Historical Novels of Latin America
Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America
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Pre-Columbian Times and the Spanish Conquest
17th-20th Century Latin America
Latin America from Mexico south experienced a tumultuous and vibrant history, from the Pre-Columbian and Spanish Conquest periods when the Inca, Maya and Aztec peoples ruled large territories until their defeat by the Spanish Conquistadors, through the colonial rule and revolutions of the seventeenth through twentieth centuries. Latin American authors have pioneered the new genre of "magical realism," celebrating their richly imaginative culture.
The Caribbean Islands have their own distinctive cultures, based on underlying remnants of the pre-Columbian past and the painful history of slavery. Piracy was endemic in the Caribbean during the seventeenth century, and a number of authors have explored this aspect of the Caribbean past. Novels about pirates born and raised in Europe are listed on the Seventeenth Century page.
Pre-Columbian Latin America and the Spanish Conquest
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Margaret Allan, Spirits Walking Woman (1998), about an Olmec woman of ancient Mexico whom destiny calls to a forbidden love.
Margaret Allan, Sister of the Sky (1999), about a girl of the Olmec culture in ancient Mexico who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, then trained to become her owner's wife.
Isabel Allende, Inés of My Soul (2006), about the Spanish conquistadora who, with her lover, built the city of Santiago, Chile.
Elizabeth Manson Bahr, Children of the Sun: The Fall of the Aztecs (2009), about the Aztecs at the time of the Spanish Conquest; self-published.
Alexander Baron, The Golden Princess (1954), about a Jewish conquistador and La Malinche, the native woman who became the mistress of Cortés and served as his interpreter.
Clare Bell, The Jaguar Princess (1993), historical fantasy about a girl enslaved by the Aztecs who has the ability to turn into a jaguar.
Ron Braithwaite, Skull Rack, a violent story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, told in the form of a dialogue between an official of the Inquisition and his prisoner, a former inquisitor, whom he forces to retell the story of the conquest.
Ron Braithwaite, Hummingbird God, about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, told in the form of a dialogue between an official of the Inquisition and his prisoner, a former inquisitor, whom he forces to retell the story of the conquest; sequel to Skull Rack
Patrick Carmichael, Inca Moon (2001), about a woman who serves as an agent for the Incan emperor; self-published.
Patrick Carmichael, Eye of the Condor (2006), about a woman on a quest for a legendary emerald; self-published; sequel to Inca Moon.
Brian D'Amato, In the Courts of the Sun (2009), a Sci-Fi thriller about a man descended from the Mayans who travels back in time from the year 2012 (the last year indicated on the ancient Mayan calendar) into the body of a Mayan in the year 664 A.D.
A.B. Daniel, The Puma's Shadow
, about an Inca woman during the time of the Spanish conquistadors; #1 in the Incas series
A.B. Daniel, The Gold of Cuzco, about an Inca woman during the time of the Spanish conquistadors; #2 in the Incas series.
A.B. Daniel, The Light of Machu Picchu
, about an Inca woman during the time of the Spanish conquistadors; #3 in the Incas series.
Philip Dickinson, New Fire (2012), about a young Aztec warrior caught in a high priest's conspiracy against the army in the final days of a sacred calendar; self-published.
Laura Esquivel, Malinche (2006), about the South American Nahua woman who became the translator for and lover of Hernán Cortés during his conquest of the Aztec Empire.
Colin Falconer, Feathered Serpent: A Novel of the Mexican Conquest, about the sixteenth century Spanish Conquest of Mexico.
H. Rider Haggard, Montezuma's Daughter (1893), an adventure story about an Englishman who reluctantly joins a Spanish expedition to the New World, where he falls in love with Montezuma's daughter and witnesses the fall of the Aztec empire to the conquistadors.
Graham Hancock, Nights of the Witch (2013), about an Aztec girl and an orphaned Spanish boy during the Spanish conquest of Mexico; #1 in the War God trilogy.
Graham Hancock, Return of the Plumed Serpent, about Hernán Cortés and his efforts to conquer the Aztec empire; #2 in the War God trilogy.
Gary Jennings, Aztec (1980), about the rise of an Aztec during the height of the Aztec civilization; #1 in the Aztec series.
Gary Jennings, Aztec Autumn (1997), about Aztec resistance to the Spanish conquistadors; #2 in the Aztec series.
Gary Jennings, Aztec Blood (2002), about a boy of mixed Aztec-Spanish blood after the fall of the Aztec empire; #3 in the Aztec series.
Gary Jennings, Robert Gleason and Junius Podrug, Aztec Rage (2006), about an Aztec revolt during the time of Napoleon; #4 in the Aztec series.
Gary Jennings, Robert Gleason and Junius Podrug, Aztec Fire (2008), about a man of Aztec descent whose work as slave to a gun-maker allows him to provide guns to revolutionaries; #5 in the Aztec series.
Gary Jennings and Junius Podrug, Aztec Revenge (2012), about the son of an Indian woman and a Spanish conquistador whose beginning as a highwayman and horse thief leads to a life in which he mingles with the wealthy and powerful; #6 in the Aztec series.
James A. Michener, Mexico (1992), about a contemporary American journalist who travels to Mexico and is swept up in the story of his Mexican ancestors from pre-Columbian times through the twentieth century.
Laszlo Passuth, Tlaloc Weeps for Mexico
, about La Malinche, Cortes' mistress and interpreter
Daniel Peters, The Luck of Huemac, about an Aztec sorcerer in the years leading up to the coming of Cortes and the conquistadors
Daniel Peters, Tikal: A Novel About the Maya, about life in the ancient Mayan capital.
Daniel Peters, The Incas, about the Incan Empire during the years before the coming of Pizarro and the conquistadors.
Zoe Saadia, The Highlander (2012), about a youth from the Aztec highlands who encounters trouble when he visits the lowland capital; #1 in the Rise of the Aztecs series; self-published.
Zoe Saadia, Crossing Worlds (2012), about a young man and his friend who escape to the highlands after the Acolhua emperor is killed and the city of Texcoco lost to the second Tepanec invasion; #2 in the Rise of the Aztecs series; self-published.
Zoe Saadia, The Emperor's Second Wife (2012), about a young man and his friend who return to the Aztec capital after the end of the Texcoco-Tepanec War; #3 in the Rise of the Aztecs series; self-published.
Zoe Saadia, Currents of War (2012), about an Aztec leader considered a foreigner because of his highland birth, as the Aztec people talk of revolting against the Tepanec Empire; #4 in the Rise of the Aztecs series; self-published.
Samuel Shellabarger, Captain From Castile
, about a young Spanish conquistador who accompanies the army of Cortez to Mexico
Frances Sherwood, Night of Sorrows, about an Aztec princess who becomes the slave of Hernan Cortes.
Norman Spinrad, Mexica, about the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs.
David Stacton, A Signal Victory
(1960), a literary novel about the Spanish conquest of the Mayans.
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Marcos Aguinis, Against the Inquisition (2018), about a Jewish man in sixteenth-century Argentina who, after his father is taken away by the Inquisition, completes his monastery education, becomes a physician, and journeys to Lima in the hope of finding his father.
Nataniel Aguirre, Juan de la Rosa: Memoirs of the Last Soldier of the Independence Movement, about the Bolivian struggle for independence in the early nineteenth century.
Claribel Alegria and Darwin Flakoll, Ashes of Izalco, a love story set during the time of the 1932 massacre of 30,000 Indians and peasants in Izalco, El Salvador.
Isabel Allende, House of the Spirits, about a South American family from the beginning of the twentieth century onward.
Isabel Allende, Portrait in Sepia, about a Chilean woman's search to understand her mysterious nightmare of San Francisco's Chinatown.
Paul Anderson, Hunger’s Brides (2005), about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun and poet in seventeenth-century Mexico.
Augusto Roa Bastos, I, the Supreme, about José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, who was dictator of Paraguay from 1814 to 1840.
Sandra Benitez, Bitter Grounds, about life on a coffee plantation in El Salvador from 1932-1977.
Stephen Bywater, Night of the Damned (2015), a supernatural horror story about a company agent sent to a Brazilian rubber plantation in 1935 to investigate the disappearance of workers and the killing of another agent.
Rosario Castellanos, Book of Lamentations (1962), about a fictional rebellion in Mexico in 1930 that resembles historical rebellions in 1712 and 1868.
Alica Gaspar de Alba, Sor Juana's Second Dream (1999), about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a seventeenth century Mexican nun who wrote controversial plays and poetry.
Carolina de Robertis, The Gods of Tango (2015), about a young woman in 1913 Argentina who disguises herself as a male violinist.
Anne Enright, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch, about the Irish-born mistress of Paraguay's President Francisco Solano Lopez.
Amy Ephron, White Rose: Una Rosa Blanca, about a young Cuban woman and an American newspaper reporter during the Cuban rebellion of the 1890s.
Rosario Ferré, Flight of the Swan, about ballerina Anna Pavlova's 1917 tour of Latin America.
Carlos Fuentes, The Old Gringo, about the disappearance of Ambrose Bierce during the early twentieth century Mexican Civil War.
Carlos Fuentes, The Years With Laura Diaz, about a Mexican woman who becomes an artist.
Gerald Green, The Sword and the Sun (1953), about the effects of the Spanish Civil War in Peru during the 1930s.
Francisco Goldman, The Divine Husband, about a woman of Irish and Mayan blood involved with four different men in nineteenth century Latin America.
F. G. Haghenbeck, The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo (2012), about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and the men and women in her life.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna (2009), about a friend of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo who stays with them during the 1930s when Leon Trotsky is living in their house, hiding from Soviet assassins.
Tom Lea, The Brave Bulls, about Mexican bullfighting.
Mario Vargas Llosa, The War of the End of the World (1981 in the original Spanish, 1984 in English), about a peasant revolt in Brazil; based on the life of a nineteenth-century Brazilian prophet.
Claudia H. Long, Josefina’s Sin (2011), about a seventeenth-century landowner's wife who visits a treacherous Mexican court where she has an affair with a bishop and becomes drawn to the gifted nun and poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Review or Author Interview
Michelle Lovric, The Book of Human Skin (2010), about a fanatical girl who arrives at a convent in Peru after a devastating 1784 earthquake, and a Venetian girl who is horribly mistreated but refuses to become a victim.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), a family saga set in a mythical Latin American town.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), a love story set on the Caribbean coast of South America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The General in His Labyrinth (1989), about the last years of Simón Bolivár, who led the struggle for South American independence from Spain in the early nineteenth century.
Eloy Martinez, Santa Evita, a tragi-comic novel about the corpse of Evita Perón set in 1955 Argentina.
C.M. Mayo, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (2009), about the childless Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota who ruled Mexico in the 1860s, and Angel and Alice Iturbide, who give up their son to them. Review or Author Interview
Ana Gloria Moya, Heaven of Drums, about love and discrimination during the early nineteenth century Argentine revolution.
Barbara Mujica, Frida, about the early twentieth century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Leonardo Padura, The Man Who Loved Dogs (2009 in the original Spanish; first English editon 2013), about a Cuban writer who in the 1970s meets a mysterious foreigner with knowledge of the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico City.
Frances de Pontes Peebles, The Seamstress (2008), about two sisters who are seamstresses in 1930s Brazil, one of whom is abducted by rebels, the other of whom marries a wealthy, politically powerful doctor.
Frances de Pontes Peebles, The Air You Breathe (2018), about two girls, one a poor orphan, the other the daughter of a rich sugar baron who meet as children in 1930s Brazil, bond over their shared love of music, and become lifelong friends.
Lucia Robson, Last Train from Cuernavaca (2010), about a sixteen-year-old girl who joins Zapata's army to fight in the Mexican Revolution after federal soldiers destroy her family's hacienda.
Ernesto Sabato, On Heroes and Tombs, a surrealistic novel set during the Argentine Civil War of the 1840s, in 1955 Buenos Aires, and in an alternative world.
Graham Shelby, Demand the World (1990), about the Irish-born mistress of Paraguay's President Francisco Solano Lopez.
Thorvald Steen, Don Carlos, a literary novel about an Italian laborer and his encounter with Charles Darwin in Buenos Aires in the fall of 1833.
Ana Teresa Torres, Dona Inés vs. Oblivion (English translation 1999), about a widow from Caracas, Venezuela, whose struggle to keep her family plantation out of the hands of her husband's descendents by a slave woman continues even after her death in 1780.
Lily Tuck, The News From Paraguay, about the Irish-born mistress of Paraguay's President Francisco Solano Lopez; 2004 National Book Award winner.
Luis Alberto Urrea, The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005), about St. Teresa of Cabora, an illegitimate peasant girl who becomes a healer after a near-death experience in late nineteenth-century Mexico.
Luis Alberto Urrea, Queen of America (2011), about a healer who flees Mexico with her father during the Mexican Revolution and journeys through America in the early years of the twentieth century; sequel to The Hummingbird's Daughter.
Errol Lincoln Uys, Brazil (2000), a panoramic story of the history of Brazil from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first, through the experiences of two powerful families, one the owners of a plantation, the other a family of adventurers.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Secret History of Costaguana (2007 in the original Spanish, 2011 English edition), about a Colombian man and the events leading up to the building of the Panama Canal and the revolution that creates Panama from the northern portion of Colombia. Review
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927), about five people who died in the collapse of a bridge in Peru in the early eighteenth century. Review
Norman Zollinger, Chapultepec (1995), about an American woman and a soldier of the French Foreign Legion during the time of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota in Mexico.
Norman Zollinger, Not of War Only (1995), about an American with a Latino background who joins Pancho Villa and fights in the Mexican Revolution.
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Carlos Acosta, Pig’s Foot (2013), about four generations of a Cuban family, beginning 150 years in the past. Review at The Independent
Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea (2010), about a slave and her master who flee the Haitian Revolution in 1793 and go to New Orleans. Review
Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies (1994), about "Las Mariposas," four sisters who work to oppose the dictatorship of Gen. Raphael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic during the 1950s and 1960s.
Jose Barreiro, Taino (2012), about a Taino Indian adopted by Christopher Columbus.
Madison Smartt Bell, All Souls’ Rising (1995), about Toussaint Louverture and the 1791-1803 Haitian Revolution; #1 in the Haitian Slave trilogy.
Madison Smartt Bell, Master of the Crossroads (2000), about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution; #2 in the Haitian Slave trilogy.
Madison Smartt Bell, The Stone that the Builder Refused (2004), about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution; #3 in the Haitian Slave trilogy.
Peter Bourne, Drums of Destiny
, about Henri Christophe, who rose from slavery to become king of Haiti after the Haitian Revolution; Peter Bourne is a pen name of Graham Montague Jeffries; published in the 1940s
Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of This World (1949), about the Haitian Revolution and Henri Christophe, a former slave who became Haiti's first king.
Alejo Carpentier, Explosion in a Cathedral (1962), about three wealthy Cuban orphans in Havana and the impact of the French Revolution on the Caribbean.
Alejo Carpentier, The Harp and the Shadow (1978), a novel about the dying Christopher Columbus which re-evaluates European motivations for discovering and exploring the New World.
Maryse Condé, Victoire, My Mother's Mother (2010), a biographical novel about the author's grandmother, a light-skinned woman of mixed race who worked as a cook for a white Creole family in the French Antilles.
Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones (1998), about the systematic murder of Haitians in the Dominican Republic during the 1930s
Esi Edugyan, Washington Black (2018), about a slave who, as a boy in Barbados, is made the assistant to a scientist, and later must flee northward with him after a tragic accident.
Lauren Francis-Sharma, 'Til the Well Runs Dry (2014), about a young seamstress in Trinidad, the ambitious policeman she falls in love with in the 1940s, and their children.
Cristina García, Monkey Hunting (2003), about a Chinese man who immigrates to Cuba in in 1857 and becomes a slave on a sugarcane plantation
Alice Hoffman, The Marriage of Opposites (2016), about Rachel Pomié, the daughter of a French merchant on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, who would become the mother of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (2009), about a group of women slaves planning a revolt on a Jamaican sugar plantation.
Andrea Levy, The Long Song (2010), about a woman born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation who lives to see slavery abolished.
Norah Lofts, Uneasy Paradise (1973; also published as Her Own Special Island), romantic suspense about a young woman who returns to the Caribbean where she was born and raised, in order to become a governess.
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, about a white Creole girl growing up in Jamaica shortly after slavery was abolished there, who becomes the first wife of Mr. Rochester from Charlotte Brontë’s classic nineteenth-century novel Jane Eyre. Review
Kenneth Lewis Roberts, Lydia Bailey (1947), about a New England man who falls in love with a woman’s portrait and goes to Haiti to search for her during the Haitian Revolution. Review at historicalnovels-wcc.blogspot.com
Erika Robuck, Receive Me Falling (2009), a dual-time story about the parallel lives of a present-day woman who inherits an old sugarcane plantation in the Caribbean and a young nineteenth-century woman whose father owned it; self-published.
Eleanor Parker Sapia, A Decent Woman (2015), about the friendship between an Afro-Cuban midwife and a socialite in Puerto Rico in the early 1900s.
Sophie Schiller, Transfer Day (2012), about an orphaned girl in the Danish West Indies during World War I who helps a stranger she finds on the beach, and later discovers he is a deserter from a German U-boat; self-published.
Marisel Vera, If I Bring You Roses (2011), about a young Puerto Rican woman who marries and moves to Chicago in the 1940s.
Tiphanie Yanique, Land of Love and Drowning (2014), about two sisters and their family on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, as it passes from Danish to American rule between 1916 and the 1970s.
Frank Yerby, The Golden Hawk (1948), about a pirate in the West Indies during the seventeenth century.
Kerry Young, Gloria (2013), about a sixteen-year-old black Jamaican girl who flees to Kingston with her little sister in 1938, where she encounters discrimination and joins a movement for social justice.
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Annamaria Alfieri, City of Silver (2009), about the mother superior of a convent in the silver mining city of Potosí, Peru, in 1650, who must find out how a novice nun died amid a visit from Spain's Grand Inquisitor. Review and Author Interview
Annamaria Alfieri, Invisible Country (2012), about a priest in Paraguay who struggles to protect his village after a dictator's Parisian mistress is found murdered amid a war in which most of the village's men have died.
Aliette de Bodard, Servant of the Underworld (2010), historical crime fantasy about an Aztec priest who must find a priestess who has disappeared from an empty, blood-drenched room; #1 in the Obsidian and Blood series.
Aliette de Bodard, Harbinger of the Storm (2011), historical crime fantasy about an Aztec priest who must investigate after one of the council members involved in choosing a new ruler is brutally murdered; #2 in the Obsidian and Blood series.
Aliette de Bodard, Master of the House of Darts (2011), historical crime fantasy about an Aztec priest who must investigate after a prisoner-of-war dies, leaving too few potential sacrifices to ensure the gods' favor; #3 in the Obsidian and Blood series.
Simon Levack, Demon of the Air (2004), about the slave of an Aztec government minister, who must solve the mystery surrounding a botched sacrifice; #1 in the Aztec mystery series.
Simon Levack, Shadow of the Lords (2005), the slave of an Aztec government minister stumbles across a dead man and must find out who murdered him; # in the Aztec mystery series.
Simon Levack, City of Spies (2006), the slave of an Aztec government minister must solve a mystery; #3 in the Aztec mystery series.
Simon Levack, Tribute of Death (2007), the slave of an Aztec government minister must solve a mystery; #4 in the Aztec mystery series.
Alberto Mussa, The Mystery of Rio (2013), about a man who becomes interested in a "perfect crime" committed in 1913, when a government official is murdered in a Rio de Janeiro brothel. Review at the Seeing the World Through Books blog
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