10 Best New Fantasy Books by Asians and Pacific Islanders

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Publishing has always been white, and this is reflected not only in the workforce but also in the books that are being published.

Fortunately, publishers have been making an effort to include BIPOC authors in traditionally white spaces. I review fantasy books for Publishers Weekly, and I’m glad I get to read fantasy books by Asian authors, like myself, set in Asian settings, and that there’s a steady stream of Asian-authored fantasy books in the works. Although it’s still a long way to go for some real change, I find this a welcome development.

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, I put together a list of 10 books by Asian and Pacific Islander authors. These authors’ identities are diverse and multicultural, and it shows in the stories they tell, which deserve a place on shelves. The books on the list explore their mythologies, customs, traditions, cultures, and history. We learn about the way they live and their struggles, giving us new perspectives on the world.

But even so, there aren’t many Pacific Islanders publishing new fantasy books this year. A few Pacific Islanders have previously written fantasy books in English, but they’re honestly hard to come by. This could be because they haven’t had enough opportunities to tell their stories due to publishing’s dominant monoculture. But given the close connection with gods and goddesses, I’m sure that tales have been written or passed down in their own languages.

Here are 10 new fantasy books by Asian and Pacific Islander authors to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month:

Cover of The Spice Gate by Prashanth Srivatsa

The Spice Gate by Prashanth Srivatsa (June 2024)

Amir is a Carrier in the kingdom of Raluha, which means he and other Carriers deliver spices to the Spice Trade’s eight kingdoms. Life as a Carrier is difficult because Amir, as part of the lower caste, is oppressed by those at the top. He wishes to escape and go rogue with his family to a fabled island where other Carriers who have gone rebellious live a life free of oppression. Amir is a Carrier, so passing through the Spice Gate is relatively painless. But he needs the Poison, a magical liquid, for his mother so he and his brother, who’s also a Carrier, can bring her along with them.

During one of his missions in a kingdom, Amir meets Fylan. Before dying, Fylan gives him olum, a spice key to a previously unknown ninth kingdom. Fylan entrusts Amir with a secret mission that has the potential to shatter the power imbalance across the kingdoms in exchange for the Poison, which is abundant in this secret kingdom. Amir must decide whether to take a risk with this opportunity.

Cover of Saints of Storm and Sorrow by Gabriella BubaCover of Saints of Storm and Sorrow by Gabriella Buba

Saints of Storm and Sorrow by Gabriella Buba (June 2024)

The book draws inspiration from Philippine history, particularly Spanish colonization, as well as mythology. It follows Maria Lunurin, who keeps a secret identity as Sister Maria to the colonizer Codicían of Aynila and serves their god. But, in reality, she can summon storms and is a servant of the local goddess, Anitun Tabu. She does her best to hide her abilities from the colonizers, who carry out witch hunts similar to the Spanish Inquisition. But more importantly, she hides her identity to protect her lover, Catalina.

All goes well until she makes a discovery that forces her to seek the assistance of Alon Dakila, a ruler of Aynila. Her goddess, Anitun Tabu, however, becomes upset with her for seeking out the aristocrat.

Cover of Of Jade and Dragons by Amber ChenCover of Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen

Of Jade and Dragons by Amber Chen (June 2024)

When aspiring engineer Ying’s father dies unexpectedly, she puts her dream on hold. Grief-stricken, she investigates his murder using the assassin’s clue and travels to the capital to the Engineers Guild, where her father was a former member. The guild harbors a lot of secrets, and Ying discovers that someone from the guild may have had a hand in killing her father.

Though, as a woman, she’s unable to join the guild. So she disguises herself as her brother and infiltrates their ranks — thanks to Prince Ye-yang. Knowing what she knows about the assassin, she must exercise caution in her next steps, or else she may become the next victim. But, can she trust the prince?

Cover of Lei and the Invisible Island by Malia MaunakeaCover of Lei and the Invisible Island by Malia Maunakea

Lei and the Invisible Island by Malia Maunakea (June 2024)

This is the sequel to Lei and the Fire Goddess, a middle grade fantasy. Lei travels to Hawai’i at the request of her grandmother to learn about the island’s stories. On the island, however, Lei disrespects the Goddess of Fire, who takes away her best friend, Kaipo.

Lei and the Invisible Island picks up after that, with Lei successfully saving Kaipo. Yet, they discover that Kaipo’s pendant is missing. This pendant holds value because it’s somewhat important to Kaipo’s life. So Lei, Kaipo, and a few newcomers embark for an island, encountering dangers along the way.

Cover of The Sunforge by Sascha StronachCover of The Sunforge by Sascha Stronach

The Sunforge by Sascha Stronach (August 2024)

This is the sequel to 2019’s The Dawnhounds by Māori writer Stronach. In there, Yat, a police officer, dies and resurrects with new powers. Then she joins a pirate crew, vowing to protect her city. In this follow-up, the crew finds themselves in a new place with new problems. This time, Kiada, not Yat, takes center stage.

The city of Radovan is on fire, and the crew — Kiada, Yat, and Sen — must find their way out.

Cover of Vilest Things by Chloe GongCover of Vilest Things by Chloe Gong

Vilest Things by Chloe Gong (September 2024)

This is the sequel to Gong’s debut adult fantasy, Immortal Longings.

Vilest Things continues where Immortal Longings left off, with Calla winning the Hunger Games-style competition, killing King Casa, and becoming the adviser to the king’s son, August, her cousin. We all know, though, that it’s not really August after the games. In Gong’s world, people can change bodies, kick the souls of the previous owner, and inhabit that body. Anton, Calla’s lover whom she betrayed and killed to win the games, now inhabits August’s body.

But when Anton’s lover, Otta, awakens from a coma to deliver some bad news, he and Calla must reconcile their differences.

Cover of A Monsoon Rising by Thea GuanzonCover of A Monsoon Rising by Thea Guanzon

A Monsoon Rising by Thea Guanzon (October 2024)

This is the follow-up to The Hurricane Wars. In it, Talasyn and Alaric, heirs of opposing powers, discover that they are betrothed in order to keep the empire peaceful.

As they marry and fulfill their obligations, A Monsoon Rising delves into their romance, their strange dynamic, and the politics that come with such an alliance.

Cover of Night for Day by Roselle LimCover of Night for Day by Roselle Lim

Night for Day by Roselle Lim

Ex-lovers Ward and Camille split up to go their separate ways. At the time, they never thought they would cross paths ever again, but a job opportunity in London brings them back together. They accept the offer, with Ward doing the day shift and Camille working the night shift.

As Ward signs off for the day, he finds he’s unable to leave the office building; Camille is similarly trapped. When they find each other inside, they discover that they can’t talk as often as they want.

Cover of Dragonfruit by Makiia LucierCover of Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier

Dragonfruit by Makiia Lucier

When Hanalei’s father steals a dragon egg known as dragonfruit, she’s forced to flee Tamarind in shame and exile to faraway lands. This dragonfruit is said to be valuable. According to the island’s myth, it can alleviate someone’s grief, such as by healing illness. Hanalei’s father stole it from Oliana, a sick princess in need of an antidote from a poison.

Meanwhile, Hanalei’s friend, Samahtitamahenele, the prince of Tamarind, must ascend to the throne or find another dragonfruit for his ailing mother, Oliana. With Hanalei’s return to Tamarind, he may finally be able to find her mother a cure.

Cover of The Encanto’s Daughter by Melissa de la CruzCover of The Encanto’s Daughter by Melissa de la Cruz

The Encanto’s Daughter by Melissa de la Cruz

The book is based on Filipino mythology, folklore, and even urban legend. MJ is a half-encanto, a mythical spirit or fairy, of the Sirena Court in Biringan, which is led by her father, King Vivencio. When her father suddenly dies, however, she’s summoned to take over the realm.

Along the way, MJ discovers that the king was murdered with some powerful magic, and she has to carry out her own investigation to bring justice to his death. To do that, she requires assistance as she grapples with her new role as princess. So she forms an alliance with Sir Lucas of Sigbin Court, who proves too difficult to resist.

Since much of Asian-American history is still unknown in the United States, I hope that these books by AAPI authors bring awareness of this often forgotten part of U.S. history, as well as remind everyone of their contributions to the American society.

Do you want more books by AAPI authors? Here are must-read poetry books.

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