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Recommendations | Non-European Fantasy by Women


Fantasy by Women Who Broke Away from Europe
A List Complied by Martha Wells

This is a sampler list of fantasy novels and short story collections with non-European settings, or secondary fantasy worlds drawn from non-European influences, all by women writers.

Non-European fantasy can be hard to find, so this is meant to be a resource for readers and a way to focus on older or less well-known books by women writers. Hopefully at some point it can be expanded and annotated.

This list was compiled in a couple of days from my bookshelves and from recommendations, so I know there are many more authors and books that should be included. If you know of any fantasy novels that should be added, especially books published in languages other than English, please leave them in the comments. (Remember, the list is focusing on fantasy by women writers; there were some great books suggested but they were left off the list because they were categorized as science fiction.)

The main two things I was trying to avoid (at least for now) were 1) fantasies where European-type characters traveled to non-European settings (for example, Naomi Novik's Temeraire books) and 2) books primarily set in the US, even if they use a fantasy element from another source (like Tananarive Due's books). I did include a book by Judith Berman set in North America, but it has all Native American characters, is set before Europeans arrived, and a book by Sharon Shinn which is set mostly in an alt universe where China colonized North America.

Thanks to Kate Elliott, N.K. Jemisin, Kari Sperring, and Judith Tarr for suggestions and encouragement, and thanks to all the people who made suggestions on Twitter. Thanks to Marie Brennan for many additions from her similar list here. And thanks to the Mad Hatter Review.

At the moment, there are 96 97  100 102  106 writers on the list.

Lynn Abbey
Daughter of the Bright Moon

Alma Alexander
Secrets of Jin-Shei, Embers of Heaven

Elizabeth Bear
Range of Ghosts

Carol Berg
Transformation
Revelation
Restoration

Judith Berman
Bear Daughter

Beth Bernobich
Fox and Phoenix

Clare Bell
The Jaguar Princess

Hilari Bell
Farsala Trilogy

Aliette de Bodard
Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, Master of the House of Darts

Alice Borchardt
The Silver Wolf

Gillian Bradshaw
The Horses of Heaven

Marie Brennan
Warrior, Witch

Octavia Butler
Wild Seed

Lillian Stewart Carl
Wings of Power

Rae Carson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Kylie Chan
White Tiger, Red Phoenix, Blue Dragon

Joy Chant
Red Moon, Black Mountain
The Grey Mane of Morning

C.J. Cherryh
Rusalka, Chernevog, Yvgenie
The Paladin

M. Lucie Chin
The Fairy of Ku-She

Catherine Cooke
Winged Assassin Trilogy

Juanita Coulson
The Web of Wizardry, The Death God's Citadel

Leah Cutter
The Jaguar and the Wolf
Paper Mage
The Caves of Buda

Kara Dalkey
Goa, Biajipur, Bhagavati
Little Sister
The Heavenward Path
The Nightingale
Genpei
Euryale

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Brotherhood of the Conch series
The Palace of Illusions

Sara Douglass
Threshhold

Amanda Downum
The Drowning City, The Bone Palace

Doris Egan
Gate of Ivory

Kate Elliott
Crossroads Trilogy
Spiritwalker
Cold Fire

Jennifer Fallon
Lion of Senet, Eye of the Labyrinth, Lord of the Shadows

Nancy Farmer
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm
The House of the Scorpion

Catherine Fisher
The Oracle Betrayed
The Sphere of Secrets
The Scarab

Susan Fletcher
Alphabet of Dreams

Eugie Foster
Returning My Sister's Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice (short story collection)

Esther Friesner
Nobody's Princess, Nobody's Prize
Wishing Season
Sphinx's Princess, Sphinx's Queen
Child of the Eagle

Jane Gaskell
The Serpent, Atlan, The City, Some Summer Lands

Pauline Gedge
The Scroll of Saqqara

Heather Gladney
Teot's War
Bloodstorm

Lisa Goldstein
The Red Magician

Allison Goodman
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

Angelica Gorodischer
Kalpa Imperial

Hiromi Goto
Half World

Jo Graham
Black Ships
The Hand of Isis

Kathryn Grant
The Phoenix Bells
The Black Pearl Road
The Willow Garden

Kerry Greenwood
Cassandra
Electra
Medea

Shannon Hale
Book of a Thousand Days

Barbara Hambly
Sisters of the Raven, Circle of the Moon

Anne Harris
Inventing Memory

Lian Hearn
Across the Nightingale Floor, Grass for His Pillow, Brilliance of the Moon, The Harsh Cry of the Heron, and Heaven's Net is Wide

P.C. Hodgell
Godstalk

Nalo Hopkinson
The Salt Roads
The New Moon's Arms
Skin Folk (short story collection)

N.K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of the Gods
The Killing Moon, The Shadowed Sun

K. V. Johansen
Blackdog

Alaya Dawn Johnson
Racing the Dark, The Burning City

Kij Johnson
The Fox Woman, Fudoki

Sylvia Kelso
Amberlight

Lee Killough
The Leopard's Daughter

Patrice Kindl
Lost in the Labyrinth

Naomi Kritzer
Freedom's Gate, Freedom's Apprentice, Freedom's Sisters

Glenda Larke
Watergivers trilogy
The Mirage Makers trilogy
The Isles of Glory trilogy

Ursula LeGuin
Earthsea Books
Lavinia

Tanith Lee
Tamastara (short story collection)
Cyrion
Night's Master
Death's Master
Delirium's Mistress
Night's Sorceries
A Heroine of the World

Grace Lin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Malinda Lo
Huntress

Karen Lord
Redemption in Indigo

Nathalie Mallet
The Princes of the Golden Cage, The King's Daughters

Zoe Marriott
Shadows on the Moon

Ardath Mayhar
The Seekers of Shar-Nuhn
How the Gods Wove in Kyrannon

Carole McDonnell
Wind Follower

Juliet E. McKenna
Aldebreshin Compass series

Antonia Michaelis
Tiger Moon

Karen Miller
Godspeaker Trilogy

Sasha Miller
Ladylord

Miyuki Miyabe
The Book of Heroes
Ico: Castle in the Sky

Donna Jo Napoli
Bound
Beast

Andre Norton
Wraiths of Time
Shadow Hawk
Dragon Magic
Empire of the Eagle (co-written with Susan Shwartz)
Imperial Lady: A Fantasy of Han China (co-written with Susan Shwartz)

Noriko Ogiwara
Dragon Sword and Wind Child

Nnedi Okorafor
Zahrah the Windseeker
Akata Witch
Who Fears Death

Fuyumi Ono
The Twelve Kingdoms

Holly Phillips
The Engine's Child

Cindy Pon
Silver Phoenix, Fury of the Phoenix

Jessica Amanda Salmonsen
Tomoe Gozen, Thousand Shrine Warrior, The Golden Naginata

Fay Sampson
Star Dancer

Marella Sands
Sky Knife
Serpent and Storm

Courtney Schafer
The Whitefire Crossing

Susan Shwartz
Heirs to Byzantium Trilogy
The Grail Of Hearts
Silk Roads and Shadows
Arabesques I and II, editor
Empire of the Eagle (co-written with Andre Norton)
Imperial Lady: A Fantasy of Han China (co-written with Andre Norton)

Carol Severance
Demon Drums, Storm Caller, Sorcerous Sea

Nisi Shawl
Filter House (story collection)

Josepha Sherman
The Horse of Flame
The Shining Falcon

Sharon Shinn
Gateway
General Winston's Daughter

Kari Sperring
The Grass King's Concubine

Nancy Springer
The White Hart, The Silver Sun, The Sable Moon

Suzanne Fisher Staples
Shiva's Fire

Judith Tarr
Alamut, The Dagger and the Cross
A Wind in Cairo
The Hall of the Mountain King, The Lady of Han-Gilen, A Fall of Princes
Arrows of the Sun, Spear of Heaven, Tides of Darkness
Lord of the Two Lands
Pillar of Fire
King and Goddess
Throne of Isis
The Shepherd Kings
White Mare's Daughter, Lady of Horses, Daughter of Lir
The Golden Horn

Sheree R. Thomas, editor
Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora

Heather Tomlinson
Toads & Diamonds

Nahoko Uehashi
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Moribito II: Guardian of the Dark

Catherynne Valente
The Grass-Cutting Sword

Mary Victoria
Tymon's Flight

Martha Wells
City of Bones
Wheel of the Infinite
The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea

Elizabeth E. Wein
A Coalition of Lions
The Sunbird
The Lion Hunter
The Empty Kingdom

Michelle West
The Sun Sword series

Leona Wisoker
Secrets of the Sands

Carol Wilkinson
Dragon Keeper

Cherry Wilder
A Princess of Chameln, Yorath the Wolf, The Summer King

Liz Williams
Snake Agent, The Demon and the City, Precious Dragon, The Shadow Pavillion, The Iron Khan

Sarah Zettel
Sword of the Deceiver

***

Many thanks to Martha Wells for compiling this huge list. Again please chime in the comments with any other recommendations that fit with this list.

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38 comments:

Paul Weimer said...

Very glad to see this list.

I've got a lot of reading to do, although some of my favorites are already on it...

Mazarkis Williams said...

Bookmarking this page . . .

Just Jen said...

A couple for consideration:

Paula Volsky: Wolf of Winter
Fantasy analogue of tsarist Russia

Paula Volsky: Gates of Twilight
Fantasy analogue of India under British rule (main character is "British", so not sure if that disqualifies it under the "European character going to foreign locale" clause)

Catherine Cooke: Winged Assassin trilogy
Sort of an Arabian inspiration, I think.

Sabrina Porterfield said...

What about Doris Egan's Gate of Ivory trilogy?

Great list! Thanks so much for compiling it!

Kari Sperring said...

And I just remembered another three, which have been on my shelves for years:
Kathryn Grant The Phoenix Bells
The Black Pearl Road
The Willow Garden.

Kari

Joe H. said...

Such good stuff!

How about Jo Clayton (the Duel of Sorcery, Drinker of Souls and Wild Magic trilogies)? Or Holly Lisle's Fire in the Mist books?

Joe H. said...

Oh, and also there's Jane Gaskell's Atlan series.

Anonymous said...

Lian Hearn's "Tales of the Otori" series is set in alternate history/fantasy Japan.

-Donaithnen

Donaithnen said...

Lian Hearn's "Tales of the Otori" series is set in alternate history/fantasy Japan.

bethN said...

This list appears to define non-European to include Russia and the Byzantine Empire? In what way are either of those not European?

Eric578 said...

please consider adding C.S. Friedman for her Coldfire Trilogy, and N. K. Jemisin for The Inheritance Trilogy.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Zettel's "Isavalta" series ("A Sorceror's Treason," "The Usurper's Crown," "The Firebird's Vengeance," and "The Sword of the Deceiver") is set in fantasy analogues to Russia, China, and India.

Lexie said...

1) This is awesome and I think I know how I'm spending my Summer now.

2) Would Hilari Bell's "Farsala" trilogy count? Its set in what I remember being a much more Middle Eastern/Desert type of land and tho one of the main leads is European-ish (who travels to what amounts to a Bedouin tribe's land) several of the other main characters are not.

Paul Weimer said...

@BethN.

European in these contexts is generally defined in Fantasy as "Western European", that is to say, Catholic and Protestant Europe.

Martha Wells said...

BethN: we included a few books that used elements from early Russia or Byzantium because they aren't as common as western European settings and we thought readers might be interested in them.

Eric578: N.K. Jemisin's books are already on the list.

Zoë Marriott said...

I'm so thrilled to see myself on this list! Can I ask that my second book Daughter of the Flames, and the companion novel FrostFire also be included? They're based (loosely!) on Northern India and Tibet :)

Diana said...

Great list! Thank you so much for making it. I might also recommend Karen Healey's YA book Guardian of the Dead, which is about Maori mythology.

Kristen said...

Great idea!

Noriko Ogiwara also has more books in the same setting as Dragon Sword and Wind Child (Sorairo Magatama in the original Japanese). The second book is Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince (originally Hakuchou Iden). The third book has not yet been translated in English and the title is Usubeni Tennyo.

I'm hoping it does get translated because I really liked the first book!

zed said...

How about Jennifer Roberson's Tige and Del novels? The North has European elements, but most of the story takes place in the South.

Anonymous said...

How about Megan Whelan Turner's Thief of Attolia series? It's not strictly a fantasy as there isn't much magic (unless you count Gods)but it's got a definite Greek flavor.
The Thief
Queen of Attolia
King of Attolia
Conspiracy of Kings

Kristi said...

A few maybes:

Rebecca Bradley's Tetmutma: vampire novel set in Hong Kong.

The Jaguar Princess by Clare Bell: jaguar-shapeshifters, set in the Aztec Empire.

How about Ekaterina Sedia's House of Discarded Dreams? Starts in the U.S., but really it's set in a house that sort of drifts away into a world based on African mythologies and urban legends.

K.J. Baker's The Etched City is a little hard to classify - the setting reminds me a bit of the one in Martha Wells' City of Bones - sort of Near / Middle East, with touches of European (the griffin) and weird.

Not sure if Steph Swainton's series that starts with The Year of Our War should be here. It's odd, and has a neverending war with giant bugs and its own even weirder alternate secondary world that one of the characters occasionally escapes to, but also a mostly standard feudal setup.

Sherri Tepper's Land of the True Game books? Sf-ish fantasy set in a world sort of like a mad scientist's version of a chess game for intelligent superpowered lab rats.

archangelbeth said...

Kelso's Amberlight has two sequels, Riversend and Source, if you want to add those.

Unknown said...

Adding to the list one of my favorites:

The Wood Wife by Terry Windling

features native american magical elements from the Tucson area.

Stella said...

What a fabulous list!

I would guibble about Nancy Springer's trilogy, which I re-read not long ago. It's totally British/Arthurian/Robin Hood-y.

And Kate Elliott's fabulous series is pretty European as well. Has a few Central Asia steppe elements but it's most set in a fantasy version of Europe.

I am really looking forward to reading some of these.

Anonymous said...

These are from the 1930's and 1040's ,but Joan Grant's Winged Pharoah and the duology Eyes of Horus and Lord of the Horizon are set in Ancient Egypt and have magic in them.To make sure you get the right one ,one has to use Joan Marshall Grant some times.I'm pretty certain the first book is still in print. These are three of my all-time favorite books! Mary Cay Martin--marycmartin@hotmail.com

TrishLoyd said...

I am going to attempt to read at least one from each author by this time next year...tall order, but I like a challenge! Amazing lst by the way. Been meaning to read something from Octavia Butler for a while, so Wild Seed will be my first one.

Marina Bonomi said...

Wonderful list, I'm going to bookmark this page.

One curiosity, though how does Alice Borchardt's The Silver Wolf qualify as 'non European'? It is set in Rome at the time of Charlemagne...

Anonymous said...

Here is another for consideration:
Clare Bell's People of the Sky
As I recall, it has Hopi influences.

Sumayyah Talibah said...

Very nice list! I think I've read about half of the books presented here. Now, I must track down the other half!

woodburner said...

KJ Bishop's The Etched City probably counts? I'm not quite sure. Its world and characters are based on an amalgamation of many influences. The lands involved are def. not European though, and one pov character is roughly analogous to Middle Eastern and the other is from a far northern matriarchal society.

There's also another by Noriko Ogiwara: Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince (sequel to Dragon Sword and Wind Child)

Sadieforsythe said...

Just bookmarked this for future reference. I'm definitely making it a goal to read from this list. Thank you for putting it together.

garnigal said...

How about Misty Lackey's Sacred Ground (Native American) or Burning Water (can't remember if it's Mayan or Aztec mythology)

Carissa St. Amand said...

Alison Goodman's Eon has a sequel, Eona, btw. Wonderful list!

Musereader said...

Very good list which I keep bookmarked for referenc whenever i'm looking for something different

Just picked up a secondhand book called "castledown" by a Joyce Ballou Gregorian,i've briefly researched it and it the second of a series set in a middle eastern analogue world. It looks good and is quite old too.

Karen said...

Ballou Gregorian's Tredana trilogy is a lot of fun. For something set in Aboriginal Australia, try Patrcia Wrightson's "Song of Wirrun" trilogy. She wrote other books as well, it's years since I read them, but many emphasise pre-European Australian culture.

April Q. said...

Starry River of the Sky, the companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, was recently published. Link: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316125956

I also have a few recommendations of a couple juvenile / YA books that have more contemporary settings:

White Jade Tiger, by Julie Lawson, is set both in contemporary Victoria, British Columbia (on Canada's west coast), and 150 years earlier during a major gold rush (and a national-railway-building endeavour) in British Columbia. All the main characters are ethnically Chinese. The fantasy elements include (but are not limitted to) the time travel. Link: http://www.julielawson.ca/whitejadetiger.html

Alison Baird is the author of a series of books about a Chinese Canadian girl living in Toronto ends up with a dragon egg. The dragon is definitely Chinese, and many shenanigans and magical adventures ensue, including a trip back to China to visit all the other dragon's relatives. I absolutely loved the first book as a child (The Dragon's Egg), though I haven't read the sequels. Link, under the Kids section: http://www.alisonbaird.net/

Lastly is the Magic or Madness triglogy by Justine Larbalestier. It's set in contemporary Australia and New York City, and its protagonists are a white Australian boy, and African American boy, and a bi-racial aboriginal Australian girl. The magic has some aboriginal elements and some more original elements (or ones that unrecognizable to me at least), but either way it's pretty different from traditional medieval European stuff.

I also have some recommendations for various Celtic-based (non-Aurthurian!) fantasy novels, but though they're definitely not Catholic or Protestant based, they are set in western Europe (or in some cases, Canada) and features caucasian protagonists. So, let me know if you'd like me to submit those as well, or leave them for another list : )

F said...

This list is fantastic! I wonder if it could be organized by region?

Angela said...

Haven't noticed anyone else mentioning Paper Mage by Leah Cutter. Chinese wizards and family loyalty.