Saturday, November 5, 2011

Medieval Fiction Backlist

by Dina Sleiman

Today for our regularly scheduled backlist fiction promo, I’m going to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart. As most of you know, just this month I released my own debut novel, which was set in the medieval period. If you missed Inkwell's "Week Of Dina" click here to check it out. While writing Dance of the Dandelion, I read anything medieval I could get my hands on, so this is the perfect topic for me. And because I’m on one of my slightly psychotic writing sprees (come back Wednesday for more on that), I’m going to keep this fairly quick and casual. Especially since there’s only a handful of Christian medieval novels out there, and many of them are by friends of mine. You see there are "trends" in fiction, and medievals are not trendy in the inspirational universe. But that doesn't mean they aren't wonderful books.

Of course medieval novels can fall into a variety of genres, come from a number of countries, and span from about 800 A.D. to about 1400 A.D. Some are nearly in the dark ages and others on the brink of the Renaissance. You may think you don’t like medieval, but guess again. With so many variations, you’re bound to find a few you that please you. For the purpose of this article I haven’t included anything with fantasy elements such as monsters, elves, or dragons. If you like that stuff, there’s plenty out there, but I’ll have to save it for another post.

In Honor Bound ~ By Love Redeemed ~ To Grace Surrendered by DeAnna Julie Dodson
Let me start by saying that I just discovered our own DeAnna Julie Dodson. I’ve only read the first book of her series so far, but it was enough to convince me that she is now my official favorite medieval author. DeAnna’s series takes place in a fantasy kingdom, but otherwise reads like a romantic historical novel. She has all the spiritual and emotional depth I love in a book, along with beautiful writing, great characters, romance, and adventure. These books have recently been rereleased as ebooks and are available for only $2.99 each. (Crossway Books, 1997)

Mark of the Cross by Judith Pella
I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this book. It was the first medieval novel I found after writing mine. And I do love it and recommend it. But I reached a point where I thought, “If one more awful thing happens to this hero, I’m putting the book down.” LOL. Don’t make the mistake I almost did. This novel is well worth reading, a romantic historical full of adventure and depth. Since I was deeply immersed in medieval research when I read it, I did notice a few historical issues I questioned, but they didn’t detract from the novel. This story begins in medieval England but travels to France and the Middle East at the time of the crusades as well, so plenty of excitement and fodder for spiritual growth there. (Bethany House, 2006)

The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
If you like fairytales, you’ll love this YA romance novel. Pretty much all the compliments I gave to the previous two, romantic, spiritual, action-packed, apply to this one as well. If I remember correctly, it takes place in the Bavarian region. And I won’t mention which fairytale pattern it follows, because that would give the ending away. Melanie also has a new book in the same genre releasing later this month. (Zondervan, 2010)

Seasons in the Mist by Deb Kinnard
Like time travel and a focus on the historical elements? Then this is the medieval for you. In this book you travel with a modern American, who happens to speak Middle English, to medieval Cornwall. The story still has ample action and romance, but digs deeper into the history and lifestyle of the period. Season in the Mist is the perfect novel if you would like to better acquaint yourself with the medieval era. (Sheaf House, 2010)

Highland Blessing by Jennifer Hudson Taylor
This one is set in Scotland. It’s a historical romance with lots of highland style adventure. It has some great characters, a kidnapping, and an arranged marriage. And let’s fact it, who can resist a good arranged marriage story. Jennifer’s second book in this series is now available as well. (Abingdon Press, 2010)

In the Arms of the Immortals by Ginger Garrett
Now this one is absolutely nothing like any of the others I mentioned so far in this list. If you enjoy a mix of the beautiful, the bizarre, and the horrible, then you’ll absolutely love this literary supernatural thriller. Location: Italy. Issue: the plague. Yes, this book is full of sickness and death, yet surprisingly beautiful in the language as well as the theme. I can’t say this book will be for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ginger's writing talent left me in awe. (David C. Cook, 2009)

Child of the Mist ~ Wings of Morning ~A Fire Within
I only read the first of this series, but my daughter couldn’t rest until she finished all three. This romantic suspense series is set in Scotland, and it’s plenty of fun. I debated on whether or not to include these book since they are set in the 1500s. But since the Renaissance reached Scotland late, you still get a solid medieval feel. (Revell, 2005)

As of a few months ago, that list covered all the backlist medievals I personally was aware of. I had heard rumor of some very old Angela Hunt books and that the famous Stephen Lawhead had written a few, but didn't know much about them. I recently found a great list with more novels in this period when my book and DeAnna’s were featured in family fiction magazine’s article called “10 Essential Voices in Medieval Fiction.” So here they are. If you’ve read them, please fill us in on the details in the comment section.

Pendragon Cycle ~ The Celtic Crusades ~ Hood ~ Scarlet ~ Tuck by Stephen Lawhead

Waterfall ~ Cascade ~ Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren

Afton of Margate Castle ~ The Troubadors Quest ~Ingram of the Irish by Angela Hunt

Circle of Honor ~ The Promise of Peace by Carol Umberger

Legend of the Emerald Rose by Linda Wichman

Have you read any of these medieval novels? Can you fill in more details on the ones I haven’t read? Do you know of any inspirational medievals I missed? Which of these sounds most appealing to you?

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing has just released. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at


  1. Dina, this is a great list. I loved Healer's Apprentice, and Lisa Bergren's series. Her other series, Begotten, Betrayed, and Beloved are wonderful! (I reviewed them here. I think those are the titles - my brain is tired because I've been doing biology for twelve hours!)

    I have DeAnna's books on my list, and I have Wings of the Morning. I do love medieval books!

    Oh, one of Angela Hunt's Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series is medieval. The Silver Sword. Loved it! That whole series is great and are among my very favorite books.

  2. You know, I actually bought that one but didn't read it yet. Blame the soaring TBR list. I think it's part in modern times and part in medieval, then the other books follow a certain legend through different times in history. Looks interesting. I need to get to it.

  3. Great list! I have read several of them and the rest are now on my reading list. Can't wait!

    Carol Umberger has 4 books (Circle of Honor, The Price of Freedom, The Mark of Salvation and The Promise of Peace). They are set in the 14th century Scotland. Great series!

  4. Awww, thanks for including me, Dina!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed In Honor Bound. You're too sweet!


    I was going to mention Carol Umberger's books, too. They're great. I don't know why more people don't know about them.

    I have read about half of Waterfall and have the rest of the series. So far really great.

    And I'm dying to read Dickerson's, which I also have. I also have Heartless (can't remember the author offhand) which looks more like fantasy, but it looks good. And then there's Dina's wonderful book that I'm dying to read.

    UGH, my TBR pile is taking over my house!! Literally! They had to come work on my internet/phone lines yesterday, and I had to haul THREE THREE-FOOT stacks of books into another room just so they could get to stuff in my office . . . which is already lined with overstuffed bookshelves.

    But I'll never be bored. >:)

  5. Dina, I haven't read the other Angela Hunt series you mentioned. I tried to search for them but so far haven't found them.

    There's another book by Ginger Garrett that is medieval that sounds really good called Wolves Among Us.

    Melanie Dickerson's next book should be out in a few weeks.

  6. I wrote a nice long comment on my Ipod and well, you know the story.

    So I'm back. Excellent list and reviews, Dina. It's not too often an Inky has read as many of the backlist books as you have here.

    Some of these books have been on previous backlists (like the Celtic and England lists) for good reason. They are great books!

    I now have my first Ginger Garrett book in hand, as well as both of Jennifer Hudson Taylor's. Deb Kinnard's has been on my wishlist for far too long. I LOVE Time Travel stories.

    I can't wait to read DeAnna's (Must get all caught up before more Inky books come out!)

    Oh, Suzie - thanks for the reminder that THE MERCHANT'S DAUGHTER will be available soon. Melanie won so many accolades with The Healer's Apprentice!

    And of course, Dina can't put DANCE OF THE DANDELION on backlist because it's not 'old' enough. Her love the period comes through in every detail!

  7. Tammy, make sure to add "Dance of the Dandelion" by Dina Sleiman to your list too ;)

  8. I started reading Heartless. It had a very telling omniscient sort of narrator, and I couldn't get into it. Almost seemed fantasy to the point of fairytale.

  9. Someone tell me more about the Lisa Bergren series. Is it historical or fantasy?

  10. Thanks for the shout out, Dina!!!

    I would say Lisa Bergren's series is definitely historical and not fantasy. Even though it is a time travel, it doesn't have a fantasy feel. Bergren knows her medieval history! She is great.

    And my next one, The Merchant's Daughter, is set in 14th century England and comes out in about two weeks!!! I just got the ARCs and they are so beautiful. I LOVE the cover. :-)

  11. Thanks for including Highland Blessings! I read Melanie Dickerson's when we were in a critique group together.

    And yes, I'm glad Carol Umberger's books are mentioned. I have all of them in that series and only one left to read. I'm also glad to see Kathleen Morgan, she has 2 more in that series.

  12. Oh, cool, Melanie. You might already know that I have a special place in my heart for 14th century England ;)

  13. I guess it's official. I have to check out Carol Umberger. Can someone tell me more about her genre? Suspense, romance, straight historical?

  14. Carol Umberger wrote an historical series set in the 1300's in Scotland and are historical romantic suspense.

  15. Not surprising. Suspense and Scotland seem to go together, don't they.

  16. Great list, Dina. I've read about half of the books (including Melanie's and Jennifer's) and I think I need to read the other half--especially DeAnna's! (I asked for a kindle for Christmas...)

  17. You know you can get a free download of Kindle and Nook (from Amazon and B&N respectively) for your computer.

    I don't have a Kindle, but I get Kindle books. :D

  18. HI Dina,

    Enjoyed your posting...I have several of the books you mentioned in my 'home library'...and have added the rest to my wish list....including your latest masterpiece :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  19. Hi Karen, yes, we have similar taste in books, don't we.

  20. I'm familiar with some of those novels (just started readind Deanna's first one as and when I can usually on a train). I am sad to say that even though I read Carol Umberger's books I didnt like them, there were some serious Historical issues, and they were very biased.

    The problem is that I have found unless a person does some research in can be hard to distinguish fact from Fiction, and one can be misled.
    I did some background research on Carol Umberger's 4th novel, and learned that the 'massacre' of innocent Scottish villagers by Edward II and his evil English henchmen recounted in the Preface never happened.
    Yet if you did not do research you coul easily end up thinking that it had.
    Further, the say in which it was implied that the morally dubious actions on the past of the Scots were acceptable, but the Englosh were condemned for the same things seemed rather like double standards.

    There I go ranting again.

  21. Sorry typos in the last post, that is meant to be
    "The way in which it was implied that morally dubious actions on the part of the Scots were acceptable; but the English were condemned for doing the same things seemed rather like double standards"

  22. Although they are not Christian I adore the Cadfael chronicles. They recount th exploits of a 12th century Benedictine Monk, herbalist, and former Crusader who solves Murders. People here may have heard of them, they are very popular.

    I also enjoyed a novel about the Lollards called 'Glimpses of Truth' which was set in 14th Century England, Italy and elsewhere. Though the way in which the rebellious peasant views were presented as Communist 500 years before Karl Marx seemed a little dubious.

    That time travel one sounds very interesting. I might have to look it up.

  23. I probably should mention that in England the 'Medieval period' technically begins in 410 Ad with the departure of the Roman Legion, and with the Fall of Rome in most of the Rest of Europe. I dont know of may novels from that time though, except about King Arthur.

  24. Anna, you bring up a number of interesting points. One of the hard things about this time period is that there seems to be a lot of discrepancy about the history. For instance some people call from 400s medieval, other people separate the dark ages and the medieval period. I've actually seen all sorts of different dates given for this time period. I also found when I researched that I would find lots of conflicting information. If it seemed reasonably possible, I usually chose the account that served my story best.

    The Cafadel Chronicles sound interesting. When I was immersing myself in this time period I read a lot of secular medieval novels. I found one romance author who was clearly some sort of Christian. Although her books were probably too racy for most Christian readers, the spiritual elements were beautiful. And in medieval romance novels, even in the secular world, most of the sex scenes take place after some sort of arranged or forced marriage unless the heroine is not a noblewoman. Wish I could remember that authors name. I do remember her first name was typically a man's name if that sparks anyone else's memory.

  25. That might be Ellis Peters/Edith Parteger, who was the author of the Cadfael novels. I read that she professed to be some kind of Christian, but I think a lot of her beliefs were rather unorthodox.

    Amongst most of the Medievalists I know the Medieval period begins in the 5th century. We don't like the phrase 'Darrk Ages' because it implies the people at this time were all barbarian savages, which they were not.
    I know some people only count the Middle ages as beginning after 1000AD, but this is not oficially recognised. Again because it implies everyone living before this time was 'uncivilised'.

    The way I was taught c.410-1000 is Early Medieval, 1000-1250/1300 is High Medieval and 1300 and after is Late Medieval.

    The thing I find difficult is to maintain a balanced viewpoint at times, but I di try.
    When I was researching the Scottish wars of Independance I found I had to look at both English and Scottish sources, and really examine the political background to see the bigger picture.
    That was why I disliked the strongly biased perspective of Carol Umberger's novels.

    History is very complicated and things are rarely 'black and white'. The more I an getting into History the more I begin to realise and appreciation of the unpredictabilty and capriociousness of human nature is essential.

  26. Yes, I've seen the medieval period broken into those categories too. So true about history.

  27. I remember I read parts of Judith Pella's 'mark of the Cross' once to see what it was like but decided not to read the whole thing.

    I did think the idea of 13th century people not raising any objection to a woman having and affair with her brother-in-law and having a child by him, then the King allowing that child born outside wedlock to succeed to the estates and titles of his Grandfather seemed a little implausible. Especially as the child's father was also illigitimate, I do not think it would be allowed

    Was that one of the Historical issues you were referring to?

    Mainly though I thought the 'repentance' of the main characters seemed a little fake.

    Sorry, perhaps I am a bit too fussy with these things. All the best to you.

  28. You're right. That wouldn't have been allowed. Also, as far as I can tell, there were no side saddles at the time, and there's a big issue made over the heroine refusing to use one.

  29. In response to the second part of Anna's comment, I don't recall feeling like anything was fake. I do remember that I enjoyed how some of it was set in some sort of monastery in the Holy Land. I also, I confess, liked that they fell into temptation at some point. I like a little realism in my Christian fiction, and that seemed very real in their circumstances.

  30. I have nothing against the idea of tempatation or realism, but what I meant by 'fake' was that it did not appear to result in any genuine change or be a result of genuine contrition.

    Beatrice's 'repentance' seemed like little more then exaggerated self-pity, plus she still tried to conceal her mideed by deception even after the 'repentance', and both characters were more then willing to enter into circumstances that might cause them to sin again, knowing they could not resist.

    If you add to this the fact that both the characters got what they wanted in the end and moresome, one could be be forgiven fot thinking that thier sin paid off

  31. Hmm...I don't remember it well enough to respond to that.

  32. Also, I would say that Beatrice's attitude towards the affair, in which she basically thought that she had a 'right' to commit adultery because her marriage was forced and her husband was nasty to her was hardly one that would lead to genuine remorse on her part.

    I just got the impresseion that she felt sorry for herself because sht was found out.

  33. If anyone had any genuine moral qualms or something close to real repentance it was probably the 'non-Christian' Phillip (might have got the name wrong).

  34. I guess since I don't think people should ever stay in abusive marriages, but since the historical situation forced her to, that changed my view on everything, and I had a lot of compassion and grace for both of them.

    Sometimes life is just messy like that.

  35. Okay, story is coming back to me now. My feeling was that God had a plan all along to free Beatrice and restore their relationship, but they rushed the plan. And yes, it was a sin, but they were in an impossible situation and responded as flawed humans, not evil villains.

    I had a reviewer say something similar about my Dandelion novel. That she didn't suffer enough for her sin. All I can say is that this woman's God must be of a very different nature than the one I serve. My God looks at the heart. And from about 1/3 of the way into the book Dandelion's heart was open to God and she was searching for him. It just took her a while to get the healing she needed so that she could follow him in the way that she should.

  36. I dont think people should either, and I am vehemently opposed to domestic abuse.
    I do not think however that this situation gives a person the 'right' to cheat on thier partner, nor should it be used as an excuse or justification for thier actions in this degree. The old cliche of 'two wrongs don't make a right' applies here.

    The main point is that Beatrice wanted to sleep with Philip and was detetmined to have her way, whatever the cost. She was not sorry or remorseful, she simply felt sorry for herself after getting caught when all her attempts to hide her misdeed failed. She simply used her marital situation an an excuse, effectively blaming them on her husband.

  37. So it was OK because 'God wanted them to be together'? Still sounds like condoning sin to me. My point was really not whether or not she should have suffered, but whether her repentance was genuine.

    I was taught that repentance requires some admission of guilt, and contrition.
    Because Beatrice did not truly believe she had done anything wrong, tried to hide it, deceieve her husband and everyone else into thinking Philips child was his, tried to excuse her actions by blaming them on her circumstances, rather then a willing and conscious act of her own free will, and never showed much remorse, and that her sins were nobody's fault but her own I would not say it was genuine at all.

  38. Also I would sat that Gareth had every right to by angry and annoyed with his brother for sleeping with his wife, and to some degree with his wife for commiting adutery (but no right to abuse and mistreat her). Anger would be a natural human response in this situation, so I do not think he was 'evil' in this way.

  39. "So it was OK because 'God wanted them to be together'?."

    No, I didn't say it was okay. I said it was sin. I just think that God is more graceful, forgiving, and merciful than most people give him credit for.

    I'm afraid your response to this book pretty much illustrates the reason Christians avoid hard issues. Too many people get upset. Personally, I prefer that they at least try to tackle the messy stuff of life. Even if they don't get it all perfect. Honestly, I don't recall if everything in the book lined up with my own theology or not, it's rare that I find a book that does, but I do applaud the author for trying a tough subject.

  40. God is loving and mercifil and forgiving and everything, but I think too many Christians today choose to ignore or understate other traits of his nature.
    Like those of Holiness, Righteousness and justice.

    From the way I have read scripture I never see anywhere that God condones sin, even by those he loved and his devoted followers, and appears to have expected more from those who believe in him. His justice demanded some form of punishment, mercy yes ultimately, bit no exemption from consequences or punishment.

    Life is 'messy' yes and nobody is perfect yes but too many people like to think of only the 'nice' things about God, and how he 'helps us along' but not the neccesity of repentance or a change of heart on our own part.

    I know of few authors who deal with this issue except perhaps C.S Lewis.

  41. I do see your point. I hope when you get to the convent section of my Dandelion book that you will see a true repentance and turning away from her sin. That was certainly my intention.

    I think for the lady in the review that I mentioned, her issue was more lack of punishment and consequences, than lack of repentance. Even still, I didn't get her point. Dandelion suffered plenty. Only when she finally did completely submit to God, did she get her happy ending.

  42. That is good, I did not mean to 'have a go' at you ot abybody by the way or get upset.

    I have been examining this issue from a purely Historical level and I do not think in this regard that Beatrice's marital circumstabces were entirely impossible or without remedy.

    The church did allow women to obatain a divorce or annulment on certain grounds. These could include non-consummation of thier marriage, a pre-existing betrothal or formal contract of marriage to another, ot a vow of chastity. Also forced marriage was technically illegal in the sight of the church.

    So theoretically Beatrice could have used any of these grounds to free herself from her marraige, especially the pre-existing promise of marriage to Phillip (which might be counted as betrothal), and non-comsummation of her marraige to Gareth.
    Also if she could prove she did not enter into that marriage of her own free will, and was forced to do so, the church may well have judged in her favour.

  43. That is good, I did not mean to 'have a go' at you ot abybody by the way or get upset.

    I have been examining this issue from a purely Historical level and I do not think in this regard that Beatrice's marital circumstabces were entirely impossible or without remedy.

    The church did allow women to obatain a divorce or annulment on certain grounds. These could include non-consummation of thier marriage, a pre-existing betrothal or formal contract of marriage to another, ot a vow of chastity. Also forced marriage was technically illegal in the sight of the church.

    So theoretically Beatrice could have used any of these grounds to free herself from her marraige, especially the pre-existing promise of marriage to Phillip (which might be counted as betrothal), and non-comsummation of her marraige to Gareth.
    Also if she could prove she did not enter into that marriage of her own free will, and was forced to do so, the church may well have judged in her favour.

  44. Interesting. Well, at least we can say this for the book: it wasn't boring and it kept us talking.

  45. Yes, and whoever said Medieval Nobles 'had it easy'?
    All the best.


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