medieval times -- fiction
As K.M. Grant’s Blood Red Horse opens, young Will has just been dunked in a horse trough by his blustering brother Gavin—though he gave him a bloody nose in return. But Gavin’s teasing doesn’t keep Will from wanting a Great Horse—one that he can ride into battle when he’s a knight like his brother.
Sisters Maria and Giovanna are the daughters of one of Venice’s leading makers of artisan glass. They have trained to do certain tasks to help keep the business prosperous after their beloved father’s death. But a provision in his will demands that Maria—who wants nothing more than to help create beautiful things—must be married off to a nobleman while her gorgeous, sweet sister will have no such opportunity.
There are graphic novels that literally paint then print images onto the page. The Brother Athelstan books are another kind of graphic novel. They have a very visual feel to them, only it’s done with words. Some medieval mysteries are as stuffy as a centuries-old cupboard. P.C. Doherty’s The Nightingale Gallery isn’t like that. Its characters breathe and move and love and murder with a striking vivacity.
As Cecilia Holland’s historical romance Great Maria opens, our young and pretty heroine is doing what any well-bred medieval girl might be about on a blustery afternoon: visiting a religious shrine some miles from home and contemplating a life in the convent. Guarded as she is by a handful of her father’s knights, she cannot help noticing that one of them is extremely young and handsome... and that he has noticed her. But when a sudden vicious attack leaves her in dire peril, it is an older knight with cool gray eyes who defends her and brings her back to her father’s castle.
In 1972, Richard Adams’ classic fantasy novel Watership Down was first published. This exciting adventure follows the travels of a group of rabbits seeking a new home after the destruction of their warren. Evocatively written and imaginatively plotted, this novel excelled in portraying the world we humans perceive as mundane as a place filled with danger and mystery, and also excelled in its depiction of the primitive religion and folklore the rabbits created to explain the natural environment. After I finished reading Watership Down a couple of months ago, I searched for a similar fantasy told from the perspective of animals, but finding a novel of its caliber proved difficult. Many of the other animal-centered fantasy stories I found were either too deliberately whimsical or too childish to live up to Adams’ novel. Eventually I found David Clement-Davies’ Fire Bringer and decided to give it a try based on the recommendation by Adams on the back cover. Filled with adventure, suspense, and gripping depictions of the natural world, this novel lived up to my lofty expectations.
Peter Dickinson’s The Tears of the Salamander begins with a simple gift and ends with a magical legacy. When his seldom-seen, rich Uncle Giorgio gives young Alfredo a strange present on his name day, his parents aren’t sure they want him to have it. The golden chain doesn’t have the expected cross on it—from it dangles the golden image of a strange animal—a little lizard with splayed feet and other peculiar features. Alfredo’s older brother is very jealous. He sees nothing special in Alfredo. Sure, he can sing like an angel, but that’s not much use to a baker’s boy, is it?
The local priests see Alfredo’s gift differently. They want him in their boys’ choir, and he is happy to be there for he loves to sing—but he also loves baking and hopes to follow his father into the trade. When catastrophe strikes leaving Alfredo alone and friendless, the priests urge him to join the choir permanently, and he would have done so even though it would have meant giving up a normal life. But just at the crucial moment, his Uncle Giorgio comes to take him away to reclaim his birthright—the birthright his father refused by choosing instead to become a simple village baker.