Science fiction and fantasy is a genre that I have loved since I was a child – they are the stories that took me to other worlds and introduced me to magic, folklore, witches, vampires and so much more. While I haven’t been reading as much SFF as I have in the past few years, it is still a genre that sits among the top of my TBR pile.
Here’s the link to my original 2018 science fiction and fantasy recommendations post [link].
Again, these are my recommendations for books that I’ve read and/or books that I want to read and are in no way a comprehensive list of the number of English-language novels written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry.
Some websites and posts that I recommend checking out if you are looking for even more recommendations for books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are:
- Lit CelebrAsian
- The Quiet Pond
- PEN America
- Ruru Read [currently under construction]
- “21 Must-Read Books for AAPIHM” from Book Riot
- “19 Books to Read for Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month” from Bustle
- “12 Summer Reads by Asian Authors to Put on Your TBR” from DailyWaffle
- “31 YA Books to Celebrate Each Day of APAHM” from Epic Reads
So let’s get to my recommendations.
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang is an award-winning author whose first collection of short stories included “The Story of Your Life” which was adapted into the critically acclaimed movie Arrival. This is his second collection of short stories – each of them embodying his unique voice when it comes to SFF stories and characters. His writings have a very creative and philosophical element to them that few others have emulated. His writing yet again focuses on questions that many SFF novels tackle – what does it mean to be human? Where is our place in this vast universe? What does the future hold? – and does so with an ease that sucks the reader right in.
“The Merchant and the Alchemist Gate” is one of the short stories in the collection that has been highly lauded by readers and tells the story of a man in Ancient Baghdad who finds a time portal through which her changes the course of his life.
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
The Wrath & the Dawn is Ahdieh’s take on the classic story A Thousand and One Nights. In the novel, Shahrzad is a 16-year-old seeking revenge for the slaying of her best friend and countless of other girls who were taken as brides by the Caliph of Khorasan, an 18-year-older ruler by the name of Khalid. It is said that Khalid takes a new bride each night and has them executed the very next morning. In order for Shadrzad to get close to the Caliph, she agrees to marry him. Shadrzad soon discovers that the Caliph may not be as bloodthirsty as she was lead to believe and that other sinister forces may be at play which she is determined to uncover while trying not to fall in love with Khalid.
This is the first book in The Wrath & the Dawn duology by Ahdieh. The second novel, The Rose and the Dagger continues the story of Shahrzad and Khalid, drawing the retelling of A Thousand and One Nights to an end. This is a book that I have been hearing about for years but just haven’t found the right moment to read yet.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
This is R.F. Kuang’s debut novel and the first book in The Poppy War trilogy. The novel is set in an alternate Asia, in a world inspired by 19th century colonial China. The story focuses on Rin, an orphan who gains entry into the Sinegard Academy – the most elite military school in the land. Things are not easy for Rin at Sinegard, initially; she is targeted at the school because of her skin colour, her background, and her gender. To the astonishment of Rin and others, she discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power of shamanism, a power that will come into play as Nikan sits at the brink of war with its neighbour Mugen.
The novel combines history and magic and brings to life an alternative world with a basis in the historical past of the East Asian continent. The novel subverts the narrative of “the chosen one” and takes the reader for a ride unlike any other. You will become attached to these characters, but be forewarned, Kaung does not shy away from the horrors of war in this novel – in fact, the book brings many of these horrors to life in very graphic detail. It’s an astounding novel that will leave you reaching for the sequel immediately.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
With an Atwood-esqe style of storytelling, Vo’s debut novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune draws the reader into a dark and lush world where women and empires are not built in a day. The story is told from the perspective of a handmaiden as she watches the rise of her mistress from young royal subjected to an arranged marriage to the status of an Empress and the twist and turns it takes to get there. While this is a novella, it packs one hell of a punch in terms of storytelling – not only is it a high fantasy novel told from a feminist perspective, it is a story that indicts the stratification of hierarchy and monarchy. Be sure to look for the sequel to the novella at the end of this year.
Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport
Shark Dialogues is not a strictly SFF book, but one that contains elements of magical realism and historical fiction. This sweeping novel brings to life the story of a Polynesian Hawaiian family, spanning across centuries. At the start of the story the 84-year-old matriarch, Pono summons her four granddaughters to her. The story is a portrayal of a modern-day family with links to its past, its history, filled with mystery and magic that the author perfectly brings to life within the book’s pages.
Dominion of the Fallen series by Aliette de Bodard
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
The Gunpowder Chronicles series by Jeannie Lin
Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee
The Bone Witch Series by Rin Chupeco
An Ember in Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir
Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
I hope these recommendations help you find your next book written by an AAPI author. Look out for the next post on book recommendations for graphic novels and comics written by AAPI authors.
Thanks for reading!