Inspired Novels: Fantasy Books Inspired by Chinese Culture
With representation and diversity in novels becoming a widely discussed issue in the book forum, more and more writers are incorporating their own cultures in their novels. This is encouraging indigenous writers to write as well, and the result is an influx of wonderful literature from all cultures of the world. One country that has much in way of contributing to the melting pot of cultures in the book forum is China. Today, we bring to you a list of Fantasy Books Inspired by Chinese Culture. These inspired novels will give you a glimpse of the rich and vibrant Chinese culture.
List of Fantasy Books Inspired by Chinese Culture:
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
The first book in the Blood of Stars series, this is a larger-than -life tale of Maia Tamarin. She masquerades as a boy in order to win the chance to be an imperial tailor who will “spin the dawn” by tailoring a dress for the emperor from the sun, moon and stars. Replete with unforgettable characters and witty dialogues, this book offers everything you could possibly want from a fantasy novel. There’s a quest, there’s competition, there’s forbidden romance and there’s loads of magic. It should definitely be on your TBR.
The Girl King by Mimi Yu
This novel follows two princesses Lu and Min, one of whom has been destined to become the first woman ruler and the other has resigned to this arrangement, But when the king hands over his reign to a distant male relative and Min’s hidden power awakens, things change. Lu goes on a run to amass support and meets an unlikely ally amd Min must make a choice – whether to ally with the present ruler or grab the throne for herself. As this turns into a feud between sisters with conflicting interests, a wonderful fantastical world comes to life. With hints of patriarchy, family drama and romance, this book shatters lots of norms.
The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
This novel follows the life and adventures of 12 year old Faryn as he embarks on quests to fulfill her destiny as the Heaven Breaker, a formidable warrior serving the Jade Emperor. This novel battles two issues at once – patriarchy and racism. Throughout the quests, Faryn discovers her identity and the role that culture plays in it and also battles to overcome her ‘shortcomings’ as a girl warrior. Steeped in Chinese culture, it also provides a complete experience of Chinese food, pop culture and customs. Plus there’s an intersection of Gods and humans, giving off a Percy Jackson vibe.
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
A book that’s more on the grim side, it follows Li Jing’s struggles with poverty and her successive sales to an ill-treating family as a wife and then into even worse conditions. With the help of several mythical characters such as a magic spider, nightingale and the local deity Huli Jing, she returns to Huanan (her hometown) and discovers herself in the process. This book is beautifully written, and mingles folklore with history rendering an exceptional and unique feel to it. It may not have traditional fantasy plot points, but it’s a book that will blow your mind.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
When the vulnerable Princess Hesina is forced into the world of politics and betrayal after her father’s death, she is clueless. She wants justice for her father, and she is prepared to go to any lengths for it. Even if it means employing a soothsayer although magic is banned in the kingdom and turning to an investigator who is also a criminal. But will the cost of personal justice be the loss of social welfare? To find out, you must turn to this dazzling story of Princess Hesina, which chronicles her journey from a naive princess to a bold Queen.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
This brave and beautiful retelling of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet is set in Shanghai. It follows our protagonists Juliette, heir to the Scarlet gang and Roma, heir to the White Flower gang. As the rivalry between the street gangs turns bloody, a foreign entity threatens to attack. United, they could destroy it. But as enemies, they’re weak. And as with Romeo and Juliet, love threatens to complicate matters. Filled with all the elements of a stunning fantasy, this one’s a must read.
Burning Roses by SL Huang
This is a Chinese retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a twist in the tale. Here, Little Red Riding Hood, our Rosa survives the wolf attack that kills her grandmother. She has grown to hate these speaking animals, called ‘grundwirgen’ and tries to rid the world of them. The book begins after these events have happened in the past and deals with her equation with Hou Yi – a well-known character from Chinese folklore. Together, they try to rid the empire of deadly sunbirds and as they o, they make shocking discoveries about the past and deal with their consequences.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Based on the tumultuous period between the Qin and Han dynasties, Liu crafts a fantasy masterpiece with this work. It is full of historical allusions, cultural nuances and religious elements. It chronicles the story of two brothers, as they fall in and out of power, come together and fall out that ultimately culminates into a soaring climax. This is an epic fantasy without much magic, but with stellar worldbuilding. The characters and the intricacies of their world are interspersed with the history of China in a spectacular way. It’s definitely a book that should be on your radar.