Setting is such an important aspect of a good fantasy. I've really enjoyed the fantasies I've read recently that are steeped in ancient Rome, the Arabian desert, or the Asian highlands. All the fantasies in this Reading on a Theme are inspired by Asia and India in terms of both setting and mythology. If you are looking for an Asian-inspired YA or middle-grade tale, these books are full of lush settings, gorgeous writing, and unforgettable characters.
The Grimm Brothers in Mongolia:
In a fantastical Mongolian-inspired setting, Shannon Hale retells "Maid
Maleen" by the Brothers Grimm in which a lady and her loyal maid are locked in a
tower for seven years as punishment for the lady's refusal to marry the
man her father wants her to. Shannon Hale's books are
such a joy to read. I fell in love with Dashti and Khan
Tegus and My Lord the cat. The setting is rich and truly almost a character in its own right. I love how the gods of the Eight Realms were a crucial part of the climax of Book of a Thousand Days. At the same time, the plot and the writing style are well-suited for the middle-grade audience, the fairy tale outline, and the Asian inspiration.
Mayavati is the daughter of a king, one of many in the harem of Bharata, but she is hated and feared by the other women because her horoscope links her with death. When her father decides she must choose a husband, she becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar, a stranger from an unknown land full of secrets and mysteries. The Star-Touched Queen is masterfully written. Mayavati is a strong, fiery character with drive and resolve, and the setting is spectacular. The language and images are beautiful. Inspired by Hindu stories, Roshani Chokshi weaves a world of magic, secrets, and fate. I fell into this book and didn't want to get out. The Star-Touched Queen was out April 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.
Minli lives in the Valley of the Fruitless Mountain with her mother and father. Her mother constantly complains about the family's ill-fortune and one day, Minli decides to do something about it. She embarks on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how to change their fortune. I love the that this middle-grade book inspired by Chinese folklore is told in stories. Grace Lin beautifully weaves the stories together, leaving no loose ends. I felt I truly understood the characters because I knew their stories. I loved the themes in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. They include, but are not limited to: faith, trust,
hope, happiness, love, thankfulness, story, and letting go. A beautiful
Eon, one of a few young men who can see the Energy Dragons,
is competing to become a Dragoneye, a man who will commune with his Energy
Dragon to help control the forces of nature. The thing is, Eon is really
Eona, a girl disguised as a boy for the purposes of the competition, and she doesn't just see one Energy Dragon, she sees them
all. All that is, except the Mirror Dragon, who was lost eons ago. Alison Goodman creates a captivating and complex world in Eon.
This Asian-inspired fantasy has a great setting and many elements that correspond to Chinese legends. The twelve Energy Dragons, for instance, correspond to the animals of the Chinese
Zodiac. I hope that in the sequel Eona embraces her true self and her immense power.
No one in Fei's isolated mountaintop
village can hear. The population long ago adapted to their hearing loss, but now, devastatingly, villagers are beginning to
lose their sight. Desperate to save her sister, who
is one of the afflicted, Fei and miner Li Wei leave against the
village's will to make the treacherous climb down the mountain for help. Their encounters with the larger world reveal that the village's
problems are much greater than they realized.I thought the premise of Soundless
was interesting. Richelle Mead's book has an Asian folktale quality
to it both in the plot and in the telling, in that it's a very quiet story despite the high stakes. Out November 2015. Preview from NetGalley.
Book of A Thousand Days, Eon, and Soundless reviewed by JoLee.
The Star-Touched Queen and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon reviewed by Paige.