Basically, I like novels in which the author creates a believable, well-researched historical setting, but then either presents a departure or alternate history, or adds in some sort of other sci-fi type element. The three novels below are definitive examples of this sub-genre of historical fiction (and yes, I also like steampunk, if it’s done well).
This novel, set simultaneously in 14th century and 22nd century England, tells a story of a scholarly time-traveler entering the world of medieval England on the eve of the Black Plague, which wiped out a third of Europe’s population. Fascinatingly told with great historical detail, and with interesting parallels between events taking place in the future time centuries later.
I thought that this novel of the Civil War posed a great question: if the South had won the Civil War, how would have things turned out differently? Set authentically with real historical figures and detailed battles, but with a time-travel twist thrown in to make sure the South wins, this novel is still my favorite of Turtledove’s to this day.
Tor offered this one as part of a marketing campaign to make people aware of their lesser-known novels. I signed up for their newsletter, and I got this one, along with dozens of others, in e-book format. I read it and was instantly hooked from the beginning. This one is set in 17th century England and Spain, with great historical detail. The twist? The protagonist is an immortal cyborg, created by a future entity known as The Company and charged with protecting history’s endangered artifacts. She, along with her companions, is given the task of infiltrating English society in that century in order to carry out her mission, but she gets sidetracked by one of the mortals she despises. Great historical detail, and a wonderful character story. This is the first novel in a long series, which I’m about halfway through reading currently.
These are, of course, just three of my favorites, and there are lots more out there, to be sure. I may write one someday, myself.