I'm writing a trilogy set 80% in Italy and 20% in other European countries. Each novel incorporates real historical characters and fantasy elements (a magical object, real/imagined symbols, clairsentience/audience, etc.). Each novel takes place a few decades apart from the previous one.

Does anyone have a definition for historical fantasy? Or examples of novels or trilogies that would defined as historical fantasy? I'm particularly interested in any examples that DO NOT include romance.

Interestingly enough, a number of agents/editors have asked me why I don't want to include romance because it would have a better chance of being sold, but romance doesn't appeal to me, either writing about or reading it so it doesn't make sense to make it part of the story.

Have others experienced this?

Lastly, one editor asked me to defined how much of my novel is historical and how much is fantasy. I pitched him at a conference because he favored historical novels, but I didn't think the fantasy part would be such a big deal.

Has anyone else been asked this question?

  • 1
    I will slightly paraphrase DWSmith here, but when agents/editors start giving you advice about what to write, run away screaming. Especially when they want you to write stuff you don't like. Mar 3, 2013 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


There is no standard definition. And not just for historical fantasy. Give me a definition, and I will show you a best selling book that doesn't follow it.

If your book has both historical and fantasy elements, you can market it as historical fantasy. If you think this will hurt your chances, feel free to emphasise either the historical part or the fantasy part, when talking to editors who are interested in one, but not the other.

Have you read any blog by DWSmith, or his wife Kris Rusch? When editors or agents want to reject books for business or other reasons, they will often try to "help" the author by giving them suggestions, of the type you got. ("Add romance to your book, and it may sell"). So never pay much attention to rejection reasons, as they might not be the truth at all.

Editors may want you to change your work a little, to make the story tighter, to remove unnecessary sub-plots etc. But in your case, it seems they want to change your book completely, to what suits them at this time(at least that is what it looks to me. I maybe wrong). My advice is, continue shopping your manuscript, you may find an editor who loves your book as it is, without adding the latest fad( vampire-zombie-romance) to it.

And if you can't sell it after a year or two, seriously consider self publishing.

  • I suppose a vampire/zombie romance is the logical conclusion of the current fashions. I'm not sure how a vampire (who has to suck the blood of the living) and an undead zombie could have a romance, but let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Mar 3, 2013 at 12:48
  • @LaurenIpsum , are you giving me ideas? Cause I'll do it.... :) Mar 3, 2013 at 16:58
  • Go nuts! If it's good, I'll read it. :) Actually, in the right hands, that could be a fascinating story. Mar 3, 2013 at 19:35
  • Thanks, Shantu. Good suggestions. I will look into the blogs you mention because I've not heard of them before. I attended a conference last year, and the 30 agents/editors that spoke during a panel about what they were looking for. All of them said that the zombie/vampire thing is over and that they have about 2 years worth of stuff in the queue and don't need any more. As for self-publishing, that's definitely a priority if I don't get any serious bites this year. Mar 4, 2013 at 19:26

I would say Mercedes Lackey's Shadow of the Lion and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell would both qualify as "historical fantasy." The latter has relationships, but I wouldn't call them "romance."

Actually, Lackey's entire Elemental Masters series could be historical fantasy. Again, there are pairings, but whether you'd call them "romances" is up to the marketing department. I wouldn't.


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