Fantasy in Asian Settings?
Join LibraryThing to post.
This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.
The obvious one here is Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. What other examples are there of this?
I'm particularly interested in any fantasy that uses a medieval Japanese setting (samurai, ninja, etc.) in place of the usual European mold.
Marco Polo and the Sleeping Beauty by Avram Davidson. It's pretty episodic, which made for slow reading as there's not much tying the episodes together, but the Chinese fantasy elements were interesting.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart was both funny and good.
Geoff Ryman's Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter is a stunning ghost story set in Cambodia.
Geoff Ryman's Air, Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt, and Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl have fantasy elements (or maybe an Asian sensibility towards the supernatural world) while being basically science fiction.
I know you are probably looking for recommendations of novels, but I wanted to add some lists of other types fantasy works in an Asian setting that I particularly enjoyed.
The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
The Weaving of a Dream
Lon Po Po
The Sandman: Dream Hunters
"Round Dragon, Angry Tiger" by Steven Piziks (in Treachery and Treason (forcelink))
"The Tale of Junko and Sayuri" by Peter S. Beagle (in We Never Talk About My Brother)
Eric Van Lustbader's Sunset Warrior Cycle and his Pearl Saga.
Sunset Warrior Cycle (most likely OOP):
The Sunset Warrior
Shallows of Night
Beneath an Opal Moon
Dragons on the Sea of Night
The Ring of Five Dragons
The Veil of a Thousand Tears
Mistress of the Pearl
How about a future history series set in a world dominated by Chinese culture rather than Western?
David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series was originally published as 8 novels (originally planned to be 9 but the publisher cancelled it and forced the series to be wrapped up prematurely in the eighth novel. Now the rights have been purchased by another publisher who plans to repackage the 8 existing novels into 18 smaller novels starting in 2011, leading up to the publication of 2 prequel novels around 2014.
The existing Chung Kuo series, all OOP:
The Middle Kingdom
The Broken Wheel
The White Mountain
The Stone Within
Beneath the Tree of Heaven
White Moon, Red Dragon
Days of Bitter Strength
The Marriage of the Living Dark
I've seen the Sean Russell stuff before and almost picked it up. That has my attention again, especially after reading the good reviews here. His duology seems to be the gem among the rough in this infrequently explored area.
Not quite sure the others mentioned are up my alley, although I trust C.J. Cherryh to tell a good story. Ladylord also looks like it has potential.
#10, Cecrow - I've read the Cherryh title, The Paladin is quite excellent.
Also what about:
Outlaws of the Marsh the original Chinese saga, sometimes called The Water Margin
These are often Accredited to different authors. There is a nice 4 volume paperback box set by Beijing Foreign Language Press, translated by Sidney Shapiro. The 70s TV show Kicked Ass as well.
Journey to the West also known as Monkey might also do the job. Again there was a fantastic 70's TV show.
Original Folk Tales with heavy fantasy elements....
One of the Temeraire books (second? third?) is set in China - Empire of Ivory.
Try Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Naoko Uehara
This has Princess Mononoke type of atmosphere.
A few that haven't been mentioned,
The culture of the Khaiem city-states in Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet have a very Asian flavor, though there's a lot more to it than that.
Eugie Foster has a collection of short stories based on Asian mythology in Returning My Sister's Face.
Eon by Alison Goodman is set in a fantasy China with dragons.
>22: That Eugie Foster collection looks amazing. *adds to wishlist*
The Twelve Kingdoms series - I don't remember the author. It's set in a fantasy land that features immortal kings/queens (unless they do evil-then they die in a pretty interesting way), where all creatures and humans are born from trees and a lot of adventure for the characters.
This series is written for teens.
Oh crap, I forgot all about Imperial Lady (forced link). I first read it in high school and loved it.
Would Janny Wurts/Raymond Feist's Mistress of the Empire trilogy count? It's very much a stylised proto-Japanese culture.
>22 I added Returning my Sister's Face to my wishlist on PBS just now!
I'll add another vote for Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and its sequels, The Story of the Stone and Eight Skilled Gentleman. They are delightful and clever.
The Detective Inspector Chen series by Liz Williams, starting with Snake Agent, is set in a near-future Singapore and is also very good. There are four books in the series so far. (Oops, just saw that this was mentioned already upthread.)
The trilogy co-authored by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts is set in an Asian-based world: Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire, and Mistress of the Empire. Best work Feist has ever done, IMHO.
Daniel Fox' Moshui books, set in a pseudo-China, where jade has magical properties and is usually reserved only for the emperor's use.
I've only read the first book, and while I found it entertaining, I haven't yet felt the burning desire to track down the second book.
I'll also add my vote for Barry Hughart's books. Highly entertaining and well-written. It's a sad thing that Hughart stopped writing.
As to Sean Russell's books, I think it's worth mentioning that the Fantastic aspects are minimal, pretty much restricted to the monks being able to accelerate their perception and thought processes.
Michael Stackpole's Age of Discovery trilogy has some Asian elements to it as well: fashion, mannerisms, fighting styles, government systems.
Was at a con today where in a "vote books off the island" panel, Tanya Huff promoted Bridge of Birds as the book she thought should win. The audience agreed.
Well, although I have enjoyed Huff's Summoning series and the Enchantment Emporium, that makes me think less of her. Although I'm not sure what a "vote books off the island" panel is, I'm assuming it has something to do with the Survivor series, from the promos I see on TV. I'd also assume a large portion of the audience has never read Bridge of Birds. Certainly the originality of plotting and clever use of Chinese mythology as well as the characters put it far above the common urban fantasy so prevalent today.
edited to correct typo.
34> Sorry, not sure why that would make you think less of Huff - perhaps my description of the panel wasn't good enough.
The panel was actually called Which Book Stays on the Island? and was structured similar to CBC's "Canada Reads" series, where each guest selects a classic work of SF or Fantasy or Horror, and presents their case as to why it should be a "must read" for any self-respecting booklover in our favourite genre of fantastic fiction.
Her position was that Bridge of Birds was the most interesting and unique of the four choices and that everyone should read it, and she was convincing enough that most of the audience agreed.
The other panellists were no slouches and did great jobs of defending their choices, which were Game of Thrones, a new annotated translation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which was probably the runner-up - sounds terrific), and Frankenstein.
OH! Much the reverse, then. Thanks for the explanation. I thought she argued for it to go OFF the island, a la Survivor, and really couldn't understand it. Have never seen one of those panels and so didn't understand the structure. This makes MUCH more sense.
Barry Hughart's trilogy sounds fantastic; thanks for pointing that out, I've never heard of him before.
#38 -- It's hard for me to overstate how much I like Hughart's books. They're funny, they have interesting characters and stories, and they don't overstay their welcome.
The first one is arguably the best, but the other two are well worth reading as well.
I just finished a delightful children's book by Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Set in China, it is about the quest of Minli, a girl from a poor, poor village, to find the Man in the Moon to find out how to change her family's fortune. Not only is it beautifully illustrated and presented, but the internal story-telling throughout the book as well as the thread following how Minli's parents cope with her disappearance add a level of maturity and complexity to the story that makes it a potential classic capable of being appreciated by kids and adults alike. It does remind me of Hughart's books, which you can tell by now is a high recommendation! It was only published last year, and my library had it.
The trilogy was recently republished through Subterranean Press, in a nice hardcover omnibus but has been deleted again.
Bridge of Birds is still available in a reasonable mass market edition from Del Rey. Story of Stone is out of print. Eight Skilled Gentleman is available in a very dodgy expensive pseudo-on demand Trade Paper edition from Doubleday.
The most affordable way to get the whole trilogy might be the: 'Stars Our Destination' omnibus edition which came out in the late 90's, Illustrated by the Foglios.
That goes for about $35 for a VG copy, just look up Chronicles of Master Li on Amazon and you should find it.
Stars Our Destination was a Sci Fi book store in Chicago during the 90's, the owner now works for Phil Foglio in Seattle.
I live in a city blessed with a multitude of quality used bookshops, my usual haunt, so I'll be trying my luck there first. But thanks for the tips!
I collect asian-flavor fantasy, so I shall be watching this thread with interest!
The Assassins of Tamurin is set in an invented Chinese/Japanese fantasy culture, female protagonist, with assassination and political intrigue and all that delicious stuff. There is a love story, true, but it's largely subsumed under ninja training and politicking.
Dragon in Chains is a more recent book, set in a Chinese-ish fantasy world with dragons and an emperor in exile. This is close in theme and style to Under Heaven. It's a bit slow paced, like Under Heaven, but has more fantasy elements to it and isn't so obviously a word-for-word rewrite of Chinese history.
Little Sister by Kara Dalkey (notice her name's come up several times before now) is a cute YA fantasy set in Heian-era Japan with tengu monsters and other great details from Japanese mythology -- skews very young compared to Under Heaven, but I am unreasonably fond of this book.
Bridge of Birds is, excuse my language, fucking awesome, and I'm delighted I didn't have to come in here and be the first to say so.
And regretfully, I vote against The Paladin. Did not like at all. Slow start, lame ending, infuriatingly misogynistic protagonist. However, if you are already a fan of the author, then trust your previous experiences.
It isn't fantasy, but if you haven't read Shogun by James Clavell, you're missing out.
If you have not already seen them ((Kylie Chan is)) a relatively new author who writes fantasy books incorporated with chinese mytholody and are about the fights between the gods and demons... really really wonderful books! Her first series is the Dark Heavens trilogy with (White Tiger) the first book. The continue on series from that is Journey to Wudang.
I've only actually read one series that is set in Asia and that would be the Dragon Keeper series written by . It features Dragon's Dawn, Dragon Keeper, Garden of the Purple Dragon, and Dragon Moon respectively. I didn't really have to put all those books, but I love to touchstone.
Anyway I first read them because of an assignment for class. Not that into anything Asianish, especially this series, but it's something.
Young Samurai: The Way of the Sword
um, and there's another one that I can't remember...grrrrr.
It says here thst there's a list of Fantasy with Asian setting. i can't open it from the library (access denied -_- ) so i'll try it at home.
No i shall try to recall the name of that book...
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes not the one i was thinking about, but its another...
Dragonfly ! That's what i was thinking of.
Its not really taken place in an asian setting, but the princess is 'asian'. If u get what i mean.
There is a whole list there...
Well, most of the books I thought of have already been mentioned, so I'll just put in another vote for Sean Russell's The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds.
But, speaking of clouds, I would like to recommend Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka. There's a second book, Autumn Bridge, but I haven't read that one yet.
Flameweaver and Changeweaver by Margaret Ball
Laurence Yep has several series (The Dragons of the Lost Sea, The Tiger's Apprentice)
Timothy and the Dragon's Gate has Asian portions.
have you ever read Extras* by Scott Westerfeld? it takes place in japan, but in the future. it reminds me of the chinese cultural revolution (when chairman mao ran china). in this book they went through similar cultural changes.
*sorry wrote the wrong one...
Throne of Jade is set in China, but you've gotta read His Majesty's Dragon first. Unfortunately, the quality of the series seemed to wane after book 3. Maybe it'll pick up later, but a friend of mine wasn't too impressed with Tongues of Serpents. This is unfortunate, because those first two books are really good!
Lord Demon is a light tongue-in cheek contemporary fantasy romp in chinese mythology & culture as seen through the lens of western popular culture.
I forgot the classic Journey to the West- part legend, but most definitely fantastic.
I owe an enormous thank you to everyone who recommended Bridge of Birds. I've found and read it; absolutely wonderful, five stars all the way!
This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
I'm coming late to this discussion, but I wanted to mention my own novel, Dragonsword, which I've just released free online. Dragonsword is a heroic fantasy adventure that takes place in an Asian-based culture that is in some ways an analog of medieval Japan. I released this novel for free to introduce new readers to my work and to spark interest in volume of the duology (this is book I).
You can get a copy of Dragonsword here: http://www.dragonsword.info
(If you are by chance familiar with my books, this story location and culture is also the the precursor culture for the Sa'adani Empire in my science fiction novels).
There's definitely an Asian flavor to Kate Eliot's Crossroads trilogy. And ancient China seems a primary influence on Geraldine Harris' Seven Citadels YA tetralogy, particularly the first book Prince of the Godborn.
The Kylie Chan books are some of my favourites. Her focus is in current day Hong Kong and the Chinese gods. She keeps a fast action pace going throughout the novels and has a nice hint of romance as well.
I am trying to keep an eye out for Australian fantasy authors of which she and Sarah Douglas are a couple of my favourites.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.