Book Recs: Fantasies by Asian Authors

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One of my goals for this blog is to make some truly fantastic book recommendations. To work in line with this goal, I want to start recommending more diverse books. Something I have noticed as of late is that the same books are recommended over and over again. And whilst that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it is probably a fantastic book, I feel like I can do my part and shine a light on diverse books that are just as brilliant, if not better.

Fantasy is one of my favourite genres; I love the feeling of transcending reality and being teleported to an author’s imagination-scape. Give me magical worlds, awesome powers and magic systems, and inspiring adventure narratives.

For this month’s book recommendation post, I am going to share with you four wonderful fantasies written by Asian authors.

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1. SORCERER TO THE CROWN BY ZEN CHO

This was the book that started my love affair for diverse fantasies. Before reading this book, I had no idea that fantasies based on mythology familiar to me existed. I can’t tell you how happy and liberated I felt reading this for the first time.

  • Though it is set in an alternate Regency England, the two protagonists are people of colour – tenacious, earnest and patient Zacharias, who is an African slave freed, and larger-than-life, unstoppable, and charismatic Prunella who is half-Indian.
  • It has dragons, familiars, Malaysian vampires, and magical creatures.
  • Offers frank discourse and a fresh perspective on colonialism, racism, and sexism, delivered with tongue-in-cheek and satire.
  • The story, writing, and characters are as spectacular as the simple but eloquent magic system.

Find this book on Goodreads or read my review

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monstress

2. MONSTRESS BY MARJORIE LIU

If you haven’t read Monstress yet, you must! The art, drawn by Sana Takeda, is gorgeous, and the story just as much.

  • The world of Monstress is set in an alternate matriarchal Asia; the influences are evident in the architecture, costumes, mythology, and characters.
  • The story is dark, vivid and mysterious, and follows a teenage girl with a mysterious link to a powerful creature.
  • Explores a multitude of themes, such as the effects of war and the fractured world it creates, alienation, power, and politics.
  • It has old gods, dark magic, powerful and wicked beings, cats, and a very cute kitsune.

Find this book on Goodreads

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3. THE GHOST BRIDE BY YANGSZE CHOO

I haven’t quite finished this book yet, but I can put my hand over my heart and say with certainty that I’ll love this. This book made me a happy duck. I loved, loved, loved the Malaysian representation in this book, and I’m thrilled to be recommending this book to all of you!

  • A dreamy and otherworldly story set in colonial Malacca, a port city in Malaysia, and the characters are Malaysian-Chinese.
  • The details of this book were wonderful, and I loved reading little tiny things that were familiar to me – kuih, pineapple tarts, love letters, funeral traditions, and endearing ahma‘s.
  • Explores the Chinese mythology of the afterlife and the courts of hell as well as various Chinese cultural traditions, their meanings and significance explained to the reader – perfect for those not familiar with Chinese traditions and ideas.

* The above may change after I finish the book!

Find this book on Goodreads

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4. THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN BY ROSHANI CHOKSHI

I finished this early in January, and I loved it. This book is definitely either a hit-or-miss, but here’s hoping it’s a hit for you!

  • A gorgeous, sweeping retelling of Hades/Persephone intertwined by Indian and Hindu folklore and mythology.
  • Its story is a beautiful blend of themes such as death, fate, love that transcends time and space, monsters and deities, reincarnation, revenge, and strength.
  • Though it has romance, the protagonist’s personal journey into her past and future were far more fascinating to me.
  • The writing is mostly gorgeous and dreamy, though there was the occasional metaphor that was difficult to grasp — but don’t let it hinder your enjoyment of the story.

Find this book on Goodreads

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There is a lack of visible or well-known Asian fantasies out there, so I hope to read even more Asian-inspired fantasies (bearing in mind that ‘Asia’ is very diverse and broad in itself!) or SFF written by Asian authors. Some on my TBR are Ash by Malinda Lo, Prophecy by Ellen Oh, Serpentine by Cindy Pon, and Grace of Kings by Ken Liu.

To conclude, as always, share with me:

  • What is your favourite Asian-inspired fantasy/fantasy written by an Asian author?
  • If you haven’t read one before, what would you like to try?
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58 thoughts on “Book Recs: Fantasies by Asian Authors

  1. Yeeeeeeees to THE GHOST BRIDE. That book is utterly beautiful and more people should read it. A year ago Choo mentioned they were working on their second book, set in 1930s Malaya, so I hope that is either done or near to done so I can read more.

    Since you are liking THE GHOST BRIDE and are open to comics, how about a manwha? BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD by Yun Mi-kyung is utterly gorgeous and full of fantasy drama. It’s about a girl whose village is being devastated by drought and so is sacrificed to the water god. But instead she is saved by the god and brought to his kingdom where there are many other gods all with different agendas – especially as she starts to fall in love with a handsome young man who is *not* the child-god she is married to.

    • Hi Catherine!

      I KNOW RIGHT. I’m loving it so much so far. It feels like ‘home’ to me – not geographical home, but that feeling! Ahhhh a sequel sounds awesome; I’d love to read more and more books set in Malaysia!

      OOOH that sounds amazing?! I’m adding it to my GR right away and shall find a way to get a copy of this. I need me more diverse fantasies.

  2. I love this idea! I lived in Japan and had to read a bit of Japanese lit but unfortunately, the clean prose of the genre did not suit me and I quickly stopped (or maybe it was just the hassle of reading kanji, hahahaha). I admit I have no experience with Asian fantasy but I’ll sure look into it with your recs!

  3. I’m so, so glad you’re offering more diverse and possibly lesser-known recommendations—especially of fantasy. Diverse fantasy is my jam, and I always appreciate help finding great new ones! Thanks for doing this. =)

    • Hi Liam!

      Me too! I noticed the gap in my reading so I’m doing my best to read more fantasies by a diversity of authors.
      Oooh, do you have any recommendations by any chance? :D

      Hehe, no problem at all. It’s my pleasure!

      • Hm, if you’re looking for Asian-inspired fantasy by an Asian author, you might swap Malinda Lo’s “Huntress” for her “Ash” (which you mentioned at the end of your review). It’s been a long time since I read Huntress, but I do remember that Ash was set in a very European-ish country. I’m 99% sure that Huntress was not. (Unfortunately, I didn’t like either book very much.)

        I am 100% obsessed with “The Blue Sword,” and I’d recommend “The Lions of Al-Rassan,” but both are written by white authors. Bah. Honestly, The Blue Sword is what kicked off my thirst for diverse fantasy when I was twelve, and as a result most of the diverse fantasy I’ve read has been written by white authors; I’ve only fairly recently started paying attention to author diversity.

        The only diverse author whose fantasy I’d genuinely recommend is Intisar Khanani. I enjoyed her “Sunbolt,” thought it definitely wasn’t perfect, and she has a few other books written that I’m dying to read, as well. I’ll have to stand in front of my bookshelves and see if I can find something else to recommend when I get home in a few days! Surely Khanani can’t be the only one. [Dies.]

        The upcoming release I’m most excited about, though, is “Forest of a Thousand Lanterns” by Julie C. Dao. I don’t know how I’ll survive until October; I need it asap.

        • Hey Liam — thanks so much!
          I’ve yet to read Lo’s books and I’m going to fix this soon – or at least this year! I’ve heard mixed reviews, but would love to find out for myself.

          Ooh, a friend of mine really liked Khanani’s books! I’ll give those a go sometime, thank you!

          Have you read The Fifth Season or any books by N.K. Jemesin? I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about her books.

          AHH yes! I can’t wait for that one too – it’s definitely up there in my anticipated books list. <3

  4. Omg, I NEEDED this post in my life, Chooi! So thank you for writing and sharing this list with us. I’ve read some Asian lit, but I didn’t know of many fantasies written by Asian authors. (The Star-Touched Queen was about the only one, to be honest.) Anyway, I am so EXCITED. Thanks for always making my TBR longer. ;)

    • Summer! ❤
      Ah I’m glad that you found the recs helpful!! I realized that there has been a gap in my reading… so I’m slowly trying to read more books by Asian authors, esp ones that aren’t just contemporary, so sci-fi and fantasy too. :D

      Haha you’re welcome! Always a pleasure! ;P

  5. Excellent post! I’ve only heard of The Star-Touched Queen on this list… but I don’t have a ton of experience in the fantasy genre, so that isn’t surprising.

    “A gorgeous, sweeping retelling of Hades/Persephone intertwined by Indian and Hindu folklore and mythology”

    Sold!

    • Hi Marie!

      Aw, it’s my pleasure! I’m glad to have helped.
      I heard the bad too, and though I agree with a lot of the critique, I think it is ultimately a wonderful book if you can look beyond its flaws! More so, the story is beautiful, so I highly recommend it! :D

  6. This is a great post!! I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking out Forest Of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao once it comes out – it sounds absolutely fantastic! It’s an epic/high fantasy with an East Asian main character, with a plot based off of Asian folklore and mythologies!

    • Hi there Katherine!

      Ah thank you, I was already aware of FOaTL but YES I’m very excited to read it! I particularly like that the main character has a Chinese name as well – that means a lot to me personally.

  7. I’m desperate to get my hands on Monstress! Damn graphic novels for being so expensive :-( Also, reading this has made me realise how few Asian novels I’ve actually read. Definitely another area for me to work on and read more of in 2017 :-)

    • Hi Wendy!
      Ah, I hear ya! I actually borrowed Monstress from the library, though it took 3 months for it to finally reach my hands.
      I realized this too actually, so am working hard to read more books by Asian authors, esp since I *hope* I can use my exp to inform people whether the representation is yay or nay. :)

      But I’m glad to hear it! Let me know if you ever want to discuss any books written by Asian authors. My email or DMs on Twitter are open to you. ❤

      • I definitely get what you mean – I kind-of take it as my duty to read books about mental health/bisexuality because I can tell if it is good rep. Although obviously, just like with Asian experiences, there is such a wide variety!
        Thanks, I definitely will :-) This year I want to learn a lot about different cultures and people, so I will almost certainly be bothering you ;-)

  8. Love this post CW, these books all sound amazing! I hadn’t heard much about The Ghost Bride before, but will definitely go looking for it now — super interested in everything about the Chinese traditions in it! Been recommended the other three so many times, too xD And I’m thinking of making some themed book rec posts on my blog somewhere down the line, too — I get asked for recs so often that it would be good to have somewhere to simply point someone to!

    • Hi Wendy!

      Thank you so much! Ah me too! And I love how everything in the book is accessible for people who aren’t familiar with the culture too. Even though I was familiar, it was great to have that… validated? Reified in text?

      OOH YES PLEASE. I’d LOVE to read your recs. I’ll be the first person there. ❤

  9. One of my New Year’s Resolution is to read more books by Asian writers (in particular, Bengali, Indian and Pakistani writers) because recently I have been really disturbed by my lack of knowledge about all the talented writers in my region trying to make it into the spotlight. I am not saying American writers are not talented but I feel like there are so many non-Americans who also deserve the same recognition but are not getting it because WE readers are so unaware of them.

    Thank you for this post CW. I have never read any books written by Chinese, Malaysian or Japanese writers and this post will be a great clue as to where to start. What’s your thoughts on Murakami?

    • Tanaz! ❤

      Oh absolutely! And I support your endeavour to read more books by Asian writers, esp ones from your region! I completely agree with you though – there is a clear discrepancy in what books receive recognition based on who the author is from and where they come from. I hope to read books by non-American authors too.

      You’re so welcome! ❤ Ooh, well I hope you enjoy them if you ever get a chance to read them.

      I like Murakami a lot! I engage with his books a little differently than I do with American/Anglo books, but I love them, especially Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Norwegian Wood! What do you think of Murakami?

      • I am thinking I should pick up one of his books. Everyone in my book club are starting to read diversely and they are ALL Murakami fans. I own Kafka On The Shore atm. Have you read it?

        • Hahaha, that’s great! I have read Kafka on the Shore! A lot of my friends love it, and I LIKED it, but it didn’t have the sort of stuff I connect to. It’s still a great read though, very surreal with a lot of philosophical explorations. :D

  10. Yes for this post! As an Asian, I feel sad that there are a lot of Asian stories/characters, but not many of them written by Asian people themselves! I want to read The Star-Touched Queen this month. And I’ve been meaning to read The Ghost Bride for so long, but it’s a topic that I’m uncomfortable to read, because even though my family never does that, my grandmother (or some elderly) ever told me about it and I’m still scared._. Love this post CW <3

  11. Love this post – thanks for the recommendations. I am trying to diversify my reading this year, but fantasy is an area I struggle to find diverse reads within. I’ve just added Sorcerer to the Crown and The Ghost Bride to my TBR – they sound amazing, The Ghost Bride in particular. Looking forward to seeing your review :)

    • Hey Jess! I hope you’re doing well. ❤
      Ah, you’re welcome! I can completely understand that. You’re not the first person to have said this, so I’ll bear that in mind for future recs! :D

      Thanks! It’ll be posted around April in time for Qingming, which is in English called ‘Tomb-Sweeping Day’! :D

      • I’m doing pretty good thanks – I’ve just moved to a new city (London) and started a new job, and at the moment, things are going pretty well :) How are you doing? Ooh I’ll definitely keep an eye out for your future recommendations posts, and for your review of the book. It sounds brilliant! :) Adding to my wishlist for when I next go book shopping!

  12. Ooh, I’m adding all of these to my tbr list as they all sound fantastic!

    I read Ash by Malinda Lo recently and I adored it and am planning on reading Huntress soon too because I really enjoy her writing.

  13. I really enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen – it was such a fascinating fusion of Greek and Indian mythology. I haven’t heard of the other three books you’ve mentioned, but I’ll definitely have to give them a try. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous recommendations! <3

    • Hey Zoe!

      I completely agree! The Star-Touched Queen was so refreshing to read, especially since I haven’t read a lot of books with Indian protagonists – something I am working on changing!

      Ah thank you so much! You’re very welcome, and I hope you enjoy the books. ❤

  14. I am very reluctant to read fantasy. I don’t really know why. I have had A Gathering of Shadows (I quite liked ADSOM, but it didn’t grab me like it did everyone else) on the floor of my bedroom for months and I’m yet to pick it up. I think it might be because in my limited experience the main character is almost always the same girl in a slightly edited situation, and the romance is always the same… and there’s a lot of world building, but not necessarily a whole lot of plot, which I find frustrating.

    Maybe I have just been reading bad fantasy?

    All that said, I think Sorcerer to the Crown sounds intriguing. I think doing satire well takes such smart writing.

    • Hey Lydia!

      Fair enough, and I completely understand what you mean by the ‘same protagonists’ all the time. I really recommend trying fantasies written by marginalized authors! They’re very refreshing, unique, and have incredible stories.

      Hmmm, I recommend The Paper Menagarie, which is a short story collection by Ken Liu! It has a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and the stories are incredible. :D

  15. Oh my gosh! Every single one of these books is on my TBR. I guess I need to bump them up! I recently read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and was completely absorbed. This Newbery Honor book really captured my imagination and rekindled a passion for Asian fantasy. Let’s see which book is available from the library first… Thanks for a great list!

    • Hey Emily!

      Ooh I’m glad that I could recommend something completely new! TSTQ can be a hit or miss for people. Thankfully it was a hit for me. <3

      I'm reading her Under a Painted Sky atm and I'm REALLY enjoying it! Liking it way more than Walk on Earth a Stranger, which has very similar theme (and unfortunately a problematic portrayal of Native Americans. :c)

    • Hi Lauren!

      Me too! I can’t wait to read more of it and see where it goes. <3

      Ah, fair enough! I have a massive weakness for fate/destiny and that sort of stuff, so it hit the good spots for me. I can't wait to read the sequel too! Esp since it was about a character I really liked. :D

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