Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week our topic is …

Top Ten Historical Settings I Love

This is really a deceivingly difficult topic for me, because I love history, so narrowing my favorite historical settings down to ten was quite the task.  After a lot of soul searching, hand wringing and several tearful cuts, I’ve reduced my list.  I still get teary thinking of all the great setting I left on the cutting room floor.  *Just give me a sec.*  Okay, I’m okay now.

Brian Staveley - The Emperor's Blades10.  ANCIENT CHINA

Lots of amazing fantasy books have used some period of ancient China as their historical inspiration for a new fantasy world.   Brian Staveley’s Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne is my favorite of the moment, but one I’m eagerly look forward to reading is The Grace of Kings  by Ken Liu.

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Worldwar-in-the-balance-Harry-Turtledove9. World War I and II 

Okay, okay, when I say the World War periods of history I’m not talking about “real” history, but rather WW I and II as the backdrop or inspiration for speculative fiction stories.  And if I limit my picks to these type of novels, then I need go no further than Harry Turtledove.  Whether you’d prefer scifi WW II such as his Worldwar series, a more fantasy take on WW II like Darkness, straight forward alternate history WW II like Joe Steele, or the Civil War flavored WW I Great War, you need look no further than Mr. Turtledove.

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promise of blood8. 18th – 19th CENTURY

Flintlock fantasy.  This is a genre which has been around for a while under different monikers, but it has garnered a lot of attention and new entries into its ranks in the last few years.  Personally, I love the old classics like The Three Musketeers and Soloman Kane just as much as the darlings of the moment such as Powder Mage and The Shadow Campaigns, because what they all have in common is great stories and an amazing setting to romp through.

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The remnant of the Roman Empire which survived the barbarian invasions and held onto power for hundreds of years after western Europe succumbed was centered upon Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and is referred to as the Byzantine Empire.  While having much in common with its Roman ancestor, it was a different creature entirely, beset by enemies on all sides, and reading about it is always a pleasure.  Just wish there were more stories using this period as a setting or as inspiration for a speculative fiction world.  My favorite has always been Harry Turtledove’s Videssos books.

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half a king6. VIKINGS

There are so many examples of speculative fiction Nordic stories that I would be hard-pressed to list them all.  Vikings literally have become a fantasy trope.  But while that may sound like a criticism of the people and their culture, it isn’t meant to be.  Rather, they are so beloved that many fantasy writers have taken decided to basis the whole story around these fascinating people and their culture.  Lord Grimdark himself in Shattered Sea is one such writer. And I myself applaud his decision to do so — even if I had some reservations about the story itself.

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Gideon Smith and the mechanical girl5. VICTORIAN ENGLAND

I have to admit that when I think of Victorian England I think of old classics like DraculaFrankenstein, and Sherlock Holmes as much as I do newer series such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Gideon Smith.  I also know there are numerous examples of steampunk classics which use Victorian England as a setting, but since I’m a newbie to the steampunk scene, I don’t feel qualified to speak of those books.  What I can say very loudly, however, is that I love reading about this amazing time and place.

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I realize “middle eastern setting” is a pretty broad category; ancient Egypt to modern Arabic nations can be easily encompassed in it.  I wish I could narrow it down, but I really love them all.  For instance, though I had issues with the plot and pacing of Throne of the Crescent Moon I loved the setting, which is very reminiscent of Caliphate Baghdad circa 800-1100 A.D..  Jon Sprunk’s The Book of the Black Earth is another fantasy series set in a very similar time period.  Another favorite of mine is A Fortress in Shadow from Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series.  The list could go on and on.

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This is a historical setting which I really haven’t read to many books about.  I know that sounds strange, but after examining my bookshelf, not many series jumped out at me as inspired by ancient Greece.  I mean, there has to be tons of books that have mined this era or used it as inspiration for a new speculative world, right?  Maybe, there are, but I haven’t read them, I suppose.  In fact, the only two series on my bookshelf which are firmly set in this period are Pearseus: a scifi retelling of ancient Greek history and Sabazel: a fantasy take on Alexander the Great and his successors.  And that is a shame, because this is a historical setting I’d love to read about more in speculative fiction.

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shards of heaven2. ANCIENT ROME

Probably this pick comes as no surprise, because if I love stories set in worlds inspired by the Byzantine Empire, then I, undoubtedly, will also want to read those modeled after Rome herself.  And, thankfully, I always have a lot of alternate history and fantasy books to pick from.  Whether it be Michael Livingston’s recent fantasy take on the late Roman Republic (The Shards of Heaven) or Oath of Empire series from the late 90s, ancient Rome is well used as a historical setting.  Now, I have to get up the courage to read Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera with its Roman-like setting and pokemon-inspired creatures.  Uh, it might take me a while to get up the nerve to try that one.

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lord of the rings1. MEDIEVAL EUROPE

I know it sounds horribly old-fashioned of me, terribly un-progressive, and annoyingly narrow-minded to some of you, but the medieval setting as portrayed by J.R.R. Tolkien in his masterpiece is still my favorite historical setting to read about.  I don’t know why that is.  Perhaps, it is a case of first love.  Maybe, I feel comfortable there.  Perhaps I’m too lazy and do not wish to be challenged by the setting.  Whatever the true reason though, medieval villages and kingly castles still work wonderfully for me personally.  I mean, Game of Thrones is a smash television series set in a very medieval looking setting isn’t it?    Guess people really aren’t tired of the setting yet.

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9 Responses to TOP TEN TUESDAY

  1. Ancient Rome, Greece, and Asia would be at the top of list. I actually didn’t know I was a fan of the 18th-19th Century. I was originally very hesitant to pick up Promise of Blood, because I didn’t think I would like that setting – I tuned out to be wrong XD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ancient Egypt works for me! But I also enjoy other places in the Ancient World. If the book is good, I don’t care where it’s set LOL. Great post!

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  3. Tolkien is indeed a case of first love and of feeling comfortable in his world(s), and I don’t believe there is anything narrow-minded in our appreciation of his work. I fell for LOTR in my late teens, and I’m still a happy visitor to Middle Earth a few decades later… 🙂

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  4. @lynnsbooks says:

    Some great books on here. You’re right – loads of settings in London over the ages! All the Tudor books as well of course. Plus Steampunk and Gaslight really lend themselves to the dark Victorian streets.
    I absolutely loved Shards of Heaven and Grace of Kings – can’t wait for more from both.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love, love love Ancient Rome. Especially when it’s featured in books like The Shards of Heaven, where actual historical figures, places, and events are used, not just “inspired by”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A fine selection indeed – and thank you so much for including Pearseus here! I’ve been flirting with the idea of basing a new novel on the Byzantine Empire, as I’m fascinated by its unique mixture of Eastern theocracy and Greek science-based reasoning.

    Liked by 1 person

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