Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors

Written by Debra Brown (ed.) M. M. Bennetts (ed.)
Review by Helen Hollick

Covering history from the pre-Roman period to the 20th century, this superb, and hefty,  book is a compilation of intriguing and interesting essays about castles, customs and kings – in addition to queens, princes, battles, historical mysteries and myths originally published as separate articles on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog.

This is not intended as a cover-to-cover read, but the sort of book you can dip into and out of at your leisure. It is an anthology of views and personal ideas written by an impressive array of historical fiction authors who have extensively researched their chosen subjects as background to a library-full of various historical fiction novels. Inevitably there is a small amount of self-plugging with many of the contributions, but there is nothing wrong with that – if you like the essay you will probably like the author’s novel. Some of the contributions are, inevitably, more interesting than others, but as readers of historical fiction that spans many centuries we all have our favourite eras, and therefore favoured reading material.

The editors have managed a herculean task of ensuring the flow of words read well, even when differing views contradict each other, but is that not part of the fun of delving into the facts behind the fiction? The enormity of friendly debate and discussion?

The essays are not stories, but the thoughts of writers who produce stories for us, the reader, to enjoy. Nor are they necessarily “fact” – even though they are not written as fiction. The entries are, however, fascinating and entertaining. The sort of book to browse through at your leisure before the fire on a winter’s night, glass of mulled wine in one hand, a mince pie in the other.

A delight to read and deserving of a place on many a historical fiction lover’s bookshelf.