What I want to discuss here are not times when the author has deliberately manipulated history and provides justification for it (either within the story or as a note at the end). I do want to discuss when authors just plain get it wrong and if it bothers you.
The other day I was reading a novel that featured a little bit about ancient Egypt in it. It was going pretty well until I came across the place where the author started perpetuating the myth that the pyramids were places where pharaohs “would even bury servants alive in there” (Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike, Page 219). This is just totally wrong on two points. The first of which is that pharaohs were buried alongside their retainers. They were, but only until King Djet of the First Dynasty. (For a grand total of four kings.) Secondly, the first pyramid was built for King Netjerikhet (Djoser) and it was built in the Third Dynasty. Hundreds of years after the human sacrifice stopped!
After that I had a hard time getting back into the story. I can definitely understand manipulating the facts to get a better story. But what I can’t understand is stating something as fact and just getting it wrong. Not even a little bit wrong but totally, utterly and completely wrong. It bugs me because a) the author should have done even a little bit of research and b) her editor should have caught that mistake in the fact-checking process.
What I want to know now is this: Does it bug you when authors writing historical fiction just get something completely wrong? If so, does it colour your opinion of the rest of the novel?