Happy Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year)! This is my favourite time of the year – I have such fond childhood memories of celebrating it with my family. Fun fact – I also used to do lion dancing as a teenager, so every New Year was always so festive and full of fun!
For this Lunar New Year, I decided to put together this list of 12 fantasy/YA books by Chinese authors. Most of these titles are #ownvoices stories, where the author draws on their own heritage in their writing. I’ve read most of these titles and thoroughly enjoyed them, but 2 of them are on my TBR.
Jade War by Fonda Lee (Review)
I’m a huge fan of the Greenbone Saga by Fonda Lee, and Jade War is the sequel to Jade City. Featuring a mobster family, aa generational family saga, flashy martial arts and the precious stone of jade that grants the user with special abilities, this series is unique, brilliant and one of my favourites.
The Astonishing Colour of After by Jenny X.R. Pan (Review)
Set in Taiwan, I loved this story of a Taiwanese teen who goes back to her home country to learn about her family’s heritage. It heavily features grief, depression, artwork and also the spiritual world.
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
This is a classic young adult book that I read during my teen years, about a young boy during Mao’s reign in China who learns to be a ballet dancer. It’s such an inspirational and heartfelt story about the difficulties of living in China back in the daay, and also a true story.
Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim (Review)
Another book set during Mao’s China, Freedom Swimmer tells of a young boy who aspires for freedom as he befriend’s one of Mao’s Red Guards. It’s a really moving account of an unlikely friendship between two boys, and also how they dream of escaping their circumstances.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (Review)
It’s not a surprise to see one of my favourite grimdark fantasies on this list – as The Poppy War happens to be one of my favourite books of all time. It tells the story of Rin, a girl from a poor village who aspires to join an elite academy to become a soldier for her empress. This is one of the most epic Chinese fantasies I’ve ever read, the harrowing story will leave you with a lasting impression.
Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. Tan (Review)
Jade Fire Gold is a fascinating Asian fantasy with soul stealing abilities, and I loved the setting and the premise. It didn’t quite carry through plotwise however, find out why in my review.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Review)
This historical fantasy is set during Imperial China, and follows a young woman Zhu, who trains as a monk. She is told a prophecy by a fortune teller that her brother is destined for great things, and when her brother dies from starvation, she assumes his identity. What follows is a story of grit, outwitting and political maneuvering. It’s an iconic gender queer story with lots of political intrigue and morally grey characters, and a brilliant read.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (Review)
Featuring fascinating bone shard magic, an oceanic world, sapphic romance and morally grey heroine, The Bone Shard Daughter is a unique Asian-inspired fantasy.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (Review)
For something a bit more modern, These Violent Delights is set in 1920’s Shanghai following a Romeo & Juliet inspired story. Juliette and Roma are heirs to their respective gangs, but they most band together to solve the origins of a deadly disease running rampant throughout the city. If you love enemies to lovers (and who doesn’t?), this is a great read to pick up.
On the TBR
How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao – A mystery thriller at an elite school featuring Asian characters
Only a Monster by Vanessa Len – A YA contemporary fantasy feaaturing a girl who discovers she’s a half-monster, and uncovers her family secrets
Have you read any of these books by Chinese authors?
Wishing you an incredible Year of the Tiger ahead, with happiness, prosperity and health!