This is my first recommendations post which I am doing for Wyrd and Wonder and the prompt for today is Fantasy from around the world. You can find all the other challenge prompts for the month here. As someone who loves reading fantasy books written by authors of different heritages, who write with inspirations from their own cultures, it’s fitting that I am very excited for today’s post. So, let me not delay and get started immediately.
I am quite used to reading books written by Indian diaspora authors, but Magical Women was a beautiful collection of short stories written by female fantasy authors living in India. Inspired by Indian mythology and folktales, retelling some very fun stories from my childhood, this collection explores so many themes like women empowerment, female rage, climate change etc and I had such fun discovering so many voices I didn’t know from my country.
Written by the Malaysian author Zen Cho and set in the country as well, Black Water Sister is a poignant story of a young woman trying to reconcile her wanting to be independent and able to be out, with her filial duty to her parents who are going through tough times. Featuring gods, mediums, ghosts, real estate tycoons and family secrets, this is a beautifully written fantasy that left me chuckling at times, while crying at others.
Inspired by events of 20th centure Chinese history, The Poppy War trilogy is a brilliant but brutal exploration of war and its aftermath, how winning or losing in a war doesn’t matter to the ordinary people stranded in poverty because their lives only become worse in any situation, and what will these powerless people do when they feel cornered and forced to take up arms for their survival. I still can’t believe that this was Rebecca’s debut trilogy and I can only wait for her upcoming works which will undoubtedly be more amazing.
Featuring many fantasy creautures and monsters from Japanese mythology and folklore, the Shadow of the Fox trilogy is YA fantasy at it’s best. It has a beautiful romance, a journey full of adventures spanning three books, amazing friendships made along the way, and such engaging dialogue that it will leave you in splits while also tugging at your heartstrings.
Based on Nigerian and other West African inspired folklore, Raybearer was my favorite YA book of 2020 because I just couldn’t find any fault in it. It may feel like just a coming of age story of a young girl, but it explores so many themes like misogyny, hunger for power, destruction or homogenization of cultures by imperialism, and how the family you make along the way is more important than the family related to you by blood.
The Gilded Ones may not be based on specific history or mythology, but the author has mentioned many times that she took inspiration from her experiences of misogyny, sexism and the extreme pariarchal society in her country. While it starts off with some brutal events, it’s a empowering story of women who have been cast out from mainstream society deciding to take their destiny into their own hands and fighting for a better world.
It’s been a while since I read Gods of Jade and Shadow and I can’t recollect a lot, but I remember how much I loved the setting of Jazz age Mexico and it’s struggle between traditionalism and modernity. Amidst this conflict, we also get a story featuring a young woman escaping her abusive family and the god of death wanting to get his powers back. The writing is absolutely stunning, with gorgeous and vivid descriptions and a very fairytale feeling throughout.
This short story/novella/novel combination is probably one of my most memorable reading experiences in a while. Set in an alternate early 20th century Cairo which is technologically advanced due to the help of supernatural creatures, also free from British colonization, this is a world that will blow your mind right from page one. Adding to that are characters who are detectives investigating supernatural crimes, who are charming and intriguing and unforgettable. It’s such fun reading these stories and I can’t stop recommending them.
The Unbroken is an unflinching look at empire building and how it brutally oppresses the colonized people, turning them against each other with promises of equality which never materialize; inspired by the French colonization of Algeria and other parts of North Africa. Featuring flawed characters from both sides, this book is brutal and bleak at most times but also extremely well written, with lots of thought provoking content leaving us with more questions than answers.
What did you think of my list? Have you read any of these books and did you like them too? Do you have more recommendations for me which are based on non-western cultures and settings? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below..