History as Fantasy

I read mostly fantasy, and there is a good amount of fantasy that takes places in a setting based on real world places and time periods. I’m all for taking inspiration from real life and fictionalizing it or weaving it into something fantastical. Some fantasy stories aren’t so much inspired by the real world as they are fantastical re-imaginings of historical events.

There’s a fine line between a fantasy setting inspired by a real setting and an actual historical setting that’s been dramatized for the sake of a narrative. I’m not a huge fan of the latter.

My real problem with it is when a book is simply marketed as fantasy when it’s actually historical fiction. It’s implying that the setting, events, and people are all fictional., but they’re actually just plucked out of real life with some assumed dialogue written in and maybe a casual, yet unimportant, fantasy element added on.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be done well. Taking history and fictionalizing it. I’ve enjoyed plenty of stories like this and don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it. But it can also be done in a way that just feels lazy and deceptive. Skipping over the world-building part of fantasy and also taking the plot and characters out of a history book. Is it even fantasy at that point?

Clearly I’ve been let down by a few ‘fantasy’ books this year that were really historical fiction. Have you ever been let down by a book that wasn’t quite as fantasy as you thought it would? Are there any books you think turn history into fantasy well?