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Topic: Wanted - Recommendation for Dorothy Dunnett-like historical fiction

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SetDancer avatar
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Subject: Wanted - Recommendation for Dorothy Dunnett-like historical fiction
Date Posted: 10/8/2007 3:07 PM ET
Member Since: 7/11/2007
Posts: 6
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Hey all,

Just finished the Lymond Chronicles, not ready to delve into Niccolo Rising.  Any suggestions for non-series historical fiction that is similar to Dunnett? 



L avatar
L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 10/8/2007 3:38 PM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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You might want to post this in the Historical Fiction forum - a lot more HF fans post there!

Bloomer avatar
Date Posted: 10/10/2007 6:51 PM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2006
Posts: 4,325
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Here's what Novelist says:


Readers looking for accurate historical detail, well developed characters, and a glimpse into an exotic culture should try Mary Renault's reimaginations of early Greece. Like Dunnett, Renault skillfully mixes history and fiction, creating a strong sense of character and place. The careful accumulation of detail and attention to the lives of the characters will appeal to Dunnett fans. Renault is deeply immersed in her chosen period, and, as in Dunnett's work, political intrigue is often at the heart of the story. Start with The King Must Die, a fascinating reconstruction of the story of Theseus and Crete that mixes myth, history, and a certain amount of romance into a satisfying blend.

Fans who enjoy Dunnett's Lymond chronicles for their setting and portrayal of Great Britain should give a look at the Historical Fiction of Sharon Kay Penman, whose vast and complex narratives explore English history in the medieval and Tudor periods. Penman blends solid scholarship with an eye for detail and a wonderfully descriptive style. She is conversant with high life and low, and does not shy away from depicting the violence that was part of life in that period. A good starting point would be Penman's epic fiction based on the life of the much maligned Richard III, The Sunne in Splendour. Penman captures all of the political maneuvering that led to Richard's ascension to the throne, including her own take on the murder of the princes in the Tower. The development of Richard over the course of the book will appeal to Dunnett fans, even though the story is complete in a single volume (albeit a 900+ page volume).

Jane Stevenson writes multi-layered Historical Fiction that that uses a lyrical prose style and lovingly rendered details to capture a sense of place and time. Her trilogy starts with The Winter Queen, which recasts the story of Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, living as an exile in Amsterdam in the mid-1600s. Stevenson's book is rich in description and has a strong sense of place that should appeal to Dunnett's readers. Fans of the House of Niccolo series will enjoy the cosmopolitan nature of the tale, as Holland in the 17th century was a meeting ground for traders, spies, politicians, and others. Stevenson's tale of political intrigue and love plays out against a finely detailed portrait of daily life in Amsterdam and Holland. The Shadow King continues the tale.

Readers who are willing to forego true history but still enjoy a family saga with chilling consequences will find much to enjoy in George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, starting with A Game of Thrones. The series is a fascinating tale of political gamesmanship and rivalry. Like Dunnett, Martin concerns himself with the exploration of political power, how to get it and keep it. His saga follows the clashes between the Stark family and their deadly rivals for power in the Seven Kingdoms. These are violent and dark stories, but the characters draw you in with their complicated motivations. The Fantasy is pretty light here: magic works, but does not take center stage. Instead, it is the political scheming and the use of non-magical force that drive the stories.

Finally, fans of Dunnett's Spy Thrillers, with their blend of wit and social satire, should try Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. Fforde is a bit more outrageously funny, and there is a Fantasy element here that readers should be aware of, but both Fforde and Dunnett write with a sense of the absurdity of contemporary life and a willingness to poke fun at convention and conformity. Both authors feature strong female characters, and write dialog that sparkles. Start the Fforde series with The Eyre Affair, which introduces Literary Detective Thursday Next, her mixed up family, and a villain that is the equal of any of Dunnett's evil-doers. Corporate misdeeds and a plot to kidnap the great characters of fiction drive the tale. Unlike the Johnson Johnson Thrillers, Fforde's books should be read in order.

Barry Trott is Adult Services Director at the Williamsburg Regional Library, a member of the RUSA CODES Readers' Advisory Committee, and an active participant in the Fiction-L listserv.

Last Edited on: 10/10/07 6:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
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