I'm looking for something like game of thrones, but real. Epic, sweeping historical fiction with complex stories, political intrigue, backstabbing, and moral ambiguity.
I started watching Game of Thrones
a few weeks ago. Since then, I've started the novel, and gotten really into the world's history, locations, and characters, to the point where I've been reading up on the backstory online to learn about the things that are glossed over in the show/books. The other day, though, I wondered: why not get into something where I can put the same energy into learning about actual, historical characters and events, instead of obsessing over a fantasy world?
I'm trying to find something that's similar to Game of Thrones and the A Song of Ice and Fire series,
but based off of real history. For those of you haven't read the books, they're a series of sprawling fantasy novels that are [very] loosely based off England's War of the Roses.
The series follows the kingdom of Westeros as a series of squabbles between two powerful ruling families escalates into an all-out war of succession, with at least five major factions vying for power.
Here's what I'm looking for:
A historical setting, preferably set in antiquity to the 1700s (bonus points for Medieval Europe)
A plot that deals with people fighting for a throne, or at least for political power
Focuses on political intrigue and backstabbing, with a lot of shifting and vague alliances
Lots of period detail
multi-faceted characters, each with surprisingly intricate pasts, inspirations, and ambitions
A skeptical to cynical outlook about medieval kings, power structures, social mores, etc.
An emphasis on powerful families (great houses or something similar,) their allegiances,
Based (at least loosely) on history, with real characters and events
A large cast of characters and information about their lineages, histories, family rivalries, etc.
If possible, multiple protagonists and points of view, preferable from both sides of the battle
Flawed yet likeable characters that are forced to make morally ambiguous decisions while wrestling with their baser instincts
Some action and adventure (exploration, warfare, ambushes, etc.)
Shows the [sometimes detrimental] effects that the decisions of the ruling class have on common people
Shows what it's like to live as a woman in a patriarichal society
isn't afraid of sex
Relatively fast-paced, with plenty of different "stuff" going on
Isn't primarily about soldiers, generals or warfare (some of this is great, I just don't want battle strategy and tactics to be the main focus of the book)
Lots of bonus points if it's about the War of the Roses.
I don't expect any one work of fiction to fit all of those descriptions, but if at least a few ring a bell, go ahead and post it. (For instance, Pillars of the Earth would be a good suggestion, even if it doesn't involve kings fighting for power. War and Peace would qualify, even though it's more modern, as would some books about, say, the first world war.) I also don't care what medium it is: books, movies, TV shows, and video games are all good. A narrative format is preferable, but I'd like to hear about non-fiction/documentaries too.