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Historical Fiction: Before the 17th Century

This reading list features books set in a time before the 17th century, including Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Elizabethan England and more!

Think goblets, warriors, prophesies, intrigue and all that fun stuff for you to explore.

A Sweet Disorder by Jacqueline Kolosov

At Queen Elizabeth's court, 16-year-old Miranda soon learns that a large part of her survival will depend on her knowing who to trust. When she distinguishes herself from the rest of the maidens at Court with her exquisite sewing and embroidery skills, Miranda is given the ultimate test to win Queen Elizabeth's favor --- to recreate Ann Boleyn's coronation gown. This could be Miranda's opportunity to escape marriage to the insufferable Lord Seagrave and establish an independent life at Court. But will she be able to reunite with Henry Raleigh, the man she has always loved?

Babylonne by Catherine Jinks

Early 13th-century Languedoc is a place of valor, violence, and persecution. At age 16, Babylonne is tough, resourceful, and desperate to escape her arranged marriage to a senile old man devised by her strict aunt and abusive grandmother. Babylonne escapes disguised as a boy and embarks on an action-packed adventure that amounts to one choice: trust the mysterious Catholic priest who says he's a friend of her dead father, Pagan, or pursue her fairy-tale version of her future, one in which she will likely fight and die in a vicious war with the French.

Blood Secret by Kathryn Lasky

When Jerry Moon is sent to live with her great-great-aunt, she discovers a trunk in the basement that reveals dark mysteries about her family's ancestry. Newbery Honor author Kathryn Lasky brings a dramatic and rarely-portrayed period of history to life in this powerful coming-of-age tale that weaves together the Spanish Inquisition, Jewish belief, and a girl learning to understand her past.

Changeling: Order of Darkness, Book One by Philippa Gregory

Despite religious vows and despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Following the deaths of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, but only two --- the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander --- survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Selene has grown up in a palace on the Nile with her parents, Cleopatra and Mark Antony --- the most brilliant, powerful rulers on earth. But the jealous Roman Emperor Octavianus wants Egypt for himself, and when war finally comes, Selene faces the loss of all she's ever loved. Forced to build a new life in Octavianus's household in Rome, she finds herself torn between two young men and two possible destinies --- until she reaches out to claim her own.

Crossing to Paradise by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Gatty works in the fields of a quiet English manor and has never seen much of the world nor done much of anything. But all that changes as Gatty journeys with Lady Gwyneth and a prickly new family of pilgrims across Europe to the Holy Land. Nine of them will begin the quest. Not all of them will reach Jerusalem. And Gatty's life will be forever transformed by not just her adventure, its music and miracles, but the glimmering hope of another paradise she discovers along the way.

Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

Paula and her merchant father embark on a trading voyage to Istanbul to purchase a most rare artifact --- a gift from the ancient goddess, Cybele, to her followers. But no sooner have they arrived when it becomes clear they may be playing at a dangerous game. A colleague and friend of Paula’s father is found murdered. There are rumors of Cybele’s cult reviving within the very walls of Istanbul. And most telling of all, signs have begun to appear to Paula, urging her to unlock Cybele’s secret. Meanwhile Paula struggles to determine who she can trust in Istanbul and finds herself drawn to two very different men. As time begins to run out, Paula realizes they may all be tied up in the destiny of Cybele’s Gift, and she must solve the puzzle before unknown but deadly enemies catch up to her.

Destiny's Path: Warrior Princess, Book Two by Frewin Jones

Branwen refuses to take orders from anyone, even the Shining Ones, the ancient gods whose power is feared throughout the land. They want her to be their Chosen One, destined to save her country from the Saxons. However, Branwen doubts she's ready to be a leader. Then a messager from the skies shows her a vision of a bleak and violent future in which Branwen has abandoned her destiny and those most dear to her suffer unspeakable horrors. The Shining Ones have spoken. Will Branwen answer their call?

Enter Three Witches by Caroline B. Cooney

Three girls witness the action of Shakespeares' play MACBETH firsthand, and their lives are forever changed because of it. When Lady Mary's father, Lord Cawdor, betrays the Scottish king and is hanged as a traitor, Mary has lost both her father and her future. She becomes a ward of Lord and Lady Macbeth, a power-hungry couple who will do anything to get what they want and are willing to crush anyone in their way...including Mary. But can a lone girl save lives when a legion of Scottish lords cannot?

Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull

In 1655, newly independent Will travels from the countryside to London to earn a living after being cast out by his father for becoming a Quaker. Will waits patiently to be reunited with his beloved Susanna and finally be married. But when Will is thrown into jail for his beliefs and the plague spreads closer, can their love still bring them together despite the most terrifying twists of fate?

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels and elegant parties. But court is also full of secrets, lies and sordid affairs. As Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1 by Robin LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain. But when she learns the god of Death Himself has chosen her for a special task, she realizes that a second life for her may spell the end for others.

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

Melkorka, an Irish princess, has her life turned upside down the day she is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Choosing to take a vow of silence, Melkorka becomes an object of fascination to her captors. And then she realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference.

In the Shadow of the Ark by Anne Provoost

Re Jana and her family are driven from the marshes that were their homeland by rising waters and follow other fleeing refugees towards the desert. There, a boat of unprecedented proportions is being constructed to save a select few from the coming flood that will drown out the rest of humanity.And as the rain shows no sign of subsiding, Re Jana falls in love with the builder's son, presenting her with an opportunity to save her family --- but in the end, she will have to act to save herself.

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Estrella is one of a community of Spanish Jews living double lives as Catholics. She is living in a house of secrets, raised by a family who practices underground the ancient and mysterious Kabbalah. When Estrella discovers her family’s true identity, she confronts a world she’s never imagined, where new love burns and where friendship ends in flame and ash, where trust is all by vanquished and betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences.

Ithaka by Adèle Geras

Many years have passed since the end of the Trojan War, and Penelope is still waiting for her husband, Odysseus, to return home. The city of Ithaka is overrun with uncouth suitors hoping to marry her, thereby gaining control of the land. But when a naked, half-drowned man washes up on the beach, everything changes. Told through the eyes of Klymene, a young girl who is like a daughter to Penelope, this is a timeless story of passion, jealousy, gods, and royalty in the aftermath of war.

Kleopatra by Karen Essex

Since childhood, Kleopatra has demonstrated the charisma and intelligence that will ensure her destiny --- and make her the target of her jealous sibling's betrayal. At just 12 years old, she casts off her childhood and accepts the terms of her rightful ascent to power. Now, she readies herself for her most royal challenge yet: to reclaim her throne by forming an alliance with the renowned Julius Caesar-using her most seductive gifts at hand.

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

Determined to protect her small son and a proud legacy of warrior kings and strong women, Rue invokes the ancient wisdom and secret practices of her female ancestors as she strives to hold her own in a warrior society. Finally, side by side as the last Celtic king and queen of Scotland, she and Macbeth must face the gathering storm brought on by their combined destiny.

Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey by Ann Rinaldi

Jane would become Queen of England for only nine days before being beheaded at the age of sixteen. Here is a breathtaking story of English royalty with its pageantry, privilege, and surprising cruelty. As she did in her previous novel Mutiny's Daughter, Ms. Rinaldi uses powerful, evocative writing to bring to life a teenage girl caught in the grip of stirring times.

Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner

She is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favorite goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the gods—or her looks—to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude.

Pagan in Exile by Catherine Jinks

The year is 1188, and Jerusalem is in the hands of the Infidel. Upstanding Crusaders and their squires are returning to Europe, hoping to rally more knights to their cause. Meanwhile, local unrest is brewing. Church authorities are duking it out with the de Brams over a group of "heretics" living nearby. And now Pagan and Roland, sworn to defend Christianity, are left to decide for themselves whom to stand by-and whom to trust.

Pagan's Scribe by Catherine Jinks

The year is 1209, and papal forces from the north are driving their bloody crusade against the Cathar heretics to Carcassonne. With the battle lines inching ever closer, the world of Father Pagan, Lord Roland, and Roland's mysterious brother grows more real to Isidore --- and more terrifying --- by the day. The last of four books in an acclaimed series, PAGAN'S SCRIBE casts the worldly, wise-cracking Pagan in an unexpected role as friend and mentor to a young soul in need.

Pagan's Vows by Catherine Jinks

While the emotionally wrecked Roland tries to find peace in monastic life, the humility and blind obedience required of all novices do not come easily to the worldly Pagan — especially when he learns that the monastery is riddled with deceit and corruption. Someone is stealing alms, and Pagan is determined to find out who. But the truth may come at a price, one that could force him to reconsider his pious role — and his dedication to Roland.

Redemption by Julie Chibbaro

Lily's father was kidnapped one night by the baron's men and was forced to become part of a colony in the New World. Now Lily and her mother's one chance for freedom is to take passage on the next ship to the New World. Their harrowing voyage reveals painful secrets that strip Lily of her innocence. But it also gains her a friend, a boy named Ethan, son to none other than the baron himself.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

The year is 490 A.D. and 16-year-old Elaine has a temperament to match her fiery red hair. Living on a military base with her father, brothers, and the rest of Arthur's army, Elaine pines for the handsome Lancelot, and longs for a female friend. But when the cruel, beautiful Gwynivere arrives, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry.

Tersias: The Oracle by G. P. Taylor

London is picking up the pieces after a near-Apocalypse—a comet has just missed the Earth, leaving the city in chaos. In this time of uncertainty, only the blind boy oracle,Tersias, can see what the future holds. But awareness of his power is growing, and he is captured by Solomon, a false prophet whose purple-robed minions swarm London, looking for disciples.

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

In 1559, a young woman painter flees a scandal involving one of Michelangelo's students, and is taken to the Spanish court, where she becomes the young queen's confidante and lady-in-waiting. Through her keenly trained eye, readers watch a love triangle unfold involving the queen, the king, and his half brother-a dangerous gamble that risks the lives of the queen and all those who keep her secrets.

The Cup and the Crown by Diane Stanley

Night after night, Molly has visions of a beautiful goblet: one of her grandfather's loving cups, which he filled with magic that bound people together. So it hardly surprises Molly when handsome King Alaric asks her to find a loving cup to help him win the heart of the beautiful Princess of Cortova

The Lacey Chronicles #1: The Other Countess by Eve Edwards

William Lacey has inherited his father’s title, but also his financial ruin. Now he must seek a wealthy bride and restore his family’s fortune. If only he hadn't fallen for the beautiful but penniless Ellie…

The Lacey Chronicles #2: The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards

Though he has won Jane’s heart, James has other obligations. He is about to set sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as his past sins. His plans might be cut short, however, when Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family and only he can save her.

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel

Auel continues the story of Ayla and Jondalar and their little daughter Jonayla. Now, Ayla is pursuing the fascinating knowledge and power of the Zelandoni, lead by the charismatic First Among Those Who Served the Mother of the Zelandoni of the Ninth Cave.

The Lost Voyage of John Cabot by Henry Garfield

1498. Sebastian Cabot's famous father has abandoned him at home in Bristol, England, but has taken the boy's older and younger brothers, Ludovico and Sancio, on his second voyage in search of the Asian mainland. Letters to the boy from fourteen-year-old Sancio tell of a fearsome storm and its aftermath. They, and the surprising climax to Sebastian's and Sancio's shared story, make for unforgettable voyaging.

The Plague by Joanne Dahme

In a land overshadowed by death, fifteen year-old Nell’s uncanny resemblance to Princess Joan brings her to act as her double—what young girl wouldn’t want to leave a life of poverty and pretend to be a princess? But when the plague catches up to the royal entourage, thwarting the King’s plan for the princess to marry the Prince of Castile and seal an alliance between their kingdoms, Nell’s life could change forever.

The Red Queen's Daughter by Jacqueline Kolosov

Orphaned as a young girl because of the imprudent marriage of her mother, Queen Katherine Parr, Mary Seymour vows never to fall in love—and under no circumstances will she marry. Lady Strange, her mysterious guardian, offers the young woman an extraordinary alternative to marriage: Mary is to become a white magician who will join Queen Elizabeth’s court and ensure the success of the Virgin Queen’s reign.

The Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi

Growing up, Elizabeth fears she can never be Queen. Although she is the King's daughter, no woman can ever hope to rule over men in England, especially when her mother has been executed for treason. With her position constantly changing, the Princess must navigate a sea of shifting loyalties and dangerous affections.

The Seer and the Scribe: Spear of Destiny: A Medieval Murder Mystery by G. M. Dyrek

Nine hundred years ago in medieval Germany, Hildegard of Bingen was born with the remarkable ability to see beyond this earthly realm. Hildegard's vision helps her witness the vicious murder of a monk on the hallowed grounds of the monastery at Disibodenberg. Soon, she and her scribe, Volmar, are cast into a web of violence and intrigue spawned by the greed of power-hungry noblemen, deceitful clerics, and the ambitions of a secret society sworn to protect the warriors of the Crusades...

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

Elisabetta longs for romance, though she thinks she is too plain. Then, on a fateful visit to glittering Florence, she catches the eye of the great Leonardo da Vinci, and falls for a boy named Giuliano de’ Medici. It is a dangerous time to be—or be involved with—a Medici. As tragedy and chaos threaten their happiness, Elisabetta faces the bittersweet truth of love.

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. Cecily will  be the lady of the house where Gwenhwyfar waits hand and foot on her. While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive.

The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyer

Mary Stuart struggled most of her life. She was sent to France at the age of five only to be abandoned when her future husband died. She returned to Scotland, became entangled in an unhappy marriage and a murder scandal, and had to keep a watchful eye on Elizabeth I, Queen of England. It was all of these things that Mary had to fight to keep alive, especially Elizabeth, who would kill anyone who threatened her place on the throne.

Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks

Two tiger cub brothers are torn from the jungle and taken to Rome. The stronger cub is trained as a killer at the Coliseum. Emperor Caesar makes a gift of the smaller cub to his beautiful daughter, Aurelia. Boots is pampered while his brother, known as Brute, lives in a cold and dark cage, let out only to kill.

Troy by Adèle Geras

The siege of Troy has lasted almost ten years. Inside the walled city, food is scarce and death is common. From the heights of Mount Olympus, the Gods keep watch. But Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, is bored with the endless, dreary war. Aided by Eros's bow, the goddess sends two sisters down a bloody path to an awful truth: In the fury of war, love strikes the deadliest blows.
 

Warrior Girl: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Pauline Chandler

 

A war-torn country waiting for a hero
An ebony box holding the key to a young orphan's life
A determined young woman who hears voices promising that she will save her beloved France
And another with no voice to say that her future is in peril

For centuries, Joan of Arc's legendary journey has spoken to readers' sense of adventure. Pauline Chandler's riveting novel delivers the tale with astonishing freshness and unflinching truth.

Warrior Princess by Frewin Jones

It takes just a moment for fifteen-year-old Branwen's life to change forever. In the blink of an eye the Saxons attack and her brother is killed. Almost as quickly, she is sent away from her home to a neighboring stronghold where she'll be safe from harm. Now Branwen lives as a princess should—surrounded by exquisite things and lavish quarters. But deep down remains the soul of a warrior.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

When Jena's father falls ill, she and her five sisters must welcome cousin Cezar into their home in Transylvanian woods. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love.

The King's Arrow by Michael Cadnum

Simon, the eighteen year old son of a Norman nobleman and an English aristocrat, finds himself eager to find a life in a divided kingdom. He is offered the chance to accompany the king on a royal hunt, but the hunt goes fatally wrong, and in the aftermath Simon finds himself fleeing for his life, and forced to make choices that will forever alter his own expectations--and the hopes of the land he loves.
 

The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel

Ayla and Jondalar complete their epic journey across Europe and are greeted by Jondalar’s people: the Zelandonii. But as Ayla and Jondalar prepare for the formal mating at the Summer Meeting, there are difficulties. Not all the Zelandonii are welcoming. Ayla has to call on all her skills, intelligence, knowledge, and instincts to find her way in this complicated society.

Under a Stand Still Moon by Ann Howard Creel

On their mesas and plains, an ancient people once built great dwellings and places of worship and for many generations, farmed, hunted, traded and worshipped the mighty gods.  This is the story of Echo, born in a lucky month when the moon stood still.

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