Friday, July 6, 2018

Non-European-Inspired Fantasy Recommendations

I love medieval/European/Slavic/etc.-inspired fantasy as much as the next person, but sometimes it's nice and necessary to have some books that aren't like that. I have been seeing more and more requests from people looking for non-European fantasy (hooray!), so I decided to go ahead and create my own small list of non-European fantasy recommendations. There are, of course, so many more than I have listed below, but here's a small sampling just to get started. I hope you can find something you love!

Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick 
I loved this book to death and the non-European desert setting really stood out to me as something unique and extremely well-written. There were many other non-European influences sprinkled throughout this book that were also incorporated in engaging ways and I can't recommend this one enough. REVIEW

"Kandri Hinjuman was never meant to be a soldier. His brother Mektu was never meant for this world. Rivals since childhood, they are drafted into a horrific war led by a madwoman-Prophet, and survive each day only by hiding their disbelief. Kandri is good at blending in, but Mektu is hopeless: impulsive, erratic—and certain that a demon is stalking him. Is this madness or a second sense? Either way, Kandri knows that Mektu’s antics will land them both in early graves. 

But all bets are off when the brothers’ simmering feud explodes into violence, and holy blood is spilled. Kandri and Mektu are taken for contract killers and must flee for their lives—to the one place where they can hope to disappear: the sprawling desert known as the Land that Eats Men. In this eerie wilderness, the terrain is as deadly as the monsters, ghouls, and traffickers in human flesh. Here the brothers find strange allies: an aging warlord, a desert nomad searching for her family, a lethal child-soldier still in her teens. They also find themselves in possession of a secret that could bring peace to the continent of Urrath. Or unthinkable carnage. 

On their heels are the Prophet’s death squads. Ahead lie warring armies, sandstorms, evil spirits and the deeper evil of human greed. But hope beckons as well—if the “Master Assassins” can expose the lie that has made them the world’s most wanted men."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
The Poppy War has a Chinese setting and storyline inspired by China's turbulent twentieth century history. If you regularly spend any time in the book world, then you've probably been hearing a lot about this book already--and with good reason. This book is compelling, refreshing, and impossible to put down. REVIEW

"When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising. 

But surprises aren’t always good. 

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Jade City by Fonda Lee 
Jade City is an Asian-inspired urban fantasy with a truly fascinating concept that I really enjoyed exploring. It was fast-paced, but still fully developed and I hope that the sequel will be coming out soon! REVIEW

"Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion. 

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon's bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation. 

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty 
This book takes place in a Muslim/18th century Cairo setting and it is so well-developed and refreshing. There is a lot going on in this book and it's easy to get lost, but the complex world-building and interesting characters really make it a memorable  and engaging read. REVIEW

"Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf 
The Dragon's Legacy is another extremely well-developed and delightful non-European fantasy that also features dragons and other incredible animals. This one was so interesting and I'm far too behind on picking up the sequel which came out earlier this year.  REVIEW

"The last Aturan King is dying, and as his strength fades so does his hold on sa and ka. Control of this power is a deadly lure; the Emperor stirs in his Forbidden City to the East, while deep in the Seared Lands, the whispering voices of Eth bring secret death. Eight men and women take their first steps along the paths to war, barely realizing that their world will soon face a much greater threat; at the heart of the world, the Dragon stirs in her sleep. A warrior would become Queen, a Queen would become a monster, and a young boy plays his bird-skull flute to keep the shadows of death at bay."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin 
This is a middle grade book, but it is a beautifully written story that I think could appeal to anyone. It is inspired by an array of different Chinese folktales and it is just such a magical book. I believe that there are other books set in this same world, but I have yet to have a chance to check them out, though I definitely plan to. REVIEW

"Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother--before it's too late."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan
This is one that I've been really meaning to re-read because I read it at a time when I was very distracted and therefore didn't get to enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. The author has drawn on much of her knowledge as a Muslim woman and incorporated many elements into this book in such a fascinating and captivating manner. I've not seen many reviews for this one around, but hopefully more people give it a chance!

"In the lands of Candour, the Talisman threaten the authority of the Council with their growing indoctrination of the masses based on their rigid, oppressive interpretation of the Claim; a text orally transmitted from generation to generation, which they have appropriated in order to gain power. Tasked by the Council to fight this is Arian, aided by companion Sinnia and young boy Wafa, who must find the Bloodprint, legendary manuscript the Claim is based on, in order to stop the Talisman and re-establish the truth."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Lost Gods by Micah Yongo
This is a recent read and one that I definitely recommend for anyone looking a non-European setting. As the synopsis mentions, this book an African-inspired fantasy and I really enjoyed that aspect of it along with the intricate plot and well-developed characters. REVIEW

"In an epic fantasy kingdom inspired by African legends, a young assassin finds himself hunted by the brothers and sisters he has trained alongside since birth. 

A teenaged assassin is hunted by his own Brotherhood as he seeks to uncover a supernatural conspiracy before it’s too late. 

Neythan is one of five adolescents trained and raised together by a mysterious brotherhood of assassins known as the ShedaĆ­m. When Neythan is framed for the murder of his closest friend, he pursues his betrayer, and in so doing learns there’s far more to the Brotherhood, and even the world itself, than he’d ever thought possible."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

A Star-Reckoner's Lot by Darrell Drake  
I had the privilege of reading and reviewing this self-published fantasy novel a couple of months ago and it's easily one that I would recommend to others. A Star-Reckoner's Lot  features a 6th century Sasanian Iran-inspired setting, which was seriously neat.  REVIEW

"Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. 

The worst there's ever been. She commands the might of the constellations... though her magic is as unpredictable as the die rolls that decide its fate. But star-reckoners are humanity's first defense against divs, so if Ashtadukht is to fulfill her duty, she must use every trick at her disposal—risks be damned. 

An excuse. A lie she tells herself. All that remains of a life she should have had. She travels the empire to hunt down the div that brought her world to ruin. The longer her pursuit, the more her memories threaten to consume her. The darker her obsession becomes. 

Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there's ever been. Hers is no hero's journey. 

A tale of loss and misadventure in a fantasy setting inspired by the history and culture of 6th-century Sasanian Iran."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

And here are a just a few that I haven't read yet, but that I am hoping to pick up soon:

Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard 
An Aztec fantasy series! I think this one sounds incredible.

"The first book in the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy: Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. Human sacrifice and the magic of the living blood are the only things keeping the sun in the sky and the earth fertile. A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. It should be a usual investigation for Acatl, High Priest of the Dead--except that his estranged brother is involved, and the the more he digs, the deeper he is drawn into the political and magical intrigues of noblemen, soldiers, and priests-and of the gods themselves..."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
I believe this is a Mongol-inspired fantasy that I've been meaning to pick up pretty much since it first came out.

"The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. 

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. 

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
From what I've read, this one has an Isalim-influenced setting that also takes inspiration from some mythology and tales from the Arabian Nights as well.

"From Saladin Ahmed, finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards, comes one of the year's most anticipated fantasy debuts, THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, a fantasy adventure with all the magic of The Arabian Nights. 

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings."
Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

Under Heaven/River of Stars/Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay
I honestly just want to read pretty much anything Guy Gavriel Kay has written, but these are a few in particular that I have seen recommended.
Buy the books: Amazon | Book Depository

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any non-European fantasy recommendations?


  1. Wow, thank you for this list! I love European settings, but I'm excited to pick up some fantasy that's not set in a European-inspired world.
    I read a good book a while ago called Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale. The setting was sort of Mongol-esque.

  2. The City of Brass sounds interesting - I like the Cairo setting!

  3. I can't believe I havent read any of these, but Jade City and The Poppy War are on my list. I've read lots of non European fantasy but I'd have to take a look on Goodreads to come up with some titlesšŸ˜Š

  4. All of these are new to me and they all sound incredible, so thanks for the recs. My favorite non-European fantasy as of right now is the Winternight Trilogy which is set in Russia.

  5. The City of Brass is on my tbr list, it sounds like it'd be an epic read! :)