Historical Musings #67: August 2021 – HWA Crowns and a reading update

Welcome to this month’s post on all things historical fiction.

Last week the fiction, non-fiction and debut novel longlists for the 2021 HWA (Historical Writers’ Association) Awards were announced. I’ve only read a few of the longlisted titles and don’t have any plans to try to read all of the others, but it was still interesting to see which books the judges had picked – especially in the non-fiction category, as I hadn’t heard of any of them! Here are the three lists:

HWA Gold Crown Award Longlist

Spirited by Julie Cohen
V For Victory by Lissa Evans
Arrowood and the Thames Corpses by Mick Finlay
Tell Me How It Ends by VB Grey
The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson
Cathedral by Ben Hopkins
The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd
The Second Marriage by Gill Paul
Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford
The Last Protector by Andrew Taylor
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

I have read four of these (and have linked to my reviews above). I really enjoyed The Silver Collar, Daughters of Night and The Last Protector, all of which are historical mysteries from series that I’ve been following from the beginning and can highly recommend. The Devil and the Dark Water I found slightly disappointing after loving Stuart Turton’s first book, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

HWA Debut Crown Award Longlist

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten
Brontë’s Mistress by Finola Austin
The Strange Adventures of H by Sarah Burton
The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins
Imperfect Alchemist by Naomi Miller
Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison
Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
The Company Daughters by Samantha Rajaram
The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper
People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

I’ve read four books from the debut list too; my favourite of these was The Puritan Princess, about Oliver Cromwell’s daughter, Frances. The other three were all interesting, but didn’t entirely work for me.

HWA Non-Fiction Crown Award Longlist

Britain at Bay by Alan Allport 
The Gun, the Ship and the Pen by Linda Colley
Crucible of Hell by Saul David
The Paper Chase by Joseph Hone
The Ravine by Wendy Lower
Double Lives by Helen McCarthy
Burning the Books by Richard Ovenden
The Dead are Arising by Les Payne and Tamara Payne
A Stranger in the Shogun’s City by Amy Stanley
A Dominant Character by Samanth Subramanian
Ellis Island by Małgorzata Szejnert, translated by Sean Gasper Bye
The Interest by Michael Taylor

I have read none at all from this list, which is disappointing but doesn’t surprise me as I don’t read a huge amount of non-fiction. Some of these sound intriguing, particularly The Paper Chase and Stranger in the Shogun’s City.

You can find out more about all of the longlisted books on the HWA website.


My current historical reading:

I’ve just finished The Infernal Riddle of Thomas Peach by Jas Treadwell, a very unusual book written in the style of an 18th century novel; I couldn’t possibly describe it here in just a few sentences, so you’ll have to wait for my review next week! I’m also nearly finished The Green Gauntlet by RF Delderfield, the third book in his Horseman Riding By series and set during and after World War II. Both of these books are from my 20 Books of Summer list and as I’m starting to run out of time to complete my 20 Books, my next two historical reads will also be from that list: A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry and The Women of Troy by Pat Barker.


New to my historical TBR in the last few weeks:

Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass, a new historical mystery set in Georgian London, Powers and Thrones by Dan Jones, a non-fiction book telling the story of ‘how the world we know today came to be built’, and The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews, a debut novel set in 17th century England and due to be published in February – these are all books I’ve received through NetGalley.

Also, The Huntress by Kate Quinn, an author I’ve wanted to read more of since loving The Rose Code earlier this year, and A Song for Arbonne, a Guy Gavriel Kay book I’ve been particularly looking forward to reading.


Have you been reading any good historical fiction recently? And have you read any of the books on the HWA longlists?

12 thoughts on “Historical Musings #67: August 2021 – HWA Crowns and a reading update

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    I have copies of ‘Britain at Bay’ by Alan Allport & ‘Burning the Books’ by Richard Ovenden awaiting to be read. The Allport book might take a while as I’m reading a stack of books about ‘Britain Alone’ before the US joined the Allies post-Pearl Harbor. As a lover of reading books about books the Ovenden book will probably be read later in the year coupled with two other book related works.

    The rest of the list was completely new to me too! Investigations must be done [grin]… 

    • Helen says:

      I love reading fiction set during the war but for some reason haven’t read much non-fiction about it, so Britain at Bay does sound interesting to me. I hope you enjoy it – and the Ovenden book!

  2. piningforthewest says:

    I haven’t read any of those books but I have just finished reading The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett which was on my 20 Books of Summer list, it was really good.

  3. whatcathyreadnext says:

    I’ve only read four from the lists – V For Victory, Imperfect Alchemist, Daughters of Night and Light Perpetual. Like you, I don’t read much non-fiction. I was surprised to see Light Perpetual also on the Booker Prize longlist because I didn’t enjoy it half as much as Golden Hill.

    • Helen says:

      The Francis Spufford sounds intriguing, but I’m not sure if it’s a book I really want to read. I don’t expect to read many more from these longlists either.

  4. jessicabookworm says:

    I haven’t read any of these shortlisted books, but I did recently finishing the gripping Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien and I have recently got my hands on a copy of In the Shadow of Queens by Alison Weir from NetGalley. 👑

    • Helen says:

      I didn’t request In the Shadow of Queens because I’m not really a fan of short stories but I hope you enjoy it and I’ll be interested to hear what you think!

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