Saturday, October 5, 2013

Werewolves and Zombies – Writing outside the Bounds of Historical Fiction

My house move is finished and went well. The Russian crew of three performed feats of strength that would put many a Roman legionary to shame.

Now, I’m in the midst of excavating what feels like hundreds of boxes in my search for books, photos, notes, sword replicas and some carefully packed artifacts.

Luckily, my Kindle is intact and I am finding a little more time to read.

I just started a new book: The Wolves of Paris by Michael Wallace.

This is a great read thus far and it has reminded me of what a wonderful genre historical fantasy is. It reminds me how it can take historical events and put a different spin on them.

Ancient and Medieval people were religious and superstitious and had explanations for occurrences in their world that were far different from our own often scientific answers. Historical fantasy is the perfect medium for expressing these ancient ways of thinking.

The historical event that forms the basis of The Wolves of Paris is the arrival of a pack of man-eating wolves in the city of Paris circa 1450. The pack killed about forty people before the Parisians slaughtered them, supposedly in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

This would make a great bit of historical fiction as is. I didn’t know about this episode in late medieval Paris. What the author does, however, is make the story about Werewolves invading the city. Now this really turns the story on its head. The terror felt by the citizens is even better illustrated by turning the wolves to Werewolves.

The human imagination is a powerful thing and fear is one of the emotions that sets it ablaze.

You would think that yet another Werewolf or Zombie book is nothing new, and you would be right. However, if you place such a story in an historical setting, then it takes on a whole new look and has new appeal.

Roberto Calas’ series, The Scourge, is medieval historical fantasy with a fantastic twist. It takes place in England during the Black Death, but instead of the usual type of Bubonic Plague, the ‘Scourge’ that is referred to in the novel is a sort of Zombie apocalypse.

Roberto has been a guest on Writing the Past before and you can read his post HERE.

The Scourge is a fantastic adventure and the fear will grip you as you travel through the desolation of this medieval world, the possibility of a Zombie attack all too real to ignore.

Another series of books that I have mentioned in the past is Alice Borchardt’s Legends of the Wolf trilogy.

The first book, The Silver Wolf, is a book that I really enjoyed reading, made even better by Ms. Borchardt’s rich descriptive powers.

In The Silver Wolf, 8th century Rome is brought to life as we follow the girl Regeane, who happens to be a Werewolf, on her journey through this once-great city of the Empire, and even to the Underworld.

I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to get to the second one, The Night of the Wolf, which takes place during Caesar’s invasion of Gaul. Again, a period of history that has been written about many times before, but which has new life breathed into it by the use of the fantastical element of Werewolves.

You would be wrong if you think these are going to be corny, laughable reads.

In fact, these books are more engrossing and intense than many a work of ‘mainstream’ historical fiction.

So, if you think that writing or reading yet another book about Werewolves or Zombies will be about as interesting as reading parliamentary transcripts, have no fear.

Pick up a book of historical fantasy, such as one of the three mentioned, and you won’t be disappointed. 

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