My favourite historical novels this year take us from the Japanese island of Dejima in 1799 to the Highlands of Scotland in 1692 and to the Danish court some sixty years earlier. They range from the large-scale, bold and brilliant to the more intimate, introspective and quietly impressive. All three set their scenes impeccably, recreating time and place so expertly that the reader's imagination easily takes over where the words on the page leave off, their recreated worlds peopled with full characters in well-realised situations.
Booker contender The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell is a big book in more ways than one, complex, clever and a fascinating account of an outpost of the Dutch East India Company in the closed society of Japan (impressions here).
Something is rotten in the State of Denmark, and not just in Hamlet: in Rose Tremain's Music & Silence, things go awry at the court of King Christian IV, but they do so in "a glittering spider's web of a book ... rich and beautifully rendered" (post on it here).