January 30, 2023

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8 Captivating Historical Novelists Like Hilary Mantel

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Acclaimed writer Hilary Mantel, who died in September aged 70, was widely known and respected for her Wolf Hall trilogy, as well as the numerous other books and essays she wrote throughout her career. Her treatment of Thomas Cromwell’s political machinations in the court of Henry VIII inspired legions of readers to pick up the trilogy, which concluded with 2020’s The Mirror and the Light. Mantel’s gift was not only to accurately describe the historical events at the royal court, but also to highlight the human relationships and conflicts that drove the palace’s intrigues. Combining an immersive writing style with meticulous attention to detail, Mantel’s books have garnered critical acclaim, including multiple Booker Prizes. It has left readers searching for even more authors like Hilary Mantel.

Many fans of Mantel’s work enjoy being introduced to the world of court politics and intrigue, and exploring her novels, articles, and essays, which explore more contemporary issues. Mantel had a gift for capturing the human feelings and foibles at the heart of a story, and this allowed readers to connect with her work, whether it was tracing Henry VIII’s wives or writing about contemporary England, as in her short film story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Readers looking for similarly driving prose and insightful writing should check out authors like Hilary Mantel below for more Mantel-like writing.

1. Philippa Gregory

Fans of Mantel’s insight into Henry VIII and his entourage will want to pick up the works of Gregory, best known for her novel The Other Boleyn Girl. Like Mantel, Gregory writes primarily English-based historical fiction that goes beyond the bullet points of textbooks to explore the relationships between members of royal circles. Gregory has also written about England’s Civil War (in her Tidelands novels), offering readers who want to delve into historical fiction a chance to hear from an author who reviewers have called “one of the greatest storytellers of our time”.

2. Alison Weir

Weir is a UK-based author and historian who is the leading historian of book sales in her country. Readers of Mantel’s works who wish to delve deeper into the women associated with Henry VIII will particularly appreciate her focus on the history of women and families in British history and her books, which portray each of the king’s wives, particularly like. Weir also writes non-fiction, combining her gift for writing and research into volumes that trace the lineage of English royal families.

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3.Maggie O’Farrell

Like Mantel, Maggie O’Farrell has won numerous awards for her fiction, including the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel Hamnet. While she’s known for her blend of contemporary and historical fiction, unlike Mantel, Mantel fans will find many similarities between the styles of these two authors. O’Farrell has a talent for capturing human relationships, and those looking for tales of murder and betrayal among the elite will want to buy her latest novel, The Marriage Portrait.

4. Shan Sat

Coat fans often point to her ability to shed light on the intrigues of members of the royal household, a talent shared by author Shan Sa. In particular, Sa’s 2009 novel Empress, which chronicles the life of Empress Wu and the rise of China’s Tang Dynasty, transports the reader to a world of power-hungry courtiers and psychological warfare. Sa paints a brilliant portrait of an empress trying to balance modernity and tradition in a murderous, royal world.

5.CJ Sansom

For those who enjoy crime, murder, and mystery along with their historical fiction, CJ Sansom is a strong addition. Sansom is best known for his Matthew Shardlake series, a mystery series set in the time of Henry VIII. Mantel readers will enjoy the connections between her books and Sansom’s, as Shardlake is employed by well-known figures such as Thomas Cromwell and Catherine Parr.

6. Maria Renault

Just as Mantel found Henry VIII’s environment a source of inspiration, Renault defined her writing career by looking at ancient Greece. Her novels explored the intrigues surrounding figures like Alexander the Great and events like the Peloponnesian Wars. Readers who enjoyed Mantel’s epic study of Cromwell may wish to begin with Renault’s 1969 novel Fire from Heaven, which begins when Alexander the Great was 4 years old and continues into his young adulthood.

7.Samantha Harvey

Samantha Harvey’s 2019 book The Western Wind was described by the Financial Times as “something I’ve only come across in the work of Hilary Mantel”. for his ability to transport the reader back in time, in this case to the 15th-century Somerset village of Oakham. Like Mantel, Harvey is a champion of literary fiction, nominated for a Booker Prize and writing both detailed historical fiction and contemporary literature.

8. Kate Mosse

Readers wishing to explore historical intrigue in courts outside of England will enjoy Mosse’s The Burning Chambers series. A stirring epic spanning three centuries, the trilogy begins during the war between Catholics and Huguenots in 16th-century France. The series, which will conclude with the release of the third book in 2023, then traces the main characters and their descendants around the world and up to the 19th century.

9.Elif Shafak

Readers who enjoy both historical and contemporary fiction from Mantel will enjoy the works of Shafak, whose most recent publication is The Island of Missing Trees. Like Mantel, Shafak writes in a rich and lyrical style that focuses on relationships. Like Mantel, her work caught the attention of the Booker Committee, which shortlisted her 2019 book 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.

10. Weina Dai Randel

Fans of palace intrigue will enjoy Dai Randel’s Empress of Bright Moon series, which chronicles a concubine’s quest for power at the Chinese imperial court. Readers should then check out her excellent backlist of historical novels, spanning the Middle Ages through the 20th century.

In addition to the above authors like Hilary Mantel, Mantel fans can and should use BookRiot’s tailored book recommendations service! Our TBR bibliologists will help you find books and authors like your existing favorites and serve excellent personal recommendations!

And if you’re looking for more Hilary Mantel content, be sure to check out our archives of her work!