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Historical fiction is a popular genre. One of the reasons it’s so fun to read is because it lets you travel across space and time without necessarily going into speculative territory. Or, on the other hand, it’s also fun because it can go into speculative territory and blend genres seamlessly. For those of us who like the genre, we’re in luck! Because there are tons of new historical fiction books coming out soon that look absolutely amazing — and I for one am super excited to read them. Whether you love spy fiction, romances, sprawling sagas, or even horror, there’s a new historical fiction book for you on this list.
Before we jump into the list, I just wanted to mention that there are waaaay more new historical fiction books coming out in 2023. So this list is by no means complete or comprehensive. Also, I chose to include new releases from late 2022 up until Spring 2023. Which means 2023 still has plenty of new surprising novels in store. And the best thing? Almost all of these books are written by authors of color, showcasing the beauty and diversity of the genre.
So without further ado, it’s time to take a look at some of the new historical fiction releases!
New Historical Fiction You Don’t Want to Miss
The Book of Everlasting Things by Aanchal Malhotra (December 27)
We’re kicking things off with a beautiful yet heartbreaking story centered around Partition — or the separation of India and Pakistan. The Book of Everlasting Things follows a perfumer’s apprentice named Samir Vij and a calligrapher’s apprentice named Firdaus Khan. They meet at Samir’s family’s perfumery, and over the next years they fall in love with their crafts and each other. But when their country is split by Partition, the two lovers find themselves on opposite sides, making their love forbidden. As the years pass and their paths stray more and more from each other, Samir and Firdaus must decide if it’s time to let go.
The Lipstick Bureau by Michelle Gable (December 27)
This WWII historical fiction is particularly interesting because its story was inspired by a real-life spy! Set in Rome in 1944, The Lipstick Bureau follows Niki Novotná. She just married an American and is recruited by the U.S. as a spy. Her task? To create fake propaganda to lower the enemies’ morale with the help of the rest of The Lipstick Bureau. Niki is good at what she does, but soon she starts to question her instructions — and things become more dangerous for her when she falls for one of her colleagues.
In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas (January 10)
Now we’re traveling back to 1800s Canada with Kai Thomas’s In the Upper Country! The story is set in Dunmore, a town settled by people escaping from enslavement. That’s where our protagonist, Lensinda Martin, works for a Black journalist. One day, a woman fresh off the Underground Railroad shoots a slave hunter. She refuses to leave before the authorities arrive, so Lensinda is tasked with interviewing her. The old woman will tell her story, if Lensinda shares one of her own. Thus begins an incredible exchange that reveals an interconnected history of love and survival for the Black and Indigenous peoples of North America.
Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks (January 10)
Moonrise Over New Jessup begins when our main character Alice Young arrives at the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama. It is 1957, and the residents of New Jessup have rejected integration in favor of advancing and fortifying their community. Alice loves New Jessup, but she also loves a man named Raymond Campbell. He organizes clandestine activities that challenge the town’s status quo. If discovered, the couple could be thrown out — or worse. Which means Alice will have to balance her desire to help her partner with her need to protect her beloved town.
The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson (February 7)
The next book takes us to 1950s Philadelphia, to the lives of two women named Ruby and Eleanor. The former will be the first in her family to attend college, if her taboo love affair doesn’t pull her back into poverty. The latter is attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. There, she meets the handsome William Pride and falls in love. But his elite family won’t accept her, and all Eleanor wants is to fit in. The lives of Ruby and Eleanor will intersect. The question is, how?
Skull Water by Heniz Insu Fenkl (February 7)
Skull Water is an intergenerational historical fiction novel set in South Korea. The story mainly follows a boy named Insu. He’s the son of a Korean woman and a U.S. Army man. Throughout the story, we get to see him grow up in the army base with his other “half and half” friends. His life is forever changed when he hears of a way to heal his Big Uncle’s mysterious injury — which sends him on a journey to some of the country’s darkest corners.
Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein (February 7)
This new historical fiction is a sweeping story about generational trauma, family, religion, and historical violence. Set in 1940s Trinidad, Hungry Ghosts follows two very different families. The Changoors own a luxurious farm, while the Saroops live in the tin and wood Barracks down below. When Dalton Changoor goes missing, Hans Saroop sees this as an opportunity to earn more money and move his family to a better home. So he takes it upon himself to find the wealthy landowner. But things are not as they seem, and the deeper he digs, the more entwined the Changoors’ and the Saroops’ lives become.
The Porcelain Moon by Janie Chang (February 21)
One of the best things about this book is that it sheds some light on the little-known history of the thousands of Chinese workers who were taken to Europe as laborers during WWI. The Porcelain Moon is set in 1918 France, and it follows a woman named Pauline Deng. She flees her home to escape an arranged marriage, going to her cousin Theo for help. He works in the Chinese Labour Corps in the countryside, which would help Pauline hide from her father. Ultimately, a woman named Camille is the one who offers her home to Pauline. The two quickly become friends, but it soon becomes clear that Camille is hiding something — and her secret could be deadly for both of them.
Dust Child by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (March 14)
Dust Child begins in 1969, when Trang and her sister run away to Sài Gòn to make money as bar girls in order to help their parents pay off their debts. That’s where Trang meets an American pilot named Dan, and an irresistible romance blooms between them. Years later, Dan is back in Việt Nam with his wife Linda, trying to face his violent past. At the same time, a man named Phong is trying to find his parents and leave the country. He’s the son of a Black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman, which has caused his neighbors to resent him and call him the derogatory title “dust child.” As past and present collide, all these characters will have to face their trauma and the decisions that came out of it.
Lone Women by Victor LaValle (March 21)
Last but not least, this list wouldn’t be complete without Victor LaValle’s historical horror! Lone Women is the story of Adelaide Henry, a woman with a terrible secret that killed her parents and forced her to flee her home carrying a mysterious trunk. She’s now trying to bury her past and settle in an empty plot of land in Montana — which she can keep if she manages to cultivate it. Women like her are called “lone women” by the state. Except Adelaide is most definitely not alone, and her secret won’t stay hidden for long.
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