This is Aila, hosting our next post for Happy Indulgence’s SIX YEAR blogoversary party. The highlight of this post will be diverse Science Fiction and Fantasy reads that Jeann and I CANNOT wait for y’all to pick up. As super fans of SFF, Jeann and I are constantly picking up new and exciting reads in this genre. However, it wasn’t until recently as marginalized voices have risen that we have actually seen POC like us featured as the main characters in SFF works. Along with POC characters also come a rise in LGBTQ+ characters, people who are neurodivergent or disabled, and characters that intersect these categories. Without further ado, here are some of our favorite diverse SFF’s that deserve all the love in the world!
1. City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty | Review
This adult fantasy was absolutely phenomenal from beginning to end. There’s such an all-encompassing world that is just magical and gritty and full of potential. It’s has the wondrous atmosphere of the Middle East and an #ownvoices Muslim narrative. The characters are all fierce and cunning – you never know what to expect from them. And the mysterious magic? Absolutely dazzling.
Trigger Warnings: intense violence, emotional manipulation, gore and blood
2. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Bringing back in another adult fantasy! The Poppy War is based on Chinese history – more specifically, the Rape of Nanking. It’s dark and delicious, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Military fantasy at its finest, The Poppy War follows a powerful young woman who paves a path for herself in history. Oh, and getting high is involved. Getting high and fighting, basically.
Trigger Warnings: genocide, mass murders, brutal and graphic violence, gore and blood, self-harm, emotional and physical abuse, animal cruelty, addiction
3. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse | Review to Come!
This is an urban fantasy that takes place on a Native American reservation and tells the myths and folklore of indigenous Navajo gods. It features a badass heroine who goes through tremendous character growth, trickster immortals, fearsome monsters, and devastating magic. An amazing debut not to be missed!
Trigger Warnings: abusive/manipulative relationship, torture, gore, abuse, explicit violence
Nyxia challenges readers’ beliefs on freedom and hope in this action-packed YA sci-fi following a black teen and his friends from across the world. It’s full of intergalactic political intrigue, resilience, and a mystery that is slow to uncover.
Trigger Warnings: violence, grief
5. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco | Jeann’s Review and My Review
This book draws inspiration from many Asian traditions, although not one in specific. Nevertheless, Chupeco builds an enthralling and dark world with explicit detail. While slow-going at first, stick around, and you’ll find out how the main character Tea became the ruthless necromancer she is.
Trigger Warnings: deaths, grief, mild violence
1. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Now you really didn’t think I wasn’t going to let this post go without mentioning MY FAVOURITE FANTASY SERIES OF ALL TIME did you? This series really sets the standard when it comes to intersectional diverse fantasy without resorting to character stereotypes or sacrificing your plot for the sake of it. Along with being an incredibly engaging heist story set amongst a Russian fantasy world made popular by the Grisha trilogy, we get a disabled main character, characters of different body types, a same-sex relationship and POC characters for days.
2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
With so many stereotypical YA fantasies with no diversity dominating the market, Children of Blood and Bone absolutely blew me away earlier this year. Inspired by the black lives matter movement, this is a story of breaking free from slavery set in a magical fantasy world. I loved the caste based magic system and the in-depth world building – along with the long list of engaging characters. Definitely one of the stand out books I’ve read all year.
3. Want by Cindy Pon
The book that I never knew I wanted. Set in futuristic Taipei, I loved seeing so many familiar faces and references with the Chinese characters going for corporate infiltration – to fight for something we’re all familiar with – equality in a rich/poor system. This book is so endearing to me with the believable futuristic dystopian world with some familiar – and entertaining tropes. My full review will be coming soon on Happy Indulgence!
4. The Star-Touched Queen and The Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
While these two aren’t technically a series, they are wonderful companion novels based off Indian mythology. Written in beautifully poetic prose, Roshani brings to life these mythical underworlds and the intangibility of what happens between life and death – and the afterlife. I was incredibly intrigued with both books – even though I found The Crown of Wishes marginally better because of the tangibility of the story. I also loved the love to hate relationship which I know is a favourite!
5. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Such a gorgeous, lyrical book featuring Hispanic and Pakistani culture and a central relationship with a transgender boy and a girl with roses growing out of her hands. This is magical realism at its best, whirling together a world filled with empathy and focusing on the power of love and support when it comes to two misunderstood teens. I also loved how it was a best friend relationship that grew into something further.
Books not released yet, but you should be on the look out for:
- Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri: Mughal-inspired fantasy full of twists, magic, and loss in a world that used to be ruled by the gods. (November 13, 2018)
- Wilcard by Marie Lu: to be quite honest, I didn’t really like Warcross (my review here). But Wildcard? Absolutely blew me away. This tense, twist-filled sci-fi takes place in Tokyo, Japan and follows a diverse cast as they try to save the world from the people playing with their minds. My fave Marie Lu book up to date. (September 18, 2018)
- Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa: Japanese-inspired fantasy following a kitsune as she travels across feudal Japan on the run from youkai, or demons with new and surprising allies. (October 2, 2018)
- The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala: another Indian-inspired fantasy where two vastly different characters play a game of chase as each strive to save their worlds. (April 23, 2019)
- The Girl King by Mimi Yu: features three distinct POV’s in an Asian-inspired world where characters are fighting for a chance on the throne. Heavy with twists, betrayals, and intrigue, this book is mesmerizing from start to finish. (January 8, 2019)
Have you read any of these books? If you want more recommendations, check out my discussion post about non-Eurocentric YA SFF books over here! What are some diverse SFF stories you would recommend? Happy reading!