Tag Archives: Alternate History

Top Ten Tuesday – August 16, 2016: Ten Alternate-History Books


August 16, 2016

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog at The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s topic was ten books with X setting so I chose: Ten Alt-History Books

alt history books

Alternate History is pretty neat. I love seeing what authors do with actual historical facts, figures, or time periods and adapting them to fit their books, often times including them in a fantasy or sci-fi type setting (hence, the adaptations). I just reviewed THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson and so this concept easily popped to mind as the topic as this week’s Top Ten Tuesday list!


  • THE RITHMATIST  by Brandon Sanderson | When magic is discovered, history is changed forever, including the entire landscape of North America which is now a collection of many islands.
  • THE CROWN’S GAME by Evelyn Skye | Magic involved in a modified version of Imperial Russia.
  • SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by Susan Dennard | Zombies take over 1876 Philadelphia!
  • BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood | Alternate history Salem Witch Trials
  • MY LADY JANE by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows | Completely fun and frivolous re-write of Lady Jane Grey’s story (but oh, so much fun)
  • GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers | Assassin nuns with a connection to Death play an important role in 15th century France
  • AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White | Gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler (this actually was not a favorite of mine but lots of other people loved it!)


  • A CRIMINAL MAGIC by Lee Kelly | I want to get to this one so badly! Magic meets prohibition
  • THE INVENTOR’S SECRET by Andrea Cremer | Alternate 19th Century America if the Revolutionary War hadn’t happened
  • TIMEKEEPER by Tara Sim | Alternate Victorian era with time magic

Have you read any awesome alternate-history books? Which ones would you recommend??

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) – Brandon SandersonTitle: The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Publishing Info: May 14, 2013 by Macmillan, Tor Books
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 8, 2016
Related Posts: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1), The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2), The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3), The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4), Legion (Legion #1) & Legion: Skin Deep (Legion #2), , The Emperor's Soul, The Eleventh Metal (Mistborn #0.5), , Firstborn, Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Calamity (The Reckoners #3), , Perfect State, Mistborn: Secret History (Mistborn #3.5), Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, Elantris, Warbreaker (Warbreaker #1), The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1), Snapshot, Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2), Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5), Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.


I’ve slowly but surely been making my way through Brandon Sanderson’s entire published works and next up on my list was THE RITHMATIST! For some reason for the longest time, I thought this book was Middle Grade but it’s actually Young Adult, though I see some great potential crossover for those two age ranges, along with the ever-present crossover to Adult since Sanderson’s books are always so clever and well-put together. THE RITHMATIST reads a little younger than Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy (which is also YA) and actually really reminded me of Harry Potter! It was just something about the characters, the structure of the book, and possibly the presence at school that reminded me of Harry Potter and all of the mischief he manages to get into, not to mention the distrust of a teacher and some other secret happenings that really reminded me of Hogwarts in the best way. It is definitely the youngest-feeling book I’ve read from Sanderson (since I haven’t read the Alcatraz series yet) and that is quite notable but I wasn’t put off by it at all since that’s really what I was expecting!

loved the characters in this book. Joel is the main character in THE RITHMATIST and I love his thirst for knowledge, especially when it comes to the Rithmatists. Not being a Rithmatist himself, he has to try to find information in secret since non-Rithmatists are not allowed to learn all of the theory, strategy, and history, but that is Joel’s true passion. As usual, Sanderson creates an excellent core group of characters who are all a little bit misfits. Joel, the wannabe Rithmatist;  Melody, the Rithmatist who couldn’t care less; and Professor Fitch, the pleasant yet out-dated professor make up the main part of this group and it’s so special to watch all of these personalities and strengths balance each other. They work so well together because their relationships are so mutually beneficial… and of course there’s some great banter in their with some clashing personalities that kept me delighted and maintained a lighter tone!

It’s always so interesting to see what kind of magic system Brandon Sanderson chooses for his books. In this case, it’s the power to bring chalk to life as an offensive and defensive course of action. Rithmatists have the power to draw chalk lines or figures and give them basic direction and of course, the way chalk lines are drawn and connected have a very systematic way of behaving. I’m always so impressed with how much thought and effort goes into creating a magic system and I really enjoyed how unique this one was! I’m not sure I loved the concept — I suppose bringing inanimate objects to life is hit or miss for me — so I wasn’t totally crazy about it, but the structure and rules really brought the ideas together and made it a somewhat realistic (albeit, fantastical) concept to follow and understand.

The geography and history were also incredibly interesting, as always! Sanderson chose to mix fantasy and history, creating a time period that felt a little steampunk but had an alternate history incorporating the origin of Rithmatists and how they shaped the world. The course of events changes history completely and even changes geography, breaking up what we know as North America into the United Isles, consisting of a broken apart continent of many islands with various Rithmatist schools throughout the country. There are also some real historical figures who make appearances and in the alt-history concept, affect the world in similar or entirely different ways. It’s quite fascinating and I really enjoyed what Sanderson did with the book! I always find it fun to see “what if”s and see an alternate geography based on a different history.

THE RITHMATIST was just plain fun and I loved its lighter tone. I really enjoy the deep Sanderson novels but this one felt like it was quite a bit lighter and did have a sort of Harry Potter feel — which is to say that it reads potentially younger but is still enjoyable for an audience of all ages. The ending left me just waiting for more and there is confirmation of another book but we might still be waiting a few years for it according to the most recent Sanderson news! Such is the life of a Sanderson fan. (And this is what I get for bingeing all of his works.)


Source: Purchased from Audible
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Performance: Excellent overall! One of my favorite narrators

I listened to the book on audio which was fantastic since Michael Kramer, who narrates the entire Mistborn series, also narrates THE RITHMATIST. It’s the first YA book I’ve heard him narrate (actually, the first book besides the Mistborn books) and I think he handled the younger voices really well! Sometimes the younger male and younger female voices weren’t as distinct as his adult voices but he’s just such an enjoyable narrator! I was lacking a few things with the audio, simply because there are diagrams within the book showing different chalk defenses and moves that obviously I couldn’t see since I was listening. They’re all described but obviously you  miss a little bit in that sort of experience! 

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!



Joel // Character obsessions: Learning, Rithmatic theory, family.
I keep wanting to call it “rithmancy” because of “arithmancy” in Harry Potter… But I don’t think that’s right. Rithmatic theory? I think?
Anyway! Joel was such a fun character. I love characters that are so knowledge-thirsty because they’re the ones always off to the library or hunting for clues to give readers all of the amazing answers and discoveries that I love so much! He was smart, clever, and maybe a little naive but that added to the gentleness of his character and he was so incredibly likable.
Melody // Character obsessions: Unicorns, frivolity, ice cream, the easy life.
Melody is so sassy! She’s an unlikely companion for Joel but they totally work together because they have very different strengths. They really help each other even though they butt heads a lot but I love their banter.
Nalazar // Character obsessions: Dominance, power, scowling.
Nalazar = Snape in the best possible ways and that’s all I’m going to say about that!


Kept Me Hooked On: Alt-History. Alt-history is SO much fun. I love changing timelines and imagining “what if”, especially when it comes to new geography. This wasn’t my favorite imagination of the “former” North America but it’s always fun no matter what!
Left Me Wanting More: Realistic magic? That’s an oxymoron, I know, but I wasn’t toootally hooked on the chalk concept. I got along with it all right and structured rules always help but bringing chalk wasn’t my favorite magic system.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

I’m a true fan of pretty much everything that Sanderson writes and there isn’t really a book of his I wouldn’t recommend. THE RITHMATIST was fun, easy to read, and quite clever.



(Click the cover to see my review!)


Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) – Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) – Rachel CaineTitle: Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Publishing Info: July 7, 2015 by Penguin
Genres: Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 1, 2015

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden. Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.
When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…


I was SO excited for INK AND BONE when I first heard about it. Libraries? The Library of Alexandria? Fantasy elements? Young adult? Yes, please! I was so thankful to receive a copy from Penguin to review and immediately started because I just couldn’t wait!

I have to admit that INK AND BONE started out very slowly for me and I ended up struggling with the pacing throughout. It honestly took me over two weeks to complete just over 100 pages of reading and that’s just too long for me. I’ve talked before about books with a slow start and unfortunately it just really hinders my reading experience. There was actually a lot of explanation in the first few chapters to establish the setting so I wouldn’t really say it was lack of world-building but it was a rather long set-up and I was hoping to jump into some more explanations of how the Library system worked and whether it was actually magical elements or scientific elements. I think giving away just a bit of information instead of things being more secretive could have helped me understand the ins and outs better at the beginning to really pull me into the book right away.

Actually, the very first chapter was not slow at all. It started out with a flurry of action, introducing main character Jess in his younger days. My issue was that there was so much going on — establishing a world, witnessing a chase scene, meeting characters — that it was kind of hard to follow without knowing exactly what this book was about and what was the mission of the main character. I wish the action had come just a couple chapters later in the book once I knew more of what was going on because I think I could have appreciated it more just a tad later. Especially once I started feeling like I was losing steam with the plot, a little chase scene pick-me-up could have really helped!  I felt like the action was abrupt in the very first chapter and then came a little too late later on.

I really did enjoy the characters. They kept me going and I really enjoyed getting to know Jess and his friends as well. It was great to see so many characters from all over the world come together and they created a nice, diverse cast! I also thought the character development was done really well and each person really did come to life. The personalities really pulled me in and it was one aspect of the book that I really connected to! I felt like I could really picture each character and their personalities definitely helped bring these characters to life!

I’m sure this more of a personal thing, but I just could not get a grip on what this world was. It was clarified early on that this was an alternate history which led to a sort of steampunk not-too-distant future but that was so hard for me to grasp for some reason. My brain kept making it historical fiction and I kept trying to tell myself that this wasn’t all taking place in the past. (I guess that’s kind of historical fiction and yet it’s really not.) It ended up feeling kind of like The Mummy to me in terms of time and place since there was a sort of steampunk thing going on (I think that’s really what threw me the most since I associate that with historical elements).

Even though I had a hard time placing it in the future in my head, I really did love how the world came alive in this feel and how I was able to really picture it as the characters discovered new places and the Library for the first time! The setting was actually really vivid for me and I really appreciated the detailed imagery! I just really had a hard time making it a solid and realistic place in my head.

The concept of INK AND BONE was just great but it was another book that I couldn’t quite connect with overall due to pacing issues and a bit of a lack of world-building in the beginning. Many people said how it had a Harry Potter or The Name of the Wind feel before I started and I really do see those feels represented in INK AND BONE but that was also a bad thing because those are just amazing novels/series and that’s a very hard thing to live up to!


Kept Me Hooked On: Alternate history. The alternate history idea was very cool! It’s so neat to wonder what would have happened and how the world would have turned out if X and X hadn’t gone down they way they did.
Left Me Wanting More: Alternate history? I would have loved to see this more historical and less future. I think it just really tripped me up to try to reconcile this alternate history and how everything progressed. I think it would have worked better for me personally if things had changed in the past but the book was still in the past. But again, that’s clearly a personal preference and doesn’t really have anything to do with the structure of the book. I kept wanting it to feel like The Mummy so I think that really tripped me up with the fact that it actually was not taking place in the past.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This one didn’t work for me as well as I had hoped BUT the good news is, I appear to be the black sheep on this. I’ve heard from so many people that it does set up a lot in the beginning but really picked up for them! Totally worth the try!



(Click the cover to see my review!)