5 Outstanding Arab American Authors in the Fantasy Genre

There are lots of amazing fantasy novels, but not many by Arab authors are known. Read on to learn about 5 such authors.

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From left to right: images of Zeyn Joukhadar, Chelsea Abdullah, and Hafsah Faizal against a dark green background.

Fantasy is a wonderful genre that is slowly but surely becoming more diverse. Fantasy books are set in all kinds of worlds, use mythology from different parts of the world, and include various cultures. Today, I want to highlight five wonderful Arab-American authors doing great work in fantasy with their rich worlds and sweeping tales. Read on to learn more.

Saladin Ahmed

Ahmed is a science fiction and fantasy writer, poet, and comic book writer. He has been published in many literary journals, such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Strange Horizons. He has also written comic book series for Marvel the franchise, including Miles Morales: Spider-Man and Magnificent Ms. Marvel.

Saladin Ahmed looking to the side with a raised eyebrow.

His debut novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, is the first in a trilogy inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. The Crescent Moon kingdoms are home to creatures ranging from ghuls to holy warriors, and there’s a power struggle between the cruel Khalif and the Falcon Prince. While this is happening, horrific supernatural murders are striking in the center of the cities. A small group of heroes must band together and get to the bottom of it.

Hafsah Faizal

Faizal is a YA author and web designer, who started the web design, IceyDesigns, when she was just seventeen. She makes websites for authors and gorgeous stationery, candles, and more. She also has a blog called IceyBooks that she created in 2010 for, well, books and book-related topics.

Hafsah Faizal with her head resting on her hand and surrounded by full bookshelves.

Faizal is best known for her Sands of Arawiya Duology, and the first book is We Hunt the Flame. The series is inspired by ancient Arabia, following the Hunter Zafira, a woman disguised as a man who hunts in the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir, the Prince of Death, murders anyone who dares defy his sultan father. They’re both in danger; if Zafira’s identity is revealed, everything she has done will be rejected. And if Nasir shows compassion, his father will brutally punish him. These two are famous in the kingdom of Arawiya, but neither wants that.

Zamil Akhtar

Akhtar is a fantasy novelist and short story writer. He has shared some of his short stories on his subreddit, NoSleep, where others can also submit their stories. He also has a Patreon, where members can — depending on their membership — gain access to exclusive short stories, early-release art, and more.

Zamil Akhtar smiling against what looks like an old painting.

His debut novel, Gunmetal Gods, the first in a trilogy, was published in 2020. A man named Micah comes to take over a kingdom, accompanied by fifty thousand paladins with guns, after they kidnapped his daughter. The janissaries are the only ones who can stop them, but their living legend, Kevah, is lost in grief over his wife’s disappearance. He must overcome this and return to his former glory, but Micah is set on conquering at all costs.

Chelsea Abdullah

Abdullah is a new author who published her first book in 2022. It’s the first in the Sandsea Trilogy, and the second one is supposed to be released in 2025. Her trilogy was inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, as well as stories she’s heard growing up about desert creatures and clever — but not always likable — heroes.

Chelsea Abdullah smiling widely and surrounded by pretty flowers.

Her first novel, The Stardust Thief, follows Loulie al-Nazari, also known as the Midnight Merchant, who hunts and steals illegal magic with her jinn bodyguard. After saving the cowardly prince, the sultan notices her abilities and forces her to find an ancient lamp that will revive the land, but at the cost of all jinn. She, the bodyguard, and the oldest prince must journey together and brave all sorts of dangers to find this lamp. But Loulie discovers that everything isn’t what she thought, and she has to decide who to be and what to do.

Zeyn Joukhadar

Joukhadar is a novelist and short story writer. He has had works featured in anthologies such as This Arab is Queer and Letters to a Writer of Colour. He has also published many short stories and poems, which you can find here. Joukhadar has won several writing awards, such as the Lambda Award and the 2018 Middle East Book Award.

Zeyn Joukhadar staring straight at the camera.

The moving novel, A Map of Salt and Stars, is Joukhadar’s first book. After losing her father to cancer and moving back to Syria from New York with her sisters and mother, Nour tells their favorite story about a twelfth-century girl named Rawiya who disguised herself as a boy so she could be a mapmaker’s apprentice. But soon, war reaches their home, and after a brush with death, the family has to take the same route Rawiya and the mapmaker took to escape violence. The two timelines, set 800 years apart, intertwine and create a beautiful, overlapping story.

If you haven’t read any of these authors yet, I highly recommend adding their books to your TBR.

For an article about graphic novels by Arab American writers, click here.

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