Anne of Green Gables was another that I read so often that I can still remember the entire plot and even a few sentences, though I now haven’t read it in years. I read hardly any of the following books, something I’ve always regretted and intend to remedy someday. Anne remains one of my favorite literary characters.
My last childhood hurrah was really Princess Nevermore by Dian Curtis Regan; it wasn’t historical, but part of the fantasy world was based on medieval history. The coming of age and falling in love of a young princess spoke eloquently to my twelve year old self. I’ve reread this one and it held up surprisingly well, as did its newer sequel.
As a teenager, I first discovered romance novels, as I think many teenage girls do; of course, I stuck to the historical ones and I do to this day. My favorite at the time was Prince Charming by Gaelen Foley; it’s in a made up country, but that just meant Foley could mash together all the good bits and leave out the bad ones. And I loved the idea of an aristocratic girl bandit.
When I was in high school, a few friends introduced me to epic fantasy novels, which weren’t a hard sell with me. I love big sweeping worlds and storylines that feel truly epic. My favorite series is by George R.R. Martin. It’s not finished yet, possibly not even close, but no other series has equaled the adoration I felt towards his first three of the Song of Ice and Fire series. They’re dark, gritty, and based very loosely on the Wars of the Roses. What’s not to love?
My other big favorite fantasy series that I discovered at the time was Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel trilogy. Not only did the series feel beautifully epic, but it featured an absolutely fantastic love story between Phedre and Joscelin, the latter of which is another of my favorite characters ever. I’ve also managed to reread this and loved it equally the second time; Carey has written plenty more since then but not much can stack up to the original for me.
My last big discovery in high school was Stephen King. I was afraid of everything as a child so I never expected to like scary books, but along came a paper in junior year where I decided to read and analyze Carrie and It. It in particular just blew me away. I thought it was unbelievably fantastic; it again had that epic feel and was just creepy enough to keep me up at night.
As an adult, I fell in love with history. Looking back, I see echoes of that everywhere. My favorite fantasy series, mentioned above, are based on medieval Europe, and all of my childhood favorites have historical elements to them. Somehow I never put the pieces together, until I managed to read Sharon Kay Penman at the same time as having a fascinating history class at college. The Sunne in Splendour is a landmark for me; I may not agree with Penman’s interpretation of history any longer, but I can’t deny that it is a powerful, moving, and beautifully written book. She’s absolutely one of my favorite authors.
The most recent addition to my absolute favorites list isn’t precisely a historical novel, but still has echoes of it. It’s The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, about a reserved butler who struggles to face his past. It’s a beautiful story of old and new England, of a man who isn’t sure who he is anymore and can’t face who he was. Since I had no idea what to expect, I was just blown away. Ishiguro has become one of my favorite authors for his gorgeous writing and his slow, quiet reveals.
I have many more books I could add to this list, but I’ll leave it here for now or you’ll be here all day!