Hi guys, I hope you are all well. So I love fantasy books influenced and/or set in East Asia and today I wanted to share my love of these books with some recommendations. From anyone unsure, East Asia is considered to consist of China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan and Macau. I typically read fantasy books inspired by Japanese or Chinese mythology but I’d love to branch out and read more widely from this region. The books will either be set in an East Asian inspired world or be written by an author with East Asian heritage. Let’s get onto the recommendations.
The Sword of Kaigen / M. L. Wang / ★★★★★
Publisher: Self-published – Feb 2019
Length: 649 pages
The Sword of Kaigen is a self published, Japanese-inspired, high fantasy book set in the same world as the author’s Theonite series, however this book is a standalone and can be read without having read that series. Basically this book is amazing and everyone should read it. 🙂
The Beast Player / Nahoko Uehashi / ★★★★★
Publisher: Pushkin Press – 2006
Length: 512 pages
Originally written in Japanese and published in 2006, this edition is translated by Cathy Hirano. It is publicized as a YA book but I think it can be enjoyed by a range of ages. The pacing is on the slower side, but it never dragged for me. The world building is fantastic and the characters are so well written. I highly recommend checking this out.
Under Heaven / Guy Gavriel Kay / ★★★★★
Publisher: Voyager – 2010
Length: 576 pages
Under Heaven is set in a fictionalized version of the Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China and contains a masterful story of family, intrigue and power. It is a historical fantasy and it is the first book in the Under Heaven companion duology; the second book is River of Stars which is set in a world inspired by the Song dynasty.
Fudoki / Kij Johnson / ★★★★★
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 316 pages
Set in Japan, it follows Harueme (a dying, unmarried noblewomen) as she prepares to leave the Emperor’s court to go into seclusion for her last days. While her attendant Shigeko continues with preparations, Harueme begins writing a story of a young cat who sets out on an adventure to the other side of the empire.
The Grace of Kings / Ken Liu / ★★★★
Series: Dandelion Dynasty
Publisher: Saga Press – 2015
Length: 618 pages
Book 1 of the Dandelion Dynasty trilogy, this is set on the archipelago of Dara. Once seven warring kingdoms, it is now united under one empire. Two men rebel together against tyranny in this sweeping first book. It is an epic fantasy series that is based around Ancient China.
Never Die / Rob J. Hayes / ★★★★
Publisher: Self published – Jan 2019
Length: 274 pages
This is a self published fantasy book influenced by Japanese folklore. A young boy called Ein is given the task of killing the Emperor of Ten Kings, but he cannot do it alone, so he sets out to find some legendary heroes to help him in his quest. He must bind these heroes to him, but to do so the heroes must first die.
The Crystal Ribbon / Celeste Lim / ★★★★
Publisher: Scholastic Press – 2017
Length: 352 pages
Set in medieval China, this is a middle grade historical fantasy book that follows a twelve year girl called Li Jing, who must adapt to a new life when she is sold as a bride to the the three year old son of the Koh family. This is the author’s debut book.
Nausicaa manga / Hayao Miyazaki / ★★★★★
Original run: 1982-1994
Length: 1,104 pages
This manga is the inspiration behind the 1984 Studio Ghibli film of the same name. I saw the film first and decided I had to check out the manga too. Both the manga and film are fantastic and I highly recommend checking them out.