7 Intriguing Fantasy Books Set in Victorian London to Read


Fantasy books set in medieval-inspired worlds are beloved, as well as well-known in the fantasy genre. While authors have penned wonderful steampunk fantasy novels, futuristic ones, and more, what about fantasy books set in Victorian London in particular?

Well, if you’re curious what stories like that exist, this post has a list for you.

Here are 7 fantasy books set in Victorian London to read:

I’ve included book descriptions, readers’ ratings and summaries of positive and negative comments for each book below. On the other hand, if you’d like a quick summary, here’s a comparison chart.


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Description

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England’s magical past and regained some of the powers of England’s magicians.

He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.

All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington’s army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different.

For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all.

Eventually Strange’s heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.82

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

First on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. This novel captured fans’ imaginations with its historical realism and matching writing style.

For instance, readers often said that the book read like a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens novel, with the same dry humor, wit and detached prose. They described this story as one with a meandering pace, one they enjoyed savoring.

As for the world-building, fans praised Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for how well-realized and true to history it was. Blending historical fiction and fantasy, this novel captured not just the sights and sounds, but the attitudes and culture as well. Characters reacted to the fantastical elements of the story just as readers expected 19th century Englishmen and women to act.

All in all, fans described it as rich, intricately detailed and a wonderful blend of history and imagination.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, what did they say? It turns out that what fans liked, critics disliked.

Critics described the book as slow and lengthy, one that included details unrelated to the plot (particularly in the footnotes). Aside from that, the writing style struck them as dry and pretentious.


The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Description

One girl’s nightmare is this girl’s faery tale.

She’s a stunner.

Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title — and drop-dead beauty.

She’s a liar.

But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean — the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans — and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She’s a murderer.

Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons — from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols — ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She’s a Falconer.

The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder — but she’ll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.76

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Second on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is The Falconer. A fast-paced and magical fantasy story, this novel captured fans’ imaginations with its refreshing historical setting, complex protagonist and slow-burn romance.

These readers described this story as having a lightning-fast pace and exciting action. Moreover, many of them were delighted by how different the world was. Its blend of magic and technology intrigued them, as well as its dark and deadly atmosphere.

As for Aileana, the protagonist, these readers praised her for seeming so multidimensional. Filled with rage and grief, she was both sympathetic and admirable to them. On one hand, the ghosts of her past spurred her to become a deadly protagonist they loved to follow. On the other, her healing and growing confidence warmed their hearts.

Related to this, fans remarked that Aileana’s love interest, Kiaran, seemed like just the right person to help her to overcome her weaknesses. At the same time, he struck them as a cunning warrior as well as an understandable and complex character in his own right. Seeing the two fall in love and work together was one of The Falconer‘s highlights.

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, so what did these readers say about The Falconer? For the most part, they cited two reasons for disliking the book.

The first reason critics gave was that they didn’t connect with Aileana. For some, she struck them is a standard ‘badass’ protagonist, with not much to differentiate her. This made it difficult for them to see her as a flesh-and-blood character. Others thought she didn’t express enough of her emotions for them to get a strong sense of who she was.

The second reason critics gave was that they thought the romance between her and Kiaran developed too quickly. The two of them knew each other before the events in The Falconer, but readers tended to feel that the backstory formed the bulk of its development. As such, during the story events themselves, the relationship didn’t grip them.


The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Description

When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum.

But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.78

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Third on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is The Dark Unwinding. This novel captured readers’ attention with its Gothic mystery tale and its protagonist, Katharine.

In terms of the world, readers described it as a fantastic blend of steampunk and historical fiction, all wrapped in a darkly enchanting atmosphere. Paired with evocative prose, this book transported fans into its pages.

In addition, readers praised Katharine, saying she impressed them with her bravery, toughness, and devotion to her family. Some mentioned the romance between her and Lane as well, saying that it sweetened the story and did not overtake it.

Negative Comments

What did critics say about The Dark Unwinding? In general, these readers focused on either the pace of the story, which they described as slowing after the beginning, or Katharine. In terms of the latter, some described her as rude, which made it difficult for them to like or connect with her.


Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Description

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners – and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy.

Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage – in the politest possible ways, of course.

Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.81

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is Etiquette & Espionage. This novel entertained fans with its lighthearted adventure tale and its fascinating steampunk world.

According to these readers, it’s a fun story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, peppered with humor and charm. Moreover, they described the school and the world as reminding them of a spy version of Hogwarts. While the book features the manners, dress and expectations of its historically-inspired society, its supernatural elements created an intriguing magical atmosphere.

Lead through the story by intelligent, spirited characters, readers found exploring Etiquette & Espionage’s unique world a delight. 

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy Etiquette & Espionage, what did they say? Typically, critics focused on the book’s plot. Some described it as slow, while others thought that nothing much happened.


Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Description

Magic is dangerous — but love is more dangerous still. Discover the riveting first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices Trilogy, prequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever.

Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters — including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to.

Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them….

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.33

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Another story on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is Clockwork Angel. Filled with a vibrant character cast and world, this novel grabbed fans straight from the beginning. Many mentioned how much they enjoyed its blend of historical fiction and steampunk fantasy, saying it gave a rich and compelling twist to a classic coming of age tale.

Aside from that, readers praised Clockwork Angel for its character cast, which they described as engaging and likable. They struck fans as witty, well-fleshed out and differentiated. Each added a new perspective or insight, for instance, to what happened in the story.

Other readers said that Tess was a highlight. Describing her journey from naive and shy to determined and mature, several said she was easy to relate to and even admire.

Negative Comments

What did critics dislike about Clockwork Angel?

Overall, these readers tended to have two reasons. The first tended to say that the character cast seemed too similar to those in other Cassandra Clare novels. Others said they disliked Tess, the protagonist, for being superficial or rude.


The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty

Description

An obstinate girl who will not be married. A soldier desperate to prove himself. A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.97

Most Common Rating: 4

Postive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is The Traitor’s Kiss. While not directly set in London, fans reported that the world seemed inspired by it. Moreover, this multi-faceted novel dazzled fans with its layered plot, fiery protagonist and authentic romance.

Sporting sharp wit and observational skills, Sage was a breath of fresh air to these readers. They loved how she saved the day through her intelligence rather than through her fists. Seeing her maneuver through her various disguises and pull of espionage thrilled them.

Moreover, the chemistry between her and Ash captivated fans. Describing it as gradual growth rather than love-at-first-sight, these readers were excited to watch their relationship grow.

Negative Comments

 If readers didn’t enjoy The Traitor’s Kiss, what did they say?

Well, critics typically had two reasons for disliking the story. The first was that they thought the story’s pace was slow and as such, the book didn’t keep their attention.

The second reason was the portrayal of women and what they saw as Sage’s chauvinism. Sage’s frequent belittlement of other women frustrated critics. However, overall, they described the novel as pitting Sage  – portrayed as intelligent, deep and likeable – against all the other women in the cast – portrayed as catty, vain and superficial. 

Because of this, these readers said it seemed like Sage was supposed to be special because she was the ‘exception to the rule’ for her gender rather than special for who she was as a person.


A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Description

Kell is one of the last Antari — magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes — Red London — and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive. 

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.09

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Last on our list of fantasy books set in Victorian London is A Darker Shade of Magic. This novel grabbed readers’ attention with its characters and their sparklingly vibrant relationships with one another.

Fans praised the character cast, whose members all had different aspects to them that they liked. For instance, while many mentioned liking Rhy because of her fierceness, several readers remarked on how much they bonded to Kell.

Along the same vein, watching these characters they loved interacting and coming to trust each other was a treat for these readers. Whether it was the dynamic between Lila and Kell or Rhy and Kell, fans described their relationships as beautiful.

Negative Comments

No book is without its critics, so why didn’t these readers like A Darker Shade of Magic?

In general, these readers said the story didn’t evoke emotions in them. Some said that this was due to the writing style, while others said that they couldn’t get a clear picture of who the characters were. As a result, they couldn’t connect with them and get invested in the story.


7 Intriguing Fantasy Books Set in Victorian London to Read

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N.S. Mirage

I'm Natalie, an avid fantasy reader here to help readers find exciting, otherworldly books.

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