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 (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 (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 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’!