matthews must infiltrate a secret society of “Legendborn” students at UNC-Chapel Hill—whose members are descendants of King Arthur’s Knights—to find out what happened on the night her mother died. Although Legendborn is not technically set in the past, the magic in this retelling is deeply rooted in the history of the American South, and as Bree uncovers unique magic of her own, she must make contact with her ancestors in order to find the source of her magic—because a war is coming, and Bree must decide of she’ll use her magic to take the Legendborn society down, or join the fight.
5. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
The newest series in Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter world is set in romantic Edwardian London. Chain of Gold introduces us to American Shadowhunter Cordelia Carstairs who escapes to London when her father is accused of a terrible crime. Soon Cordelia encounters childhood friends James and Lucie Herondale and is swept up into their world of glittering ballrooms and supernatural salons. But Cordelia’s new life is blown apart when a shocking series of demon attacks devastate London, and Cordelia and her friends discover that their connection to a dark legacy has gifted them with incredible powers—that will reveal the true price of being a hero.
6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series is also historical, taking place in London before Chain of Gold, during the reign of Queen Victoria. In Clockwork Angel, Tessa Gray travels to London to find her brother, but upon her arrival, she learns that she is a downworlder with the rare ability to transform into another person, and there are those who will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for their own. Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. There she finds herself fascinated and torn by best friends James and Will.
7. Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell
Songs from the Deep is set in a late 19th century island town, where deadly sirens lurk along the shores. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens victims. But Moira Alexander believes the sirens are being framed. With the townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, Moira and her childhood friend Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.
8. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell
In The Last Magician, Magic is all but extinct in modern-day New York, with those with the affinity for magic forced to live in the shadows by the Order—so talented time-manipulator Esta travels back to 1902, to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order, before the Magician can destroy it and doom all magical people to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.
9. The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley
Set in an alternative 1880s London, The Bones of Ruin follows an African tightrope walker who cannot die. With this strange “power,” and no memories of her past, Iris is obsessed with discovering who she was. Then she meets the mysterious Adam Temple, a member of a secret order called the Enlightenment Committee. Adam wants Iris as his champion in an upcoming “Tournament of Freaks,” a macabre competition made up of vicious fighters with fantastical abilities. In exchange for her participation? The truth about who she really is.