Ten Fantasy Books with a World based on East Asia

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by the folks at the Broke and the Bookish. Each week has a different theme where participants try to come up with ten things to fit the theme.

This week is Ten Books with x setting. I chose to talk about Ten Fantasy Books with a World based on the East Asia. Most of these are books on my TBR which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t found the time to explore. Some of these books are actually from East Asia but I think all of them have English translations, at the very least, they have fan made ones.

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Under Heaven

Under Heaven is a novel written by Guy Gavriel Kay based on the An Shi Rebellion. It is set in Kitai, a fictionalized Tang Dynasty China, and follows the story of Shen Tai, the second son of renowed Kitai general during a period of rebellion by an aging general against the emperor of Kitai.

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The Lotus War

The Lotus War is a trilogy written by Jay Kristoff set in a fictionalized Japan. A young girl named Yukiko and her father are sent to capture a legendary arashitora for the Shogun, a task make impossible by their extinction. She soon finds a crippled arashitora and forms a bond with him, as she attempts to make the Shogun pay for what he was done to her family and her country. And if you’re wondering, arashitoras are kinda like griffins with minor differences like having the back end of tiger instead of a lion.

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Long Price Quartet

The Long Price Quartet is series of four standalone-ish books written by Daniel Abraham that tells four different time periods in the main character’s life. The first book is set in the city state of Saraykeht one of many cities ruled by Khais. The Khaiem is heavily influenced by Asian culture where they eat with sticks and drink rice wine.

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The Emperor’s Soul

The Emperor’s Soul, a Hugo award winning novella by Brandon Sanderson, is set in the Rose Empire. It is based on China, with emperors, seals and chopsticks. I can’t remember if the actual descriptions were in the book, but I remember having a visual image of something like the forbidden palace, with paper walls and sliding doors.

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Journey to the West

Journey to the West is one of the four great Chinese novels, and perhaps the best known. (The others are Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber and Water Margin.) It tells the story of Tang Sanzang as he journeys to India to bring Buddhist scriptures back to China. He travels along the Silk Road and recruits four disciples along the way – Sun Wukong (the Monkey King), Zhu Bajie (pigheaded former Commander of Heaven’s Navy), Sha Wujing (a river ogre) and Yulong (third son of the Dragon King of the West Sea). They are beset by monsters and calamities as evil tries to stop Tang Sanzang from completing his journey.

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Jin Yong’s Wuxia Novel

Jin Yong is a huge name in Chinese-speaking Asia back in the 90s with many films and TV series adapted from his work. He is kinda like the Charles Dickens of China in that he mainly wrote serialized fiction in the form of Wuxia novels. Wuxia, which literally means martial hero, is a genre of fiction that depict martial artist fighting for what is right. Kind of like bushido, if you’re familiar with that.

The one I love the most among them is the Condor Hero trilogy which starts with the Legend of the Condor Heroes, a tale about two sworn brothers who promised each other that their unborn children will be sworn siblings if of the same gender and betrothed if of different gender. Two sons are born but they are separated at birth after an attack on their village. One of them lives in Mongolia under the tutelage of Temujin (Genghis Khan). The other grows up in Jin China as a prince. The boys have drastically different personalities and upbringing and soon their paths cross. The sequel follows the son of one of the boys.

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Tales of the Otori

Tales of the Otori is a series by Lian Hearn set in a fictionalized feudal Japan. It follows the story of Takeo, a young warrior assassin who works to avenge his adopted father and run away from the influences of his biological father during a time of warring clans with clan lords vying for power.

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Investiture of the Gods

A classical Chinese novel which is not quite one of the top four classics but still highly regarded. It tells the story of the fall of the Shang Dynasty when it’s last emperor King Zhou is overthrown by Ji Fa which lead to the formation of the Zhou Dynasty. It features a lot of gods and demons in Chinese mythology as they intercede in the wars. Kind of like the Trojan War now that I think about it. Apparently there’s a movie starring Jet Li in the works. Doesn’t look to impressive though.

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the great four Chinese classics and you’re probably thinking What? Romance of the Three Kingdoms is fantasy? There are fantasy elements to the story, like magic and rituals but it definitely has less of it compared to Investiture of the Gods. Romance of the Three Kingdoms tells the story of the fall of the Eastern Han Dynasty and the subsequent warring period of the Three Kingdoms. And if you’re thinking that ASOIAF has a lot of characters and faction, you ain’t seen nothing. Almost every onscreen character is given a name, even ones who appear in one paragraph and dies in the next. It covers a period from 169 AD to 280 AD and the actual Three Kingdoms were formed only in 220 AD after three main contenders to the throne were able to consolidate their power against dozens of warlords trying to grab land and power for their own. So that’s a LOT of factions involved.

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Twelve Kingdoms

Twelve Kingdoms is a series of light novels written by Fuyumi Ono which is heavily inspired by Chinese mythology. A young girl from Japan is transported in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms and learns that she comes from that world. She is only the focus of two of the books as the series focuses on many different characters through the 8 volumes.

That’s ten fantasy books set in world based on East Asia. Have you heard of them? What other fantasy books set in a setting similar to East Asia do you know of? What topic did you pick for Top Ten Tuesday this week? Let me know in the comments down below.

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25 thoughts on “Ten Fantasy Books with a World based on East Asia

  1. Hooray for including lots of traditional tales! I tend to mostly avoid novels written by Western authors in an Asian setting (mostly), but I enjoyed the Tales of the Otori (although I liked Across the Nightingale Floor far more than any of the sequels).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hooray!
      I think there’s a lot of research that needs to be done for authors who did not grow up around the culture or are familiar with the history. So it’s difficult.
      I haven’t read Tales of the Otori yet, so that’s good to know!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved Tales of the Otori! ❤ Has been a while since I read them…maybe it's time for a re-read!

    Hmm books set in Japan. Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford. Then Memoirs of a Geisha. Asian Saga by James Clavell.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only read Stormdancer! SHAME ON ME. And I haven’t even heard of most of these, except for the Brandon Sanders one, which I’ll definitely get to eventually because I plan to read them all eventually heheh. (He writes a lot though, omg, so it may take a while.) I also love how Cinder is partially set in a futuristic China. And there was a Japanese mystery book I used to love growing up but I caaan’t remember the title. *facepalm*

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