Blog Tour Guest Post: Annelise Grey’s Top 5 Historical MG/YA Recommendations

Hello everybody! Today, I’m really excited to be part of the blog tour for Annelise Grey’s MG debut Race to the Death, which is set in Ancient Rome and focuses on a girl named Dido who is desperate to be allowed to race as a charioteer (which she is forbidden from doing because she’s a girl) and get justice for the tragedy that befalls her. Annelise has written a post about her favourite historical MG/YA books, which I loved reading (particularly as we share a favourite!). And it’s out today, which is even more exciting! Onto the post!

My 5 Favourite Historical Novels for Children

Growing up, I loved reading books set in the past. It felt like an adventure, to go places that were both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The best ones had characters you fell in love with and who stayed with you long after you turned the last page. When I was writing Circus Maximus: Race to the Death, I tried to keep that balance in mind. I wanted you to feel as if you were there with my main character Dido in ancient Rome, experiencing all the sights and tastes and smells of her world. But it was also important to me that the book shouldn’t feel like a history lesson. Dido’s story – of a girl fighting against the odds to achieve her dream in a man’s world – is a universal one. It’s her spirit and her heart that I hope draw you in and make you want to keep reading. The following five examples of historical fiction are all favourites of mine and I would recommend them any reader, young or old. 

The Eagle of the NinthRosemary Sutcliff 

Set in second century Britain, The Eagle of the Ninth tells the story of a Roman officer, Marcus Flavius Aquila, who learns that his father’s legion has mysteriously disappeared to the north of Hadrian’s Wall. Accompanied by his faithful slave, Esca, Marcus sets off on a dangerous journey to discover what has happened to his father and to try to recover the legion’s eagle standard. Sutcliff paints landscape through prose better than almost any writer I can think of and it’s an absolutely gripping read which, for me, sets the benchmark for all Roman historical fiction.

For the King – Ronald Welch  

I don’t see people talking about this Carnegie Medal winning author much these days but I think they should because he’s such a skilled writer. For the King is one of his series about different generations of the Carey family. Set in the English Civil War, it centres on Neil Carey, who is reluctantly dragged into the conflict and finds himself on opposite sides to his cousin and best friend. Welch’s historical knowledge really shines off the page and it’s a beautifully written story about betrayal, honour, family, grief, loss and the pointlessness of war. 

The Secret Countess – Eva Ibbotson

I love the lightness and gentle wit of this historical romance by the great Eva Ibbotson (first published as A Countess Below Stairs) about a young Russian aristocrat who flees to England during the Russian Revolution and becomes a housemaid. But the historical setting and period detail – from the costumes to the food – is also satisfyingly and exquisitely drawn. My literary equivalent of hot chocolate and buttered toast on a rainy night.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak  Not strictly written for children, I know, but it’s a favourite of several of my Year 8 students and understandably so. The story’s narrator is Death and it follows the path taken by Liesel – the book thief of the title – who learns about the power of words from her kindly foster father while enduring the horrors of the Third Reich. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that left me more emotionally wrung-out and yet also uplifted. It also has one of the best last lines in any book ever.

The Skylarks’ War – Hilary McKay 

This is quite simply one of the best novels that I’ve read in the last few years. I loved it so much that I gave it as a gift to any number of people, from my twelve year old goddaughter to a friend in her seventies. It’s such a tenderly drawn portrait of growing up, and the characters are all wonderful, from kind, clever Clarry – trying so hard to please her unaffectionate father – to Simon the Bony One, nursing his doomed love as the shadow of the First World War looms. I cannot wait for the follow-up.

Circus Maximus: Race to the Death publishes in hardback on 4 March from Zephyr, written by Annelise Gray with cover artwork from Levente Szabo. If you want to read my review, you can do that here

Are you a fan of the historical genre? Have you read any of Annelise’s recommendations? Which historical books would you recommend? I’d really love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

6 thoughts on “Blog Tour Guest Post: Annelise Grey’s Top 5 Historical MG/YA Recommendations”

  1. Great suggestions. You know I love Skylarks and Book Thief is an all time favourite too. I’ve never heard of Ronald Welch and I’m not sure about the civil war but I’m certainly intrigued!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I really do. And I really don’t know! I think you would, but it’s pretty different to anything I’ve seen you talk about so I’m not sure! I think you’d really like Liesel but arm yourself with tissues!!

        Liked by 1 person

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