Friday, May 20, 2022

Non-European Fantasy Favorites

I have mixed feelings about a lot of recent trends in fantasy and speculative fiction . . . but one trend that I absolutely love is the move towards settings based in locations and cultures other than medieval, Edwardian, or Victorian European ones (specifically those from northern and western Europe). While I will always appreciate the classics when they're well done, it's nice to get some variety. And since I've never actually compiled a list of my favorite non-European fantasy stories, I thought I should remedy that this week! Not all of these are recent releases — actually, most of them have been out for a while, since I'm SUPER behind on any recent books that I didn't agree to review — but they're well-loved by me and well worth a read!

(Please note that I'm not including any urban/contemporary fantasy on this list — while my love of the City Between and Dragons in Our Midst series is deep and well-documented, these genres aren't as overwhelmingly Europe-based as many other fantasy genres are.)


Non-European Fantasy Favorites

1. The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. I debated a lot about whether or not I could include this series because, you know, it's heavily inspired by ancient Greece (with a side trip in one book to ancient Persia), and Greece is technically European? But it's very much not your standard medieval European fantasy, and that's evident in everything from the lore and mythology to the food to the architecture to the landscape to the language and names. It's so great.
Bonus Greek-inspired fantasy recommendation: Coiled by H.L. Burke.

2. Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I would like to be very clear that the only reason this isn't first on the list is that it's the seventh book in the series — it's a gorgeous Asian-inspired fantasy epic (and, realistically, you could pick it up without having read any of the other Goldstone Wood novels, though there are certain elements whose significance you might not pick up on). As in the Queen's Thief books, this isn't just a standard fantasy novel with an "exotic" aesthetic tacked on — the location informs the culture, which informs the characters and storyline, and everything just comes together so well.
Bonus Asian-inspired fantasy recommendation: The Dragon's Flower by Wyn Estelle Owens

3. The Books of the Infinite trilogy by R. J. Larson. Arguably the least like traditional European fantasy out of everything on this list and everything that I considered putting on this list, the Books of the Infinite take place in a world much like Israel and its neighbors in the second half of the Old Testament. It's a story of prophets and kings, of signs and miracles and mercy and judgment, and it's generally well worth a read.
Bonus Biblical fantasy recommendation: Overpowered by Kathryn McConaughy

4. Horseman by Kyle Robert Shultz. This Wild West-inspired tale takes place in Shultz's Afterverse, and while I don't love it quite as much as the original Beaumont and Beasley series, it's still a lot of fun. You've got classic Wild West and fantasy tropes, plus the kind of colorful assortment of characters you can only get in this type of setting, plus reimaginings of American folklore — it's great.
Bonus Wild West fantasy recommendation: Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

5. Jackaby by William Ritter. Storms, I haven't read these books in ages, though the last one has been on my mind lately because of some of the myths and folklore I've been reading. Anyway, this historical fantasy-mystery series is set somewhere in New England in the late 1800s — the author doesn't specify which state, which I can't entirely blame him for. And it does feel pretty American, particularly leaning on the idea of America at the time as a blending of people (and, in this case, magical beings) immigrated from other cultures and countries.
Bonus American fantasy-mystery recommendation: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

What are your favorite non-European fantasy reads, whether recent or not? Please tell me in the comments; I can always use more recs!
Thanks for reading!



  1. I haven't read many Non-European fantasy books outside of these. Would N.D. Wilson's books count? I notice he likes to blend fantasy with American culture.

    1. I always got the impression that N.D. Wilson's books were more contemporary/urban fantasy? But I've never read them, and I know very little about them, so IDK.

    2. Mostly contemporary/urban, yes. But it's hard to pin down when he throws in some time travel.

  2. I added almost all of these to my TBR. They look so good!!!

    1. Ah, that's awesome! They are indeed all very good!


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