Fantasy Novels Based on Underrepresented Cultures You Need to Read

Want to read fantasy novels based on various, underrepresented cultures? Read on for new books to add to your TBR!

Author's Corner Diverse Voices Diversity Fantasy Recommendations
Book covers 'Girls of Paper and Fire,' 'The City of Brass,' and 'This Woven Kingdom' against a pink and purple cloudy background

Fantasy books are so amazing — they’re full of rich imagination, magic, and riveting tales of adventures. But what are they missing? Simple: diversity. There are far too many fantasy stories based in white, European settings, histories, folklore, etc. So that’s why I went out looking for more diverse fantasy books, specifically based on or set in cultures that are traditionally underrepresented. Read on to learn more.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty — 18th Century Egypt

'The City of Brass' by S. A. Chakraborty book cover showing a tall fire and a person standing in front of it with a city in the background.

Nahri is a con woman in eighteenth-century Cairo who swindles nobles in hopes of changing her life. But when she accidentally summons Dara, a mysterious djinn warrior, she learns that even the best schemes can have terrible consequences. They are forced to leave and travel across the desert, past former human metropolises, and through danger to Daevabad, the city of brass. In this city, blood is as dangerous as any magic, where grudges run deep and the royal court has a weak grip. A city where Nahri is bound and where her presence could ignite a war.

A Song of Wraith and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown — West Africa

'A Song of Wraith and Ruin' by Roseanne A. Brown book cover showing a young woman dressed in a sweeping green dress.

Mailk uses the Solstasia festival as his opportunity to escape his war-torn home and start over in the booming city of Ziran with his sisters. But a vengeful spirit kidnaps his younger sister, Nadia, for payment for entering the city. To rescue her, Malik makes a deal — he’ll kill Crown Princess Karina for his sister’s freedom, and he enters the Solstasia competition to do so. But Karina has her own ambitions, including resurrecting her dead mother, using the beating heart of a king. Her plan: she’ll offer her hand in marriage to whoever wins the Solstasia competition. Will they fulfill their desires, or will their growing attraction get in the way?

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan — Malaysia

'Girls of Paper and Fire' by Natasha Ngan book cover showing a young woman with hair and fire covering her face

Lei is part of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, and the trauma of seeing her mother dragged off by royal guards is still fresh to her. Now they’re here for her, the girl who has beautiful golden eyes that have captured the king’s interest. She and eight other girls learn the skills and charm necessary to be the king’s consorts, and through this horrible experience, she falls in love — but not with the king. This romance threatens everything, and Lei has to decide how far she’s willing to go.

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi — Persian and Muslim Culture

'This Woven Kingdom' by Tahereh Mafi book cover with a gold head accessory decorated in roses

To everyone else, Alizeh is only a servant, someone disposable rather than the lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom who has been forced to hide. Crown Prince Kamran has heard prophecies warning of the death of the king, but he never would have thought that a servant girl with unusual eyes, a girl he thinks about all the time, would be the one to rip up everything he’s ever known.

Gates of Stone by Angus Macallan — Indonesia, Specifically Bali

Gates of Stone by Angus Macallan book cover showing a white tiger with a smaller one inside

Princess Katerina is refused as heir to the throne of the Empire of the Ice-Bear because of her sex. To regain her birthright, she murders the foreign lord she was ordered to marry and sails to the islands of the Laut Besar to gain power and wealth. In a small kingdom, Prince Arjun’s life is shattered when a dangerous sorcerer massacres his people and steals Jun’s ancestors’ sacred sword. With his father dead and the palace ruined, he sets about finding the sorcerer and sword in Laut Besar. The sorcerer Mangku seeks the Seven Keys, which have locked up the evils of the Seven Hells. The ancient sword is only the first as he strives to complete his mission of destroying the world. The fate of humanity is on the line as these destinies entwine and meet in Laur Besar.

Snow, Fire, Sword by Sophie Masson — Indonesia

'Snow, Fire, Sword' by Sophie Masson book cover showing a tall building, a helicopter, and a hand holding a sword against a red-orange background

In Jayangan, ancient magic and beliefs coexist with modern pop songs and motorcycles. Adi, the son of a fisherman, is proud to be studying with the world’s best sword makers. Dewi, a healer’s daughter, wants to know more about the outside world. Neither are prepared for their fates as they are forced into an epic battle that even Jayangan’s spirits can’t beat. They are tasked with finding the Snow, Fire, and Sword, and if they fail, their beloved home will fall to shadows and ruins. But can two children succeed where ancient and powerful spirits failed?

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger — Lipan Apache Culture

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger book cover showing a young woman with a snake slithering around her feet

Nina is a young Lipan girl who always felt that there was more to the world. She believes in old Lipan Apache stories. Oli is a young cottonmouth, and he comes from the land of monsters and spirits. He was forced from his original home and finds a new one at the riverbanks. Neither girl nor snake knew of the other — at first. But when a disastrous event strikes Earth, and when Oil’s best friend develops a strange sickness, their worlds will collide in a way that hasn’t been seen in centuries. Yet there are those who will do anything, even kill, to keep them separate.

I hope you added some new books to your TBR!

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