The best fantasy novels with protagonists that are part of two worlds

Elisa A. Bonnin Author Of Dauntless
By Elisa A. Bonnin

Who am I?

I’m half-Filipino and half-Spanish. Growing up in the Philippines, I had to deal with many of the same emotions that the characters on this list go through. My identity made sense to me, but I found that I often had to explain it to other people, and I also found that outside my own house, people made their own opinions about whether I was more Filipino, more Spanish, or something else entirely. I’ve always been fascinated by how characters in fiction deal with this struggle, and I’ve always related more to characters who feel out of place.


I wrote...

Dauntless

By Elisa A. Bonnin,

Book cover of Dauntless

What is my book about?

Seri's world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana.

Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts – a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she's ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.

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?

The Keeper of Night’s protagonist Ren Scarborough is the epitome of a character trapped between two worlds. Half-British Reaper, half-Japanese Shinigami, Ren starts off the book living in London but never quite feels like she belongs there. When she travels to Japan for the first time, she finds out that Japan isn’t quite as she expected it and ends up getting tangled in the affairs of Yomi, the Japanese underworld. Although a bit on the darker side, this is a fantastic book for anyone interested in Japanese mythology, anyone who likes their fantasy a little on the dark side, and anyone who’s felt the frustration of never quite fitting in anywhere. 


Only a Monster

By Vanessa Len,

Book cover of Only a Monster

Why this book?

The protagonist of Only a Monster, Joan Hunt-Chang, also feels like someone caught between two worlds. Joan isn’t just half Chinese-Malaysian and half-British, she’s also half-monster and half-human, something that she learns at the beginning of the book. The rest of the book follows Joan as she tries to save her monster family, striking a balance between doing the right thing and embracing her monstrous heritage. Joan grapples with questions of identity, heritage and morality in this gripping fantasy novel, which also features time travel and a twist I honestly did not see coming. 


Daughter of the Moon Goddess

By Sue Lynn Tan,

Book cover of Daughter of the Moon Goddess

Why this book?

This book tells the story of Xinying, the daughter of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, and Houyi, a mortal archer. Xinying lives in the Celestial Kingdom, where she must hide her heritage and connection to the disgraced goddess Chang’e. But in the pursuit of her goal to free her mother from her prison, Xinying finds herself caught not only between the immortal and mortal realms, but between her loyalty to her mother and her relationship with Liwei, the Celestial Crown Prince. Her allegiances are tested again and again in this beautiful, immersive debut. And if you don’t want to wait too long to find out how the duology ends, you don’t have to. The sequel comes out in late 2022.


A Dark and Hollow Star: Volume 1

By Ashley Shuttleworth,

Book cover of A Dark and Hollow Star: Volume 1

Why this book?

Ashley Shuttleworth’s debut, A Dark and Hollow Star, features four POV characters, and one of them, Arlo, continues the trend of being half-human, half-something else. Arlo’s father is human, but her mother is a high-ranking member of a Faerie Court. That means Arlo is technically something like faerie royalty, even though her status in the faerie world is uncertain. Over the course of the book, Arlo must deal with her growing relationship with Nausicaä, a disgraced Fury, while also trying to prove she has enough magic to avoid being cast out of faerie society to live her life as a human. As a bonus, all the POV characters in this engaging, extremely queer debut find their own ways to engage with the divide between human and fae. 


The Ivory Key

By Akshaya Raman,

Book cover of The Ivory Key

Why this book?

This book tells the story of four siblings, all of whom have a complicated relationship with their nation Ashoka and each other. Though they’re estranged from each other, the siblings must set aside their differences and work together to follow a series of clues leading them to the Ivory Key, a fabled source of infinite magic. I loved this book’s mix of adventure and puzzle-solving, and would recommend it to anyone no matter what, but this book also has a POV character stuck between two worlds. Kaleb, one of the four siblings, is half-Ashokan and half-Lyrian, the country at war with Ashoka, and he struggles to reconcile his identity with his loyalty to his family and nation. I highly recommend picking up this debut!


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