Top 5 Wednesday: Non-Western Inspired Fantasy Books

This week’s topic is books that were inspired by non-western locations, or else set in a non-western location. I decided to narrow it down to Fantasy books inspired by non-western settings as those are pretty few and far between (in English at least). But first, I have a number of thoughts on this topic.

Have you ever wondered why English literature is dominated by western thought? The answer is simple. Because English is a language of the west. So it really isn’t surprising, nor, I think, necessarily a negative thing. However, because the US is a melting pot of cultures and with how our world has expanded into a global community rather than just a national one, it is important to learn about cultures beyond what we know in the west. So, I am happy that authors of non-Western background have been gaining recognition in recent years. Continue reading

Stardust by Neil Gaiman


Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale retelling
3.5 stars.

I’ve been on a bit of a Neil Gaiman streak since reading Neverwhere, and I’m still bummed at myself for never reading him before. But I guess that gives me time to thoroughly enjoy his books now.

Tristran Thorn has never felt like he belongs in the village of Wall. When Victoria, the girl he loves, says she will give him whatever he desires if he fetches her the falling star they saw drop to the other side of the stone wall that separates their world from the strange and magical land of Stormhold, Tristran doesn’t hesitate to agree. In order to prove his love, Tristran sets out on the journey of a lifetime, encountering hungry witches, bloodthirsty princes, and air pirates along the way, only to discover that his heritage is not as he thought it was and that maybe Victoria is not who he truly desires at all. Continue reading

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
4.5 stars.

“Richard was sitting in the dark, on a ledge, on the side of a storm drain, wondering what to do, wondering how much further out of his depth he could possibly get. His life so far, he decided, had prepared him perfectly for a job in securities, for shopping at the supermarket, for watching football on the telly on the weekends, for turning on a heater if he got cold. It had magnificently failed to prepare him for a life as an un-person on the roofs and in the sewers of London, for a life in the cold and the wet and the dark.”

This is my first time reading a Neil Gaiman book and all I can say is . . . WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? WHY HAVE I WAITED SO LONG? Continue reading

Hunted by Megan Spooner


Hunted by Megan Spooner
Genre: Fantasy, fairy tale retelling, YA
4 stars.

I have not read as genuinely delightful of a fairy tale retelling in years. Hunted follows in the hallowed tradition of Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier, and I was immediately swept into the nostalgia of Spooner’s enchanted world.

Yeva, the youngest daughter of a wealthy merchant, longs for the solitude and magic of the forest, where she is free from the confines of society and can hunt as she pleases. When her father falls into financial ruin and then madness, disappearing into the forest in search of a mysterious “cunning beast,” Yeva has no choice but to follow him. When she finds a beast of nightmares looming over her father’s body in the snow, she swears vengeance on the creature who killed her father and that has now taken her captive to complete some mysterious test. Continue reading

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Historical Fantasy
5 stars.

“The circus arrives without warning.”

I have never read nor will ever read anything like this book. Morgenstern orchestrates a masterful mixing of genres whose wheres and the whys, much like the circus itself, are deliciously difficult to pin down. The deeply human longing for magic and wonder are piqued within the dream-like realm of Morgernstern’s prose, and I couldn’t help but be enchanted by it. Continue reading

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick

51l-ygptgul-_sy344_bo1204203200_Genre: Historical fantasy, sci-fi, fairy tale — not quite sure what to classify this as.
3 stars.

I really liked the concept behind this book: exploring seven different stories, each further back in time than the one before, slowly connecting more dots as to why what is happening in the first story happens. I have always been fascinated with history and its interaction with the world as we know it. I enjoyed that aspect. Also, Vikings, which is one of my loves. Continue reading

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

This post does NOT contain spoilers.wildwood


4/5 on Rachel’s Rating Scale
PG for mild violence
Young adult, historical fantasy, fairy tale retelling

Sorry this post is a few days late in coming. I was up in Virginia, singing for the beautiful wedding of two very good friends. But I have now returned, and the promised review has arrived. And this book is worth every second of your time.

As I said in my first post, fairy tale retellings are what I live for. After reading a number of her novels, Juliet Marillier quickly leaped into position as one of my favorite authors, particularly for her emphasis on historical fantasy, drawing heavily from folklore including Celtic, Norse, and Romanian. Which, if you know me at all, you will realize are three of my favorite mythologies.

Marillier’s skills as a storyteller are apparent in the surreal images she draws for the reader, pulling her audience into a past world where the old tales of fairies, goblins, and wood folk are startlingly real. Marillier makes the reader believe that magic still exists. For those of you who do like vampires, this is that book I mentioned in my first post that actually does vampires well. But, like I said, she draws on the original folklore of the vampire, does not call them vampires, and they are not the main focus of the book.

Since they first discovered the portal to the Other World in their old castle home of Piscul Dracului, Jenica and her sisters have been passing through on each full moon to join the dances of the wood folk. It is a secret known only to them as well as to Jenica’s pet frog and best friend, Gogu. As her father’s health wanes, Jena is placed under pressure from her cousin Cezar to marry and cede ownership of Piscul Dracului. With her eldest sister quickly losing her heart and her mortality to a mournful man of the wildwood, Jena must keep Cezar from seizing control of her beloved home, as well as solve the ten year old mystery of her cousin Costi’s death.

I first read this book when I was sixteen, and the predominant emotion I can remember feeling was frustration. It was a feeling I would come to know well the more I read Juliet Marillier, but it is an emotion that drove me to read on. I promise you will want to scream and throw the book across the room at points, but that is what makes it worth reading. You won’t want to leave Jena’s world, and, don’t worry too much, because Marillier wrote an incredible sequel called Cybele’s Secret that I almost think is better than this book. Either way, read this book and its sequel.

If you want to know what fairy tale the book is based on, it’s kind of a mix of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and the Frog Prince. So, hopefully that doesn’t give too much away.