The best children’s fantasy books with South Asian representation

Who am I?

I was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and as a kid I loved to read. But I never saw myself—an Indian girl like me—represented in children’s books before. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I began writing my first novel at age 23. When I did, I wrote the entire first draft with white characters and set it in a western country. I believed my Indian culture and my experience as an Indian kid was not worth writing about. I was so wrong! Now, with the novels I write, I’m passionate about representation, especially South Asian representation because all kids deserve to see themselves and their cultures in the books they read.

I wrote...

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia, Book 1)

By Payal Doshi,

Book cover of Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia, Book 1)

What is my book about?

Rea Chettri is a 12-year-old girl living a simple, if boring, life on the tea plantations of Darjeeling, India. Rea's life gets turned on its head when her twin brother, Rohan, goes missing. Determined to save him, Rea embarks on a secret adventure into the enchanted world of Astranthia. Rea must grapple with dark truths of her past, discover her true self, learn what has happened to her brother, and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can Rea rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

“A gateway into pure imagination, with a fast-paced plot that will hook you and characters that will endear you. A wonderful debut.” - Kacen Callender, National Book Award winner for King and the Dragonflies.

The books I picked & why

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Aru Shah and the End of Time

By Roshani Chokshi,

Book cover of Aru Shah and the End of Time

Why this book?

I love this book because Roshani Chokshi introduces the vibrant gods, goddesses, and demons of Indian mythology to young readers by making it relatable with pop culture references, laugh-out-loud humor, and wild-ride adventures! Aru Shah is a regular middle-schooler from Atlanta, Georgia and unbeknownst to her is a reincarnation of a major character from one of India’s epic myths. The jaw-dropping part—she accidentally awakens the God of Destruction! Did I mention there’s a feisty and sardonic pigeon named Boo, too? 

Force of Fire

By Sayantani DasGupta,

Book cover of Force of Fire

Why this book?

Easy. Because the protagonist, Pinki, is a fire-breathing rakkhosh a.k.a demon. Need I say more? This book was so much fun to read because you are rooting for a rakkhosh who is trying to control her fire breathing powers while she must protect the Moon Maiden and save the demon realm from snake oppressors. Apart from being an incredible adventure with witty and hilarious dialogue, Sayantani DasGupta expertly weaves in commentary about colonialism and the effects it has on a land and its people.

The Gauntlet

By Karuna Riazi,

Book cover of The Gauntlet

Why this book?

Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a Jumanji-inspired mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand and it’s up to them to defeat the villainous architect of the game and save themselves and all those trapped inside. This fantasy story set in a Middle Eastern and Bangladeshi-inspired world is nail-biting to say the least and Karuna Riazi’s lush prose with descriptions of taste and smell transported me straight into the story and deadly game (and also left me very hungry!). Besides, when there are red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats who wouldn’t want to join in this captivating adventure?

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

By Sarwat Chadda,

Book cover of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

Why this book?

I absolutely adore stories where a seemingly innocuous vacation turns on its heels into a gripping, out-of-this-world adventure. And this book is exactly that! When Ash (Ashoka) Mistry, an Indian mythology geek who lives in England, visits his aunt and uncle in Varanasi, the holy city of the Ganges in India, strange occurrences begin to happen, and Ash discovers that heroes and monsters of Indian myths have come back to life. Top that up with one character wanting to bring back Ravana, the demon king with ten heads and the ultimate essence of evil, and you have an adventure that’s got you at the edge of your seat!

Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds

By Samira Ahmed,

Book cover of Amira & Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds

Why this book?

Jinn. A sleep spell. A mystical land. A piece of the moon hurtling towards Earth. An ancient prophecy. And my favorite—a tale of siblings. What sets this book apart from other fantasy novels is that when Amira and her younger brother Hamza are tasked to save the world from the wrath of terrifying jinn, devs, and ghuls, they use science and logic instead of magic to win. This book is full of relatable references and hilarious puns while Amira is a budding feminist. What’s not to love in this riveting story of legend, science, history, adventure, and humor?

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