Historical Novels: Medieval Celts

Medieval Ireland to the early 16th century and
Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and other Celtic areas to 1300

Pictish stone


Jump to:

Medieval Ireland
Medieval Scotland
Medieval Wales and Cornwall
Medieval Brittany and Celtic France


After Rome abandoned Britain, its Celtic population shifted westward as Saxons took over the east. Wales and Cornwall were independent well into medieval times. Scotland gradually lost its independence as its rulers intermarried with English royalty, acquiring estates for which they paid homage to England. Ireland remained independent until the twelfth century. After the Western Roman Empire fell, Celts from southwestern Britain migrated southward across the Channel, settling in "Lesser Britain." Today, it is known as Brittany, and its population is still largely Celtic.

The many novels set in various parts of medieval Celtic Europe reflect the fascination of authors and readers with the Celts. Scottish novelist Nigel Tranter wrote prolifically about Scottish history. Carla Nayland's excellent article on Nigel Tranter's historical novels should help interested readers select a Tranter novel they will enjoy.


Medieval Ireland

Patrick, enslaved as a teenager by Irish raiders who captured him in Britain, later returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. The Irish embraced Christianity during the fifth and sixth centuries, largely due to his efforts. Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, credits Irish monks with protecting culture and learning during the early Middle Ages when Christians elsewhere thought books by classical Greek and Roman writers carried the taint of heresy.

Norse Vikings raided Ireland during the eighth century and gained a foothold there in the ninth, founding Dublin. Normans came to Ireland during the twelfth century warfare between rival Irish kings, one whom hired Norman mercenaries. The success of the Normans alarmed King Henry II of England, who brought his army to Ireland to establish control over the Normans there. Afterward, English monarchs tried to assert claims to Ireland, with varying degrees of success, through the medieval period.

Jump to Mysteries set in Medieval Ireland


Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Anonymous, The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill (12th century), about the high king Brian Boru and his wars against Viking invaders. Review

Melvyn Bragg, The Sword and the Miracle, (titled Credo in the U.K.), about St. Bega, a seventh century Irish woman who takes on the mission of spreading the Christian faith in Anglo-Saxon England, using the miraculous power of a piece of the true cross that she carries with her.

Cecelia Holland, The Kings in Winter (1967), about the defense of Ireland by Brian Boru and his army against Viking invaders at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Review


Angela Elwell Hunt, Afton of Margate Castle (1993), about a serf raised in a castle who falls in love with the lord's son and falls afoul of his mother's wrath; #1 in the Theyn Chronicles series.

Angela Elwell Hunt, The Troubadour's Quest (1994), about a troubadour and a street urchin who become traveling companions in medieval England and France as the troubadour searches for the woman he loves; #2 in the Theyn Chronicles series.

Angela Elwell Hunt, Ingram of the Irish (1994), about a knight in Scotland who sets out to learn more of his past after he discovers his Irish origins; #3 in the Theyn Chronicles series.

Angela Elwell Hunt, The Silver Sword (1998), about a modern woman who discovers she is of royal Irish descent and begins researching her ancestry, particularly a woman in 15th-century Prague who serves as a scribe for religious reformer John Hus; Christian message; #1 in the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series.

Angela Elwell Hunt, The Golden Cross (1998), about a modern woman of royal Irish descent researching her ancestry, particularly an artistic orphan in Dutch Java who disguises herself as a boy to join an expedition to the New World; Christian message; #2 in the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series.

Angela Elwell Hunt, The Velvet Shadow (1999), about a modern woman of royal Irish descent researching her ancestry, particularly a female medical student from Charleston who is cut off from her family when the Civil War begins while she is studying in Boston; Christian message; #3 in the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series.

Angela Elwell Hunt, The Emerald Isle (1999), about a modern woman of royal Irish descent researching her ancestry, particularly a woman in medieval Ireland who makes a deathbed vow that affects the lives of her descendants; #4 in the Heirs of Cahira O'Connor series.


Stephen Lawhead, Byzantium, about a ninth century Irish monk who travels to Byzantium with the Book of Kells.

Morgan Llywelyn, Brendan (2010), about Brendan of Clonfert and his legendary voyage in search of the Island of Paradise. Review

Morgan Llywelyn, Lion of Ireland (1980), about the tenth-century Irish high king Brian Boru.

Morgan Llywelyn, Pride of Lions, about the son of Brian Boru; sequel to Lion of Ireland.

R.A. MacAvoy, The Book of Kells (1985), about a mild-mannered artist and his assertive lover who slip back in time to tenth-century Ireland.

Juliet Marillier, Heart's Blood (2009), a romantic historical fantasy about a girl trained as a scribe who, to avoid marriage to a brute, flees to the shelter of a crippled chieftain whose land is under a curse.

Geoffrey Moorhouse, Sun Dancing (1997), a blend of historical fiction (the first half of the book) and nonfiction history (the second half) about life in the Irish monastery on the island of Skellig Michael.

Robin Morgan, The Burning Time (2006), about a fourteenth century pagan priestess in Ireland who fights back against the Inquisition; based on the true story of Alyce Kyteler. Review at Bookslut

Diana Norman, Daughter of Lir (1988), about a woman raised in a Norman convent who goes to Ireland to become Abbess of Kildare and falls afoul of a brutal king's politics. Review

Chet Raymo, In the Falcon's Claw: A Novel of the Year 1000 (1990), about an Irish-born monk, his beautiful lover, and the future Pope Sylvester II.

Leticia Remauro, Patric's Saga: The Story of Ireland's High King, Brian Boru and His Mystical Wife, Kormlada (2005), about Brian Boru's quest to become high king of Ireland in the tenth century; self-published.


Mysteries set in Medieval Ireland


Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Cora Harrison, My Lady Judge (2007), about a woman who is a Brehon judge in Burren, Ireland, and must investigate the death of a man during the 1509 May Day festival; #1 in the Burren Mysteries series. Review

Cora Harrison, A Secret and Unlawful Killing (2008; titled Michaelmas Tribute in the U.K.), about a woman Brehon judge in Ireland who must investigate the death of two unpopular men during the 1509 Michaelmas Fair; #2 in the Burren Mysteries series.

Cora Harrison, The Sting of Justice (2009), about a woman Brehon judge in early sixteenth century Ireland who must find out who murdered a widely disliked silversmith; #3 in the Burren Mysteries series.

Cora Harrison, Writ in Stone (2009), about a woman Brehon judge in early sixteenth century Ireland who investigates one murder and tries to prevent another on the eve of her marriage; #4 in the Burren Mysteries series.

Cora Harrison, Eye of the Law (2010), about a woman Brehon judge in early sixteenth century Ireland who must find out who killed a stranger claiming to be the son of a wealthy nobleman who refused to acknowledge him; #5 in the Burren Mysteries series.

Cora Harrison, Scales of Retribution (2011), about a woman judge in medieval Ireland who, just after giving birth, must find out who killed the local physician; #6 in the Burren Mysteries series.


Peter Tremayne, Absolution by Murder (1994), about a scholarly young nun in seventh-century Ireland who must find out who murdered an abbess about to speak at a religious council; #1 in the Sister Fidelma series; Peter Tremayne is a pen name of the historian Peter Berresford Ellis. Review

Peter Tremayne, Shroud for the Archbishop (1995), about a seventh-century Irish nun who investigates the murder of an archbishop while she is in Rome for a ceremonial occasion; #2 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Suffer Little Children (1995), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #3 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Subtle Serpent (1996), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #4 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Spider's Web (1997), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #5 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Valley of the Shadow (1998), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #6 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Monk Who Vanished (1999), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #7 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Act of Mercy (1999), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #8 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Hemlock at Vespers (2000), short story collection about a nun in seventh century Ireland who solves mysteries; #9 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Our Lady of Darkness (2000), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #10 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Smoke in the Wind (2001), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #11 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Haunted Abbot (2002), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #12 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Badger's Moon (2003), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #13 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Leper's Bell (2004), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #14 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Whispers of the Dead (2004), short story collection about a nun in seventh-century Ireland who solves mysteries; #15 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Master of Souls (2005), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #16 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, A Prayer for the Damned (2006), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #17 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Dancing With Demons (2007), a nun in seventh-century Ireland solves mysteries; #18 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Council of the Cursed (2008), about an Irish nun who must investigate a murder in 670 A.D. while attending a Church council in Burgundy hostile to the Celtic Church; #19 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Dove of Death (2010), about an Irish nun determined to find and bring justice to the men who killed an Irish prince and the captain of the ship on which she was sailing after it was attacked by pirates; #20 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, The Chalice of Blood (2010), about an Irish nun who investigates the locked-room mystery of a scholar murdered in his cell in the abbey of Lios Mór; #21 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Behold a Pale Horse (2011), about an Irish nun who investigates a series of murders in an Italian abbey during controversies over the Arian heresy; #22 in the Sister Fidelma series. Review

Peter Tremayne, The Seventh Trumpet (2012), about an Irish nun, the sister of the King of Cashel, who at her brother's request investigates the murder of a young nobleman; #23 in the Sister Fidelma series.

Peter Tremayne, Atonement of Blood (2013), about an Irish nun who travels into the territory of her family's enemies to find out the reasons behind an attempt to kill her brother, the King of Cashel; #24 in the Sister Fidelma series.


Medieval Scotland and Celtic Northern Britain

Viking invasions led to Norse rule over the Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland. Because of Shakespeare's play, which is undoubtedly great literature but distorted the historical record, Macbeth is probably the best-known ruler of Scotland during this period. During the twelfth century, King David I of Scotland obtained lands south of the Scottish border for which he paid ceremonial homage to the English king, laying the groundwork for an English claim to Scotland in the thirteenth century. The last king of Scotland recognized by the English as king of an independent nation was Robert the Bruce, who ruled from 1306-1329. For novels about Robert the Bruce, see the Medieval 14th-15th Century page.


Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Jen Black, Far After Gold (2009), historical romance set in the tenth century about a Christian woman from the Hebrides who is kidnapped and sold to a pagan Viking. Review by Carla Nayland

Maggie Davis, The Winter Serpent (1958), historical romance about a young Scottish woman sold as a slave to a Viking leader. Review

Katherine Deauxville, Eyes of Love (1996), historical romance about a beautiful Scottish orphan whose psychic abilities put her at risk.

Dorothy Dunnett, King Hereafter (1982), about Macbeth, King of Scotland in the eleventh century. Review

Kathleen Givens, On a Highland Shore, about a woman on the Scottish coast whose wedding plans are disrupted by a threatened Viking attack.

Kathleen Givens, Rivals for the Crown, about a young medieval woman and the friend she must leave behind when she flees to Scotland after Edward I of England expels the Jews; sequel to On a Highland Shore.

Posie Graeme-Evans, The Island House (2012), about a present-day archaeology student and a Pictish girl from 800 A.D. who suffered from the clash of three religions and was cast out of her Christian community for falling in love with a Viking.

Peg Herring, Macbeth's Niece (2008), historical romance about a fictional niece of Macbeth.

John James, Men Went to Cattraeth (1969), about the Battle of Catraeth (or Catterick), fought around 600 A.D. between the Celtic Votadini tribe in Northern Britain against invading Angles from the European continent, based on Aneirin's poem "Y Gododdin."

Susan Fraser King, Lady Macbeth (2008), about the Scottish queen forced to marry Macbeth, the warlord who killed her husband. Review

Susan Fraser King, Queen Hereafter (2010), about the eleventh-century Saxon princess who becomes Queen Margaret of Scotland.

James John Loftus, Celtic Blood (2010), about a boy, the last of the line of the MacKay clan and a possible claimant to the throne, who struggles to survive the king's efforts to kill him; self-published.

Deborah Macgillivray, A Restless Knight (2006), historical romance set in Scotland during the late thirteenth century; #1 in the Dragons of Challon series.

Deborah Macgillivray, In Her Bed (2007), historical romance set in Scotland during the late thirteenth century; #2 in the Dragons of Challon series.


Juliet Marillier, The Dark Mirror (2005), historical fantasy about a foster child of a powerful druid in sixth-century Scotland who saves a foundling child abandoned on their doorstep by the fairie folk; #1 in the Bridei Chronicles series

Juliet Marillier, Blade of Fortriu (2006), historical fantasy about a young king and his beautiful ward, whom he sends to marry a strange chieftain in order to win an ally in a war against invaders; #2 in the Bridei Chronicles series

Juliet Marillier, The Well of Shades (2007), historical fantasy about a king in sixth-century Scotland, and the adviser he sends on a complicated set of missions as he struggles to unite his kingdom; #3 in the Bridei Chronicles series


Claire R. McDougall, Veil of Time (2014), about a modern woman who returns to Glasgow after her divorce, where she slips back in time to 735 A.D., when a devastating earthquake struck Scotland.

Jane Oliver, Alexander the Glorious (1965), about Alexander III King of Scots, who reigned from the age of eight in 1249 when his father died to 1286.

Jane Oliver, Sing, Morning Star (1949), about King Malcolm and Queen Margaret of Scotland.


Nigel Tranter, Druid Sacrifice (1993), about the mother of the sixth century Scottish Saint Mungo.

Nigel Tranter, Columba (1987), about the sixth century Scottish Saint Columba.

Nigel Tranter, Kenneth (1990), about Kenneth MacAlpin, the ninth-century leader who united the Picts and the Scots. Review

Nigel Tranter, High Kings and Vikings (1998), about the thane of Glamis during a period of raiding by the Viking leader Thorfinn of Orkney at the turn of the eleventh century. Review

Nigel Tranter, Macbeth the King (1978), about the medieval Scottish king Macbeth; based on historical research.

Nigel Tranter, Margaret the Queen (1979), about the eleventh-century queen who became known as Saint Margaret of Scotland and her husband, Malcolm III.

Nigel Tranter, David the Prince (1980), about the sons of Queen Margaret; set in the early twelfth century.

Nigel Tranter, Lord of the Isles (1983), about the Scottish thane who defeated the Vikings in the twelfth century.

Nigel Tranter, Tapestry of the Boar (1993), about the boar-hunter Hugh de Swinton and his rise to power in medieval Scotland. Review

Nigel Tranter, Sword of State (1999), about the thirteenth century friendship between Earl Patrick II of Dunbar and King Alexander II of Scots.

Nigel Tranter, Envoy Extraordinary (1999), about the thirteenth century friendship between Earl Patrick II of Dunbar and King Alexander II of Scots; sequel to Sword of State.

Nigel Tranter, Crusader (1991), about the medieval Scottish King Alexander III.

Nigel Tranter, True Thomas (1981), about the thirteenth century Scottish poet and prophet Thomas the Rhymer.


Medieval Wales and Cornwall

In western Britain, Wales and Cornwall began the early medieval period independent of English rule. During the ninth century, the Saxon kings of Wessex repeatedly invaded Cornwall. By the tenth century reign of Edward the Confessor, Cornwall was part of England. Wales, divided into several kingdoms until it united under the eleventh century King Gruffydd ap Llywellyn, maintained its independence from England despite frequent warfare until the death of Gruffydd's son Llywelyn the Last in 1282. The rebellion of Owain Glyndwr (anglicized to Owen Glendower) in 1400 was the last significant Welsh attempt to free itself of English rule.


Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Bryher, Ruan (1960), about a boy in sixth century Cornwall who runs away to become a sailor. Review

Barbara Erskine, Child of the Phoenix, about a thirteenth century Welsh princess.

Eleanor Fairburn, The Golden Hive (1964), about Nest of Deheubarth, the beautiful twelfth-century Welsh princess who became mistress to Henry I of England and ancestress of the powerful Geraldine clan of Ireland. Review at Reading the Past

Alan Fisk, The Summer Stars (1992, reissued 2000), about the wanderings of the Welsh bard Taliesin.

Nicole Galland, The Fool’s Tale, love and politics in a royal court in late twelfth century Wales.

G.R. Grove, Storyteller (2007), a collection of tales about a young man's training to become a bard in sixth century Wales; #1 in the Storyteller trilogy; self-published.

G.R. Grove, Flight of the Hawk (2007), about two young Welsh bards sent north to investigate rumors and prevent a war; #2 in the Storyteller trilogy; self-published.

G.R. Grove, The Ash Spear (forthcoming in 2009), about a Welsh bard; #3 in the Storyteller trilogy; self-published.

Jane Guill, Nectar from a Stone, about a woman who runs away from her brutal husband in medieval Wales.

Bernard Knight, Madoc, Prince of America (1977), about the Welsh prince said to have journeyed to America in the twelfth century.

Stephen Lawhead, Hood, a novel that imagines a Welsh Robin Hood; #1 in the King Raven trilogy.

Stephen Lawhead, Scarlet, a novel that imagines a Welsh Robin Hood; #2 in the King Raven trilogy.

Susan Mayse, Awen, about a bard in northern Wales during the eighth century wars between Wales and the English kingdom of Mercia.

Edith Pargeter, Sunrise in the West, about thirteenth century Wales; #1 in the Brothers of Gwynedd quartet.

Edith Pargeter, The Dragon at Noonday, about thirteenth century Wales; #2 in the Brothers of Gwynedd quartet.

Edith Pargeter, The Hounds of Sunset, about thirteenth century Wales; #3 in the Brothers of Gwynedd quartet.

Edith Pargeter, Afterglow and Nightfall, about thirteenth century Wales; #4 in the Brothers of Gwynedd quartet.

Sharon Kay Penman, Here Be Dragons, set in thirteenth century England and Wales; #1 in the Welsh Princes trilogy.

Sharon Kay Penman, Falls the Shadow, set in thirteenth century England and Wales; #2 in the Welsh Princes trilogy.

Sharon Kay Penman, The Reckoning, set in thirteenth century England and Wales; #3 in the Welsh Princes trilogy.

John Cowper Powys, Owen Glendower (1940), about a young Oxford scholar whose fate becomes entangled with that of Owen Glendower on the eve of the Welsh rebellion Glendower leads against England.

Malcolm Pryce, A Dragon to Agincourt (2003), about a Welsh archer who joins the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr against English rule; not readily available outside the U.K.

Martha Rofheart, Glendower County (also titled Cry "God for Glendower"), about Owen Glendower, the last native Welshman to hold the title of Prince of Wales.

Anna Lee Waldo, Circle of Stones (1999), about Brenda, the mistress of the twelfth century Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd; #1 in the Druid Circle series.

Anna Lee Waldo, Circle of Stars (2001), about Madoc, son of the Welsh prince Owain Gwynedd, who is said to have journeyed to America in the twelfth century; #2 in the Druid Circle series.

Sarah Woodbury, Footsteps in Time (2011), alternative history about two American teenagers who go back in time to the year 1282, when the last prince of an independent Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, was killed, and save him instead; self-published.

Sarah Woodbury, Prince of Time (2011), alternative history about what might have happened if the last prince of an independent Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, was not killed in 1282; sequel to Footsteps in Time; self-published.


Medieval Brittany and Celtic France


Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Alice Borchardt, Devoted, about the unlikely romance between a pagan Celtic woman with mystical abilities and a Christian bishop during the ninth-century Viking invasions of northern France.

Alice Borchardt, Beguiled, about the love between a Celtic woman and a Christian bishop and their efforts to protect the city of Chantalon during the ninth century Viking invasions of northern France; sequel to Devoted.

Gillian Bradshaw, The Wolf Hunt (2001), historical romance about a Norman woman in Brittany; based on a werewolf story in the twelfth century Lais of Marie de France.

Louis L'Amour, The Walking Drum, an uncharacteristic medieval novel by the classic Western author, about a twelfth-century Breton searching Europe and the Middle East for his father.


Back to Top

Back to the Medieval Directory

Forward to the Medieval Anglo-Saxons page