Library Haul Must-Reads
I went to the library recently to get some inspiration for some historical fiction titles. I was amazed by how many great historical fiction titles were actually on the shelves! It was also a great way to test out these reads before buying. That was really the whole aim of going to the library — to test out some popular reads to see if I liked them enough to buy them, and also to find new titles that don’t get as much publicity as others.
Skin by Ilka Tampke
This is by far my favourite out of all the books I borrowed. Skin follows young Ailia in the year 49AD in Britain before the invasion of the Romans. What I love most is the blend of mythology into history. The Norse mythology of the deluge, of those that escaped the floods by transforming into salmon, is fairly represented here and even said in a way that pays reverence to our ancestors. That’s why I loved it so much — it’s mythology done right.
I would definitely pick this one up if you want to learn more about ancient Brythonic/Norse history, mythology, and also want to be taken on an immersive journey. The dialogue, descriptions and characterisation is on point. I couldn’t believe how well written this one was because I’d never seen it before online or on any bookstagram account.
Now is the Time by Melvyn Bragg
This read is so interesting and laid out in a dynamic way. The Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 is the most underrated revolt in history. What happened was peasants mainly from southern England rose up against the King due to mounting taxes, unfair tithes and general disallusionment with the system. They marched into London, sacked the city, and as a result, upset the whole power structure. Can you imagine that?! In medieval England, where all they had ever known was a feudal system.
The book introduces all the major players, and their background, in the first few chapters of the book — each titled with their position. Then, Bragg goes on to each important location in the inevitable battle. The whole time it feels like a countdown.
I didn’t once get bored with the pace of this book, and everything was revealed at the perfect time in the perfect way. If you love medieval history, you’ll really enjoy this thrilling read.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
This was a read I’ve wanted to get into for months and months, and finally I had the chance to have a taste of it. The Girl in the Tower is more like a fairytale — spinning a tale about a young Russian woman who has to choose between death and a convent, or fleeing to extravagant Moscow. This book is part of the Winternight Triology, but you don’t have to read them in order to understand the story, which I kind of like.
What I really liked about Arden’s writing style was the magic that she weaves throughout the story. You really feel like you’re right there in a Russian winter, completely immersed in the characters and the story as it unfurls. She really knows how to capture magic and spontaneity. After reading the first few chapters of this one I think I would start with the first book in the series and work my way through.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
I absolutely love when an author is able to portray a local legend so well. The Essex Serpent is based on a real phenomena that occurred during the 1600s. Since medieval times, there had been a legend of a water dragon or serpent in the river that flows through Essex. Pamphlets were handed out about it and some eye witnesses had reported to have seen it take people into the depths of the water.
Perry takes a different approach and has the protagonist, Cora, attempt to uncover the mysteries of the serpent after a few reappearances in Victorian England. She’s really able to capture the beauty of Victorian England, and the historical accuracies. The language is a bit archaic and can be difficult to read, but if you liked The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock then you’ll love it!
I hope this inspired your TBR list for April. Let me know in the comments below if you’re going to start reading one of these this month.