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.

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The books I picked & why

Aru Shah and the End of Time

By Roshani Chokshi,

Book cover of Aru Shah and the End of Time

Why did I love 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? 

By Roshani Chokshi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Aru Shah and the End of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best-selling author Rick Riordan introduces this fantasy adventure by New York Times best-selling author, Roshani Chokshi, inspired by the great epics she grew up on.

Named one of 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time by Time magazine!

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that…

Force of Fire

By Sayantani DasGupta,

Book cover of Force of Fire

Why did I love 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.

By Sayantani DasGupta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Force of Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author Sayantani DasGupta comes the story of a demon who must embrace her bad to serve the greater good.

Pinki hails from a long line of rakkhosh resisters, demons who have spent years building interspecies relationships, working together to achieve their goal of overthrowing the snakey oppressors and taking back their rights. But she has more important things to worry about, like maintaining her status as fiercest rakkhosh in her class and looking after her little cousins. There is also the teeny tiny detail of not yet being able to control her fire breathing and…

The Gauntlet

By Karuna Riazi,

Book cover of The Gauntlet

Why did I love 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?

By Karuna Riazi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gauntlet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that's a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

Nothing can prepare you for The Gauntlet...

It didn't look dangerous, exactly. When twelve-year-old Farah first laid eyes on the old-fashioned board game, she thought it looked...elegant.

It is made of wood, etched with exquisite images-a palace with domes and turrets, lattice-work windows that cast eerie shadows, a large spider-and at the very center of its cover,…

Book cover of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

Why did I love 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!

By Sarwat Chadda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Breathtaking action adventure for 8 to 12-year-olds. Ash Mistry, reluctant hero, faces ancient demons... and comes into an astonishing, magical inheritance.

Varanasi: holy city of the Ganges.

In this land of ancient temples, incense and snake charmers...

Where the monsters and heroes of the past come to life...

One slightly geeky boy from our time... IS GOING TO KICK SOME DEMONS BACK TO HELL.

Ash Mistry hates India. Which is a problem since his uncle has brought him and his annoying younger sister Lucky there to take up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage. But Ash immediately suspects…

Book cover of The War to Save the Worlds

Why did I love 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?

By Samira Ahmed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The War to Save the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book of 2021

From bestselling author Samira Ahmed comes a thrilling and magical adventure intertwining Islamic legend and history, perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the Land of Stories.
On the day of a rare super blue blood moon eclipse, twelve-year-old Amira and her little brother, Hamza, can’t stop their bickering while attending a special exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. While stargazer Amira is wowed by the amazing gadgets, a bored Hamza wanders off, stumbling across the mesmerizing and forbidden Box of the Moon. Amira can only watch in horror as Hamza grabs the…

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