I recently had the pleasure of reading Lorina Stephens' book "Mountains of Ice". Everything about the book was approached with more imagination than your run of the mill fantasy. From the setting, in a recognizably Italianate world to the theme, which was political the book broke new ground.
The setting was not entirely 'historical' but only evoked a sort of renaissance mood. Many things about this created world were also unique. The foundational religion was based on ancestor worship and took the concrete form of a class of "bone speakers" who had the gift of being able to speak to their ancestors through their bones, and "truth speakers" who only spoke the truth. This 'magical' component balanced the very real political situation of a corrupt system, twisted by an insecure and destructive leader. Lorina has clearly done anthropological research to flesh out these cultural elements.
She also brought a contemporary edge to the novel by playing with the negative and positive attitudes to tattooing - now so much a part of modern society.
All of this proved an admirable backdrop for the complex plot that did not neglect individual character development as it progressed with the political theme.
I always hate it when book reviews outline the plot, as I feel that half the pleasure of reading comes from being surprised as that unfolds! But I hope what I have written will tempt you to pick it up and discover this intricate and lovely world for yourself.