Trope Tuesday is a meme/tag/series created by yours truly. On Tuesdays, the goal is to discuss one trope that you dislike, love, are indifferent to, hate, currently annoyed by, think is problematic, want to kill with fire, or throw out the moon door (a la Petyr Baelish). You can learn more about Trope Tuesday here.
Today’s Trope is Historical Domain Character.
Historical Domain Characters are characters that were real figures, taken from history, and then fictionalized. Sometimes, Historical Domain Characters will merely appear in passing, but other times they will be in the staring role, or they can be found as nearly every supporting character like in The Divine Comedy by Dante.
I would be remise not to mention my FAVORITE use of the Historical Domain Character trope. No matter how I feel about the actual plot and development, The Night Prince series by Jeaniene Frost is truly a gift to humanity Historical Domain Character wise. I have a complicated relationship with the series itself, and the Night Huntress Universe it comes from, but I will always love Jeaniene for making one of her vampire love interests, the most legendary vampire around, Dracula aka Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad Tepesh, the hero in the Night Prince series, is exactly what a Historical Domain Character should be (Triple Bonus points for the vampirism). He is ancient, yet modern and accessible for those who didn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula or have any clue about Vlad the Impaler’s actual history. Vlad just works. Jeaniene did a really great job of merging the historical with the fictional, and the mythos behind the existence of Dracula in canon is hilarious (But you have to wait until the third book, Bound by Flames to get it).
Most of the time, I really enjoy Historical Domain Characters. However, there are two instances of the use of Historical Domain Characters that I simply cannot abide by. The funny thing is that both of the books that use them were set in the Tudor period.
My ‘Biggest Historical Domain Character Beef Ever’ goes to Everything-Ever-Written by Philipa Gregory. If I could erase all of one author’s works from existence, it would be Philipa Gregory’s. I refuse to read any of her books based solely on principle.
For those who haven’t seen me talking about the Tudor period before, I am the #1 Anne Boleyn fan. I feel a strong kinship to her, and love the mystery surrounding her. Philipa Gregory completely destroys Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl. She makes Anne into the villain that Thomas Cromwell created so Henry VIII could justify killing her. The Other Boleyn Girl is a classic case of turning women against each other. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Anne was a saint (Hell, she said some nasty things to people like that time she verbatim said she wanted all the Spaniards, aka Katherine ,to drown), but reducing complex, intelligent women into petty villains needs to end.
My Lady Jane was also a big “No” for its use of Historical Domain Characters. Nearly all of the characters in My Lady Jane are Historical Domain Characters. The concept of the book itself was flawed. In My Lady Jane, there are Eðian, which are essentially just shapeshifters. The authors exchanged the religious turmoil happening during Edward’s reign in for supernatural anti-Eðian drama that fell flat and was poorly constructed. Because My Lady Jane is a comedy with ‘I tried too hard’ humor, it made the struggles of the characters, and the characters themselves, feel extremely trivial. For example, Mary became this pseudo-Queen of Hearts who wanted to chop everyone’s head off. Unfortunate, to say the least… The historical figures that My Lady Jane worked with were such complicated people involved in an even more complicated political game, yet they completely wasted it for oversimplified drama with some boring heterosexual romance on the side.
Other examples of Historical Domain Characters can be found in Midnight Never Come (Good use of Tudor Period Historical Domain Characters), Shadow of Night, and, on the film front, Anastasia. You can check out even more examples here on my Goodreads shelf for Historical Domain Characters.
My verdict: When it is good, I love it. When it offends my Tudor history expert sensibilities, I hate it.
What do you think of Historical Domain Characters? Have any favorites? Reminds you of that episode of Star Trek with Abraham Lincoln? Tell me your thoughts.