Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #27: Fantasy Inspired By Middle Eastern Culture

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, previously posted every other Friday but now a little more occasionally! It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: fantasy inspired by Middle Eastern culture.

It has always bugged me that so many of the fantasy books I read are clearly inspired by Western culture. For example, many novels take inspiration from Scandinavian countries, because their history, culture, architecture and ancient religions provide some pretty wonderful inspiration. But this works well for so many other countries, so why aren’t we seeing their influence?

Actually, Middle Eastern culture does have a lot of influence on fantasy fiction. But very rarely are the heroes and heroines from this background. It seems to mostly be used as an inspiration for the ‘enemy’ culture, to represent barbarians and people of a ‘less developed’ civilisation, for example the Dothraki in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, who are initially shown as very violent and cruel. This got me thinking about books where this is not the case, and where the main civilisation represented in the book is actually inspired by the Middle East. I was pleased to find quite a selection during my research, and would love to hear about some more if you can share any!

Rebel of the Sands Twelve Kings The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

  • Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton – a Persian inspired fantasy that seemed to me like an ‘Eastern Western’ e.g. lots of gun slinging.
  • Twelve Kings (The Song of the Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu – the first in an epic fantasy series with political corruptness, assassins and immortal kings.
  • The Desert Spear (The Demon Cycle #2) by Peter V. Brett – whilst the culture is perhaps shown as barbaric at first, POV chapters open up the reader’s eyes to why Jardir’s world is the way it is.

Throne of the Crescent Moon Desert of Souls Lions of Al-Rassan

  • Throne of the Crescent Moon (The Crescent Moon Kingdoms #1) by Saladin Ahmed – I’ve not read this one, but it was very highly recommended when I was searching for books for this post, and seems to be inspired by Arabian Nights.
  • The Desert of Souls (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1) by Howard Andrew Jones – unlike most of the books on this list, this one is actually set in our world, but with a fantasy twist.
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay – this was one of the Books of the Month for Dragons & Jetpacks but I STILL haven’t read it (story of my life).

The Golem and the Jinni The Will of the Wanderer In the Night Garden

  • The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker – yet another Dragons & Jetpacks Book of the Month that I still haven’t read! I do remember members of the group commenting on how beautiful this book was though.
  • The Will of the Wanderer (Rose of the Prophet #1) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – one of the older books on this list, this tells the story of a battle between many gods.
  • In the Night Garden (The Orphan’s Tales #1) by Catherynne M. Valente – the description of this book of short stories sounds more than enough to convince me: ‘A book of wonders for grown-up readers’!

Do you have any other recommendations?

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Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, December 2015

DJ16

Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the second week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the third is used for voting. We’re always happy to meet fellow fans of the genres, so you’re more than welcome to join the group!

DJ_SF
Foundation

Goodreads

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future – to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire – both scientists and scholars – and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun – or fight them and be destroyed.

DJ_F
Lions of Al-Rassan

Goodreads

The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan – poet, diplomat, soldier – until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.

Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites’ most celebrated – and feared – military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.

In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve – for a time – the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate – and increasingly torn by her feelings – is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.

Have you read either of this month’s picks? What did you think?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #20: Historical Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: historical fantasy

I’m sorry, I’m aware it’s been a little while since I did a Fantasy Friday post – but these are always the ones that take me the longest to write, and as I haven’t been feeling too much up to blogging for the past month, they were also the first posts to get put aside!

Historical fantasy is a particularly wonderful branch of the fantasy genre, and to me it can mean two things. Either a story based on real events, places or people but with some magical or fantasy elements, or a new fantasy world that is inspired by real history or places. I wanted to share some examples of the sub-genre – they’re all ones I have either read, or heard very good things about.

1. Lion of Macedon (Greek Series #1) by David Gemmell

Lion of Macedon

To be honest, I can’t think of anything much better than blending ancient Greek history and mythology with fantasy fiction. And with Lion of Macedon, David Gemmell has done that.

2. Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read Across the Nightingale Floor about seven or eight years ago, when I had a great interest in Japanese history. It’s loosely based on the feudal era of Japanese history, with plenty of fantastical elements. I never quite finished the series, but I do remember enjoying the first two books a lot.

3. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tigana

I’ve been aware of Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay for a while now, but I only just recently decided to add it to my ‘to read’ list as I finally looked into what it’s really about. It is based on Renaissance Italy, which is an interest of mine – so definitely one to look out for! Would it be too much to hope that there are characters influenced by the Borgias?? I can dream.

4. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian

I first read The Historian when I was about fifteen or sixteen, and it just completely grabbed me and pulled me right in. I devoured it in a matter of days. Following a young woman tracing her family’s history, she soon finds herself tangled up with the history of one Vlad Tepes, and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. It’s creepy and dark but very addictive.

5. Fool’s Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

Fool's Assassin

A very recent release from Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin is inspired by elements of medieval history. In fact there are plenty of fantasy series which draw from medieval history (including one that has been turned into a hit TV show…), but I wanted to showcase this book in particular as I will hopefully be reviewing it soon!

6. Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Kind of hard to ignore Outlander when it’s been everywhere recently, thanks to a recent TV show adaptation. I honestly hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks ago, despite the book being nearly as old as myself, but as soon as I read about it, it went straight onto the wishlist. It’s about a woman who gets teleported back in time, from 1945 to the highlands of Scotland in 1743. EVERYONE is raving about it!

7. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon

Napoleonic Wars? Check. Dragon combat? Check. His Majesty’s Dragon is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars, imagining that they were fought with dragons. Do I need to say any more?

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Another one set during the Napoleonic Wars, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell features magic instead of dragons. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been recommended this book by various people, and how many times I’ve heard friends speak highly of it.

9. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I’ve spoken a lot about Sabriel in the past, so if you’re a regular reader of the blog then you will know of my love for the series. It’s set in an alternative early twentieth century England, but instead of the First World War the people of Ancelstierre have to fight the dark forces of Necromancy.

10. Leviathan (Leviathan #1) by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan

Another alternate history that everyone needs to read, Leviathan imagines that World War I was fought using beasts, developed using Darwinist theories, and machines. I cannot recommend this series enough, and as a bonus it has some gorgeous illustrations.

What are your favourite historical fantasy novels? Did you enjoy any of the ones listed here?