The four shortlisted titles are Partitions by Amit Majmudar (Oneworld); The Emperor's Gold by Robert Wilton (Corvus); Mistress of My Fate by Hallie Rubenhold (Doubleday); and The Transformation of Batholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson (Picador).
The judges were Maria Rejt, publisher at Pan Macmillan; author and historian Tom Holland; Goldsboro Books m.d. David Headley; blogger and reviewer Ayo Onatade; and Manda Scott, author and chair of HWA.
Scott said: "It was relatively easy to pick the shortlist: these four [novels] stood out as being exceptional—any author would have been proud to write them at any point in his or her career, but to have written them as a first novel is exceptional."
The award is sponsored by Goldsboro Books, and the winner will be awarded a £2,000 cheque and a hand-made crystal award on 20th September at History in the Court, held at Goldsboro Books in Cecil Court, central London.
The award accepted submissions from authors of historical novels first published in English, in the UK from October 2010 to the end of September 2011.