The fraternal twin sister to the doorstopper fantasy novel is the doorstopper historical fiction novel; it’s a matter of setting and scope, I think. When either one is executed well, there’s a similar sense of immersion and escapism that can be downright comforting. So I’d thought we’d look at two doorstopper historical fiction novels on my reading list—both of which are set on the British Isles.
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Dunnett introduces her irresistible hero Francis Crawford of Lymond, a scapegrace nobleman of elastic morals and dangerous talents whose tongue is as sharp as his rapier. In 1547 Lymond is returning to his native Scotland, which is threatened by an English invasion. Accused of treason, Lymond leads a band of outlaws in a desperate race to redeem his reputation and save his land.
Dorothy Dunnett… the historical fiction writer whose thoroughly rewarding novels take weeks to finish. (I say this lovingly and on the basis of having read one of her books, King Hereafter.) Dunnett’s The Lymond Chronicles are well respected, and I would like to have a historical fiction series to check in with every once in a while.
Author Linda Gillard, writing for Rhapsody in Books, adores this entire series and notes that Francis was once voted “The Greatest Romantic Hero of All Time”, beating out Darcy, Rochester, and Heathcliff. Yati at half-real worlds of paper and ink also adored it, but notes that’s challenging, dense, and not all that accessible—but it’s also amazing.
The Game of Kings was published in 1961.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
As a new age dawns in England’s twelfth century, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral sets the stage for a story of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal.
Teresa at Shelf Love was not impressed; while she thought it was a good story, she found the characters one-note and the novel unnecessarily long. Eva at A Striped Armchair, however, found the characters so human she identified with them thoroughly (except William. I gather I am going to hate William).
The Pillars of the Earth was published in 1989.