Delve into new takes on history—March 4, 2011
I enjoy reading books that fall into different genres, such as historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. I’ve read a number of books recently that fall into a lesser-known category called “alternate history” or “alternative history.” These are stories that are set in worlds in which history has diverged from the actual history of the world as we know it.
“The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” by Joan Aiken was originally published nearly fifty years ago. It is set in an alternate history of England and tells of the adventures of cousins Bonnie and Sylvia and their friend Simon as they thwart the evil schemes of their governess. This title is the first of twelve in the Wolves Chronicles series and they are very enjoyable.
Some stories are set in a world that has a history somewhat similar to our own world, but with magic added. “Sorcery and Cecelia, or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country” by Patricia C. Wrede is set in England in 1817, where there exists a Royal Society of Wizards. The story is told using the letters written back and forth between two young cousins, Cecelia in the country and Kate in London, who find themselves confronted by evil wizards.
In “Thirteenth Child,” also by Patricia C. Wrede, a magical barrier protects most people from the dangerous magical creatures of the Wild West. Eff, who is a thirteenth child, is believed to be bad luck, while her twin brother is the lucky and extra-magical seventh son of a seventh son. Eff comes into her own as she learns more about magic and her own extraordinary power.
In Marissa Doyle’s “Bewitching Season,” set in England in 1837, seventeen-year-old twin sisters begin their first Season in London and discover that their governess, who has taught them everything they know about magic, has disappeared. In “Betraying Season,” the second title in the Leland Sisters series, one of the sisters goes to Ireland to study magic and try to prove to herself that she is as good a witch as her twin.
“Leviathan” by Scott Westerfeld presents World War I as never seen before. It begins with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, which triggers alliances that plunge the world into war. However, this global conflict is between the Clankers, who put their faith in machines, and the Darwinists, whose technology is based on the development of new species. This type of alternate history is sometimes referred to as “steampunk.” It shows a world with real locales and persons from history, but the technology is different. The story is continued in “Behemoth,” the second book in the series.
Looking for something different? Try one of these “alternative history” stories!