The best books with elements of Asian mythology

Who am I?

When I was researching for my own book Girl Giant and the Monkey King, I was disappointed in how few books there were out there on Asian mythology. Not just because that really limited my ability to find legitimate sources for my novel, but because that meant so many readers were missing out on a complex and rich history of so many wonderful cultures. Since then, lots of books have been published and I’m so glad that I’m able to read and share them with so many others, and I’m looking forward to even more of these books coming out in the future that will give readers glimpses into our lives and stories.

I wrote...

Girl Giant and the Monkey King

By Van Hoang,

Book cover of Girl Giant and the Monkey King

What is my book about?

Eleven-year-old Thom Ngho is keeping a secret: she’s strong. Like suuuuper strong. Freakishly strong. And it’s making it impossible for her to fit in at her new middle school. In a desperate bid to get rid of her super strength, Thom makes a deal with the Monkey King, a powerful deity and legendary trickster she accidentally released from his 500-year prison sentence. Thom agrees to help the Monkey King get back his magical staff if he'll take away her strength.

Soon Thom is swept up in an ancient and fantastical world where demons, dragons, and Jade princesses actually exist. But she quickly discovers that magic can’t cure everything, and dealing with the trickster god might be more trouble than it’s worth.

The books I picked & why

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The Keeper of Night

By Kylie Lee Baker,

Book cover of The Keeper of Night

Why this book?

Japanese mythology has a rich plethora of stories and characters to draw from, and Kylie Lee Baker does it so well with her duology, which begins with The Keeper of Night. It’s about a biracial British Reaper-Japanese Shinigami who battles demons and monsters both external and internal. I was both terrified and amazed at the rich worldbuilding which draws a lot from Japanese folklore about the underworld. I can’t wait to read the second book.

The Dragon Warrior

By Katie Zhao,

Book cover of The Dragon Warrior

Why this book?

Katie Zhao’s Dragon Warrior series features characters from Chinese mythology and incorporates them into our contemporary world in a fun, humorous adventure. Think Percy Jackson meets Journey to the West. You might recognize some of the same characters from Girl Giant and the Monkey King because Vietnamese and Chinese cultures have lots of similarities! I learned so much while reading this book, was delighted by the crossover characters that showed up in both our stories, and was so inspired, I wish there were more books like it.

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch

By Julie Abe,

Book cover of Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch

Why this book?

While this book doesn’t necessarily feature any mythological characters or retellings, it is a whimsical window into a magical secondary world, with many inspirations from Japanese culture. The best part about Julie Abe’s writing is her imaginary food, the way she’s able to draw from her own culture to make delicious masterpieces that I wish existed in real life! Eva, the book’s main character, is such an adorable person who is eager to learn and face the challenges presented to her, and the connections with new friends she makes along the way are beautifully told. 

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

By Sangu Mandanna,

Book cover of Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

Why this book?

This book has all the best parts of a middle-grade fantasy, with mythological gods and monsters appearing in a contemporary world. I love that Kiki comes from a long, extended family with meddling aunties that I can definitely relate to. Sangu Mandanna’s inspiration of her own culture comes to life when Kiki travels into a world where characters she only knows from mythological stories actually exist and she has to battle her own demons. A really exciting fantasy adventure story that will appeal to all ages.

Jade Fire Gold

By June CL Tan,

Book cover of Jade Fire Gold

Why this book?

I grew up watching Chinese Wuxia dramas, fantasy stories with sweeping dresses, and dramatic sword fights. June CL Tan’s book is like injecting all these best elements straight into your brain. Her worldbuilding is exquisite and detailed, and her attention to everything down to the characters’ clothing choices brings the story to life. While not necessarily based on mythology, the story draws a lot from Wuxia and Chinese culture, making it an enriching read.

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