Historical Fiction Stars: 2004

Lists of historical fiction titles receiving starred reviews.

Annotated lists of books receiving at least one starred review from one of four major review sources: Booklist, Kirkus, LJ and PW. The review source assigns the star.

Annotations are from Advance, the Ingram Book Magazine, unless otherwise noted.

Historical fiction is loosely defined on this page - a book set 25 years ago may qualify for inclusion.

Categories on this page include general (period setting), romance, mystery & suspense, and also worthy of note (time slip, alternate history, generational sagas, etc.)

2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1998-99

  • The Clerkenwell Tales
    Author: Ackroyd, Peter
    Publisher: Doubleday $ 24.95 ISBN: 0385511213 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star PW
    This clever and colourful novel begins with "The Nun's Tale, and continues with "The Friar's Tale, "The Merchant's Tale and "The Clerk's Tale. Thus, story by story, Peter Ackroyd builds his portrait of medieval London. The people are disenchanted with the Church, with its wealth and corruption, its Pope in Rome and its Pope in Avignon. But heresy is dangerous -- almost as dangerous as rebellion. This is a novel about spies and counterspies, radicals and idealists, murderers and arsonists, sects and secret societies. It is a tale richly atmospheric and satisfying in its historical detail. - Publishers Marketing.
    Updated 7.19.04
  • The Secrets of Jin-Shei
    Author: Alexander, Alma
    Publisher: Harper SF $ 24.95 ISBN: 0060563419 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    The epic story of seven women in ancient China and their loyal bond of sisterhood--jin shei.
    Updated 3.1.04
  • Ironfire: A Novel of the Knights of Malta and the Last Battle of the Crusades
    Author: Ball, David W.
    Publisher: Delacorte $ 24.95 ISBN: 0385336012 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    In the Mediterranean, 16th-century, a mighty struggle looms between the Christian kingdoms, roiled by religious strife and political intrigue, and the surging Ottoman Empire. All that stands in the sultan's way is a tiny island and its small band of defenders--the Knights of Malta.
    Suggested Reading: Pirate Stars
    Updated 11.18.03
  • The Stone That the Builder Refused
    Author: Bell, Madison Smartt
    Publisher: Pantheon $ 29.95 ISBN: 037542282x Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star LJ
    The finale in the Toussaint Louverture trilogy spans the last two years of Toussaint's life, his triumphant struggle and the compromises made for a free Haiti. Toussaint was the legendary leader of the only successful slave revolution in history.
    Updated 10.19.04
  • Katya
    Author: Birdsell, Sandra
    Publisher: Milkweed $ 24 ISBN: 1571310436 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    Published in Canada as The Russlander, this historical novel is set in 1917 Russia and depicts peaceful lives uprooted by revolution.

    Updated 8.16.04
  • Handsome Harry
    Author: Blake, James Carlos
    Publisher: Morrow $ 24.95 ISBN: 0060554789 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    The renowned author pens his most commercial novel to date--a thrilling retelling of the John Dillinger story.
    Suggested Reading: Biographical Fiction
    Updated 11.12.03
  • Shooting the Sun
    Author: Byrd, Max
    Publisher: Bantam $ 23.95 ISBN: 0553802089 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    From historic novelist Byrd comes an enthralling novel of fact and fiction as eccentric genius Charles Babbage and free-spirited astronomer Selena Cott set out to use the dawning technology of 1839 to record a total solar eclipse.
    Updated 10.8.03
  • The Cloud Atlas
    Author: Callahan, Liam
    Publisher: Delacorte $ 22.95 ISBN: 0385336942 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star LJ
    In a richly inspired debut reminiscent of Snow Falling on Cedars and The English Patient, this stirring novel, set against a magnificent Alaskan backdrop, reveals one of the most closely guarded secrets of World War II in a tale that is both a heart-quickening mystery and a unique love story.
    Suggested Reading: Fiction & Mystery Debuts | World War Stars
    Updated 3.1.04
  • A Deal With the Devil
    Author: Carlyle, Liz
    Publisher: Pocket $ 6.99 (paper) ISBN: 0743470036 Date: 2004
    star Booklist
    The USA Today bestselling author of The Devil You Know pens a shimmering novel about a Scottish noblewoman on the run from her past and a powerful English lord brought to his knees by desire.
    Updated 3.11.04
  • Bright Starry Banner: A Novel of the Civil War
    Author: Carter, Alden R.
    Publisher: Soho $ 27 ISBN: 1569473552 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star PW
    December 1862, outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the 43,000 men of Gen. Rosencrans' Army of the Cumberland faced the 38,000 Confederate soldiers of Gen. Bragg's Army. In arenas dubbed "the Slaughter Pen" and "Hell's Half Acre," Blue and Gray collide.
    Suggested Reading: Civil War Stars
    Updated 2.16.04
  • The Children's War
    Author: Charlesworth, Monique
    Publisher: Knopf $ 24.95 ISBN: 1400040094 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star PW
    Interweaving the stories of Ilse, a half-Jewish girl, and Nicolai, a Hitler Youth, The Children's War is a gripping, unforgettable story of growing up in a world gone mad.
    Updated 8.16.04
  • The Lady and the Unicorn
    Author: Chevalier, Tracy
    Publisher: Dutton $ 23.95 ISBN: 0525947671 Date: 2004
    star Booklist star Kirkus star PW
    An extraordinary story exquisitely told, Chevalier's The Lady and the Unicorn weaves history and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry that rivals in grace and grandeur the masterpiece that inspired it.
    Suggested Reading: All Stars
    Updated 12.8.03
  • Kate Hannigan
    Author: Cookson, Catherine
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster $ 25 ISBN: 0743237730 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    A sweeping historical romance about love across the social divide, this classic first novel--the one that launched the career of England's late, great Cookson--is now available in the U.S. in hardcover for the first time.
    Suggested Reading: Fiction & Mystery Debuts
    Updated 11.24.03
  • Crofton's Fire
    Author: Coplin, Keith
    Publisher: Putnam $ 21.95 ISBN: 0399151125 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star Booklist
    A highly original first novel, in which a green second lieutenant barely escapes Little Bighorn - only to find that his life's adventures have just begun.
    Suggested Reading: Western Stars | Fiction & Mystery Debuts
    Updated 11.25.03
  • Sharpe's Escape
    Author: Cornwell, Bernard
    Publisher: HarperCollins $ 25.95 ISBN: 0060530472 Date: 2004
    star PW
    The newest Sharpe adventure--after New York Times bestselling Sharpe's Havoc--takes place in the fall of 1810 at the battle of Bussaco, Spain, the sack of Coimbra, Portugal, and at the Lines of Torres Vedras.
    Updated 3.15.04
  • Life Mask
    Author: Donoghue, Emma
    Publisher: Harcourt $ 26 ISBN: 0151009430 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star PW
    The bestselling author of Slammerkin turns her attention to the Beau Monde of late 18th-century England, transforming the private drama of three celebrated Londoners into a robust, full-bodied portrait of a world, and lives, on the brink of revolution.
    Updated 7.26.04
  • Birth of Venus
    Author: Dunant, Sarah
    Publisher: Knopf $ 21.95 ISBN: 1400060737 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    The Birth of Venus is a tour de force from one of Britain's most innovative thriller writers. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a remarkable heroine with the same vibrancy as her beloved city.
    Updated 12.29.03
  • The Divine Husband
    Author: Goldman, Francisco
    Publisher: Atlantic $ 24 ISBN: 0871139154 Date: 2004
    star Booklist
    Acclaimed and award-winning author Goldman delivers his third novel, a masterpiece love story, supported by an unforgettable cast of characters striving for love or success in the heady late 19th-century atmosphere of Guatemala City and New York.
    Updated 8.13.04
  • Confessions of Max Tivoli
    Author: Greer, Andrew Sean
    Publisher: FSG $ 23 ISBN: 0374128715 Date: 2004
    star PW star LJ star Booklist
    A beautiful and daring feat of the imagination, The Confessions of Max Tivoli reveals the world through the eyes of "monster," a being who confounds the very certainties by which people live and in doing so embodies in extremis what it means to be human.
    Suggested Reading: All Stars | Immortalism Fiction Stars
    Updated 2.5.04
  • Holy Fools
    Author: Harris, Joanne
    Publisher: Morrow $ 24.95 ISBN: 0060559128 Date: 2004
    star PW star LJ
    From the bestselling author of Chocolat comes a novel of love and betrayal, friendship and revenge, set in 17th-century France.
    Updated 12.29.03
  • The Changeling of Finnistuath
    Author: Horsley, Kate
    Publisher: Shambhala $ 22.95 ISBN: 1590300483 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    A young girl who is raised as a boy searches for identity and redemption in this compelling and provocative coming-of-age story set in 14th century Ireland--from the author of Confessions of a Pagan Nun.
    Updated 3.15.04
  • Breaking the Tongue
    Author: Loh, Vyvyane
    Publisher: Norton $ 24.95 ISBN: 0393057925 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star PW
    This brilliant novel chronicles the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Central to the story is one Chinese family. Expatriates, spies, fifth columnists, and nationalists--including the elusive young woman Ling-Li--mingle in this exotic culture as the Japanese threat looms.
    Suggested Reading: World War Stars
    Updated 2.2.04
  • Empress Orchid
    Author: Min, Anchee
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin $ 24 ISBN: 0618068872 Date: 2004
    star Booklist
    Empress Orchid is the story of a fascinating, strong-willed woman who for generations has been vilified as a grand seductress and murderer. Min draws a vivid portrait of a flawed yet utterly compelling woman and, through her life, of the world of the Chinese court and the sexual and political lives of the royal concubines.
    Suggested Reading: Asian American Stars | Biographical Fiction
    Updated 11.25.03
  • The Singing Fire
    Author: Nattel, Lilian
    Publisher: Scribner $ 25 ISBN: 0743249666 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    From the acclaimed author of The River Midnight comes a remarkable tale of two women who abandon everything they know for the maelstrom of London at the turn of the century.
    Updated 10.28.03
  • Cottonwood
    Author: Phillips, Scott
    Publisher: Ballantine $ 23.95 ISBN: 0345461002 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    The author of The Ice Harvest and The Walkaway returns with a novel set in 1870s and 1880s Kansas and California.
    Updated 11.24.03
  • The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great
    Author: Pressfield, Steven
    Publisher: Doubleday $ 24.95 ISBN: 0385500998 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    In the brilliantly imagined first-person voice of Alexander the Great, acclaimed novelist Pressfield brings to life his epic battles, his unerring command of his forces, and the passions and ambitions that drove him.
    Suggested Reading: Ancient Greece
    Updated 7.26.04
  • The Retreat
    Author: Rimbaud, Patrick
    Publisher: Atlantic $ 24 ISBN: 0871138778 Date: 2004
    star PW star Kirkus
    A gripping historical novel focused on Napoleon's dramatic invasion of Russia, The Retreat is a stirring follow-up to The Battle, winner of France's Goncourt Prize.
    Updated 11.22.04
  • The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga
    Author: Rutherfurd, Edward
    Publisher: Doubleday $ 27.95 ISBN: 0385502869 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    Rutherfurd has introduced millions of readers to the human dramas that are the lifeblood of history. His latest is a sweeping panorama steeped in the tragedy and glory that is Ireland, epitomizing the power and richness of Rutherfurd's storytelling magic.
    Updated 3.15.04
  • The Painting
    Author: Schuyler, Nina
    Publisher: Algonquin $ 22.95 ISBN: 1565124413 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    Set in 1870s Japan and France, this atmospheric novel tells the story of a Japanese woman who escapes her arranged marriage by painting memories of her lover, which she secretly sends to an importer in Paris.
    Updated 9.20.04
  • Dreaming the Bull
    Author: Scott, Manda
    Publisher: Delacorte $ 25 ISBN: 0385336713 Date: 2004
    star Booklist
    The second part of the stunning fictionalization of the life of Britain's warrior queen, Boudica, immerses readers in a world of druids and dreamers, warriors and lovers, passion and courage.
    Updated 4.21.04
  • The Snow Fox
    Author: Shaeffer, Susan Fromberg
    Publisher: Norton $ 24.95 ISBN: 039305814x Date: 2004
    star PW
    A great samurai and a beautiful poet fall in love in a novel that captures medieval Japan in breathtaking detail. The heartbreaking story of their renewed love is fraught by the Japanese concept of "mono no aware"--life's ephemeral nature--that weighs on the lovers.
    Updated 10.20.03
  • A Black Englishman
    Author: Slaughter, Carolyn
    Publisher: FSG $ 24 ISBN: 0374113998 Date: 2004
    star LJ
    Set against the backdrop of India in the 1920s, this novel is the tale of a powerful and erotic love affair that combines the themes of colonial exploitation, political and ethnic tensions, race and sexuality, and the many forms of partition, both secular and religious.
    Updated 10.19.04
  • The Ptolemies
    Author: Sprott, Duncan
    Publisher: Knopf $ 25.95 ISBN: 1400041546 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    Sprott's wildly imaginative yet historically accurate, and often hilarious work re-creates the early years of the House of Ptolemy (330-23 BC)--the dark, glittering, disastrous and forgotten 10-generation dynasty of Greek pharaohs of Egypt.
    Updated 3.25.04
  • System of the World
    Author: Stephenson, Neal
    Publisher: Morrow $ 27.95 ISBN: 0060523875 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star PW star LJ
    New York Times bestselling author Neal Stephenson pens the final volume in his hugely ambitious and compelling epic of intrigue, adventure, and excitement, filled with a remarkable cast of characters in a time of genius, discovery, and change.
    Suggested Reading:All Stars
    Updated 9.22.04
  • The Confusion
    Author: Stephenson, Neal
    Publisher: Morrow $ 27.95 ISBN: 0060523867 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus star Booklist star PW star LJ
    In this profoundly compelling adventure, Stephenson brings to life a cast of unforgettable characters in the late 1600s on the high seas. It is a time of breathtaking genius and discovery for men and women whose exploits define an age known as Baroque.
    Suggested Reading: All Stars | Pirate Stars | Sea Stories
    Updated 4.5.04
  • The Fires of Pride: A Novel of the Civil War
    Author: Trotter, William R.
    Publisher: Carroll & Graf $ 26 ISBN: 0786712236 Date: 2004
    star PW
    The Fires of Pride concludes a two-part Civil War saga which brings America's most tragic conflict to life at Fort Fisher, a fortress on North Carolina's windswept coastline.
    Suggested Reading: Civil War Stars
    Updated 2.16.04
  • The Forest Lover
    Author: Vreeland, Susan
    Publisher: Viking $ 24.95 ISBN: 0670032670 Date: 2004
    star PW
    A historical novel that tells the story of painter Emily Carr, who shook up the early 20th century art scene with uncompromising brushstrokes that captured the fading wilderness of an increasingly industrialized British Columbia as well as the indigenous villages, the tribal peoples and their dying customs and art forms.
    Updated 11.24.03
  • Prisoners of War
    Author: Yarbrough, Steve
    Publisher: Knopf $ 23 ISBN: 0375414789 Date: 2004
    star Kirkus
    Set in a Mississippi farming town in 1943, Prisoners of War is the story of Marty Stark, returned mysteriously from the front and reassigned to guard men he had been trained to kill--German soldiers whose fighting days are over.
    Suggested Reading: World War Stars
    Updated 11.12.03
  • Songbird
    Author: Zacharius, Walter
    Publisher: Atria $ 24 ISBN: 0743482115 Date: 2004
    star Booklist
    In this haunting and moving debut novel that echoes the emotional intensity of The Pianist, a young woman must rely on her remarkable strength of character in order to survive the devastation of World War II.
    Suggested Reading: Debuts | World War Stars
    Updated 6.10.04


American Historical Fiction Book List
Historical Fiction for Children & Adults
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Starred Review Lists

Books that received at least one starred review from Booklist, Kirkus, LJ, and PW.

2013 Crime Fiction: Jan-June | Fiction: Jan-June | Speculative Fiction

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