Fantasy Friday with Wyrd & Wonder – Fantasy From Around The World
Welcome to Fantasy Friday!
We decided that we’d take the challenge a step further on Fridays, and post about the prompts in a little more detail.
This week, the prompt is fantasy from around the world – we’re focusing on fantasy settings inspired by non-European cultures!
Underlined book titles in bold contain links to reviews on this site.
I really love Asian Inspired fantasy books, and Jade City and its sequel Jade War by Fonda Lee are among my absolute favourites. I can’t wait for the final instalment Jade Legacy, coming this December. Her series The Green Bone saga has been described as The Godfather with magic and martial arts and I honestly couldn’t agree more!
My second choice would be African Inspired fantasy Rage of Dragons & Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter, which are the first two instalments in The Burning quartet. This series follows Tau on a path of vengeance as he is caught in a war between his Ohemi people, and the invaders, the Xiddeen.
A few that I thought of and have enjoyed are The Unbroken by C.L.Clark – an African inspired fantasy and I absolutely loved the setting in this one. It reminded me of an Egyptionesce type landscape or even something from Morocco, where the buildings and scenery include anything from dried out desert landscapes to lush gardens and I was a fan of the main characters in this one.
Another amazing novel I enjoyed was The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty – a Middle Eastern inspired fantasy and again, the setting was stunning. Having followed the author on social media and meeting her in person at the NYC bookcon, led me to understand how versatile and knowledgeable she is about Middle Eastern cultures to bring this into her lush and twisty novels.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown is an African Inspired Fantasy, that doesn’t just have a fresh setting, but also a smooth tone and narrative voice that sucked me right into the story. A lot of action, betrayals, and a whole new city and in later books world to explore! Extra bonus for also having a main character with anxiety!
In a genre which encourages the imagination of anything possible, it’s wonderful to see this move away from Medieval Europe. It opens the doors for a whole host of different challenges, themes, and ideas for plots and their characters.
Like Nils, I really love South-East Asian inspired fantasy, such as The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, or Eastern Asian inspired such as The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang or Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang.
But I’m really starting to enjoy seeing other regions represented in fantasy. Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand is inspired by Mughal India and feels incredibly real. As Scarlett has already mentioned, The Unbroken by C. L. Clark is inspired by Northern Africa and the clash of cultures makes for an incredible read.
Offering something different again, Alicia Wanstall-Burke’s Blood of Heirs is based upon the region of Australia she comes from, that is Central Queensland and particularly the Blackdown Tablelands. A world away from this, Anna Stephens’ new trilogy, starting with The Stone Knife, is inspired by the ancient central-American world and features steamy jungles, complex weather seasons, and a magic system centred on song.
I am in love with Rebecca Kuang’s portrayal of a fictionalised setting drawn from Chinese history in the awe-inspiring Poppy War trilogy. Few fantasy series present so horrific, so truthful an account of the trauma experienced by an entire nation, and Kuang manages it all with a skill and a poignancy that only increases from book to book. Haunting is too weak a word for its finale, and the way the setting is crafted offers authenticity the way few other series do.
I will offer up Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven duology (Under Heaven and River of Stars). I’ve only read the first to date, but it evokes the Tang Dynasty of eighth century China. There’s a *large* wall keeping unwanted tribes away. There’s an emperor and a court full of political intrigue. And then there are the ghosts. It also features Kay’s typically gorgeous prose and his habit of taking the story in unexpected directions. I definitely need to get to River of Stars soon!
So many wonderful and exciting books! I would add to the previously mentioned Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl In The Ring, which is an incredible mix of SF dystopia and fantasy derived from Afro-Carribean folklore, and her Midnight Robber similarly draws from Caribbean and Yoruba mythology.
Nisi Shawl’s Everfair is a masterful steampunk epic in which the native populations of the Congo set up a steam-powered utopian country in the middle of the Belgian Congo.
Also wonderful is Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, a mixture of SF and fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic Sudan. And I also have to mention the late lamented Charles R. Saunders, pioneer of the sword and soul genre, whose Imaro imagines a black sword and sorcery-type protagonist in the Fantasy land of Nyumbani, based on Africa.
There are so many exciting and wonderful sounding books here – I will have to add the previously mentioned Poppy War by R F Kuang, this is a book that shows how wonderful secondary creation can be. Taking its inspiration from Ancient China and showing all the brutality of an invasion, showing also how it affects a nation. This is a brilliant but brutal example.
Something else I would like to mention is The Wolf of Oren – Yaro by K.S Villoso which has a Filipino based setting. This is a book (and series) which melds myths and legends drawn from Filipino culture and melds it into a beautifully detailed fantasy world. The way that this is described to the reader makes this a wonderful book to immerse yourself in.
Next week we’re focusing on fantasy authors from around the world.