The best Asian science fiction and fantasy books that showcase the beauty of Asian culture

Wera Niyom Author Of A Celestial Requiem: The Secrets of Tarot Series, Book 1
By Wera Niyom

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by mythology and folklore. When I was a kid, my mom would save up money and give me enough to buy one book every few months and every time, it would be a collection of myths. I tore through mythic fantasy books, trying to find a book that combined western and eastern mythologies. That’s how my Tarot series came about. I didn’t know Asian fantasy was a genre until I conducted more research and saw popular books in indie and traditional publishing with similar themes. I wanted to learn more about Asian mythology, so I started expanding my research into East and Southeast Asian myths.


I wrote...

A Celestial Requiem: The Secrets of Tarot Series, Book 1

By Wera Niyom,

Book cover of A Celestial Requiem: The Secrets of Tarot Series, Book 1

What is my book about?

When the Crown Prince and Emperor arrive in Shangzihua, a powerful mate bond ties Shen Mingxia and the Crown Prince together, revealing her true identity and secrets of the past.

As she tries to accept her Celestial dragon origins, Mingxia faces another inevitable truth: the Tarot. The Arcana corrupts its contractors, blackening their hearts and threatening the safety of the realm. In order to fulfill her destiny as the Last Celestial, she must overcome the demons of her past and successfully cultivate to prove to the Council, and the people of Wuzhen, she is worthy of being their Empress.

The books I picked & why

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Iron Widow

By Xiran Jay Zhao,

Book cover of Iron Widow

Why this book?

Wu Zetian is a figure I’ve always admired in Chinese history. To see her come to life in this stunning science fantasy novel feels like a dream. I loved how the author took prominent creatures from Chinese mythology and turned them into mechas. The mechas were described so vividly as if Xiran had been in one of their creations! It also felt empowering to read about a character who was angry at the difficult situation they’re placed in as opposed to broken bird MCs, who tend to struggle with figuring out methods of resolution. Her resilience is something that has been comforting during times of COVID. It really reaffirmed my love for strong-willed characters and brought out the mythology fan in me.

Iron Widow

By Xiran Jay Zhao,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Iron Widow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant #1 New York Times bestseller!

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers.

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn't matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
 
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it's to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister's death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through…

Spin the Dawn

By Elizabeth Lim,

Book cover of Spin the Dawn

Why this book?

As an avid fan of Mulan, I really enjoyed this book because of the strong-willed female character who is determined to support her family even though she lives in a society that doesn’t necessarily support a female head for a household. What sold me on the book, aside from the rich Chinese culture and mythology, was the character’s narration. I was able to empathize with her. Liz did a great job of making the magic come to life, making the scissors sound enchanting with every use. I wish I had a pair of those scissors! Another thing that drew me to this story was the tailor competition. I like to embroider and also sew occasionally, so I think Liz did this type of art justice with her elegant descriptions.

Spin the Dawn

By Elizabeth Lim,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spin the Dawn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a teenage girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars. And don’t miss Elizabeth Lim’s new novel, the instant New York Times bestseller, Six Crimson Cranes!

“All the cutthroat competition of a runway fashion reality show and the thrilling exploits of an epic quest." —The Washington Post

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can…

The Ones We're Meant to Find

By Joan He,

Book cover of The Ones We're Meant to Find

Why this book?

Normally, I have difficulty getting into scifi because it can be hard for me to visualize everything clearly and remember all the new concepts introduced to me. However, I felt like this book opened my eyes to what I’ve been missing. The advanced technology was easy to follow and created a captivating story with interesting plot twists. The main character, Cee, was someone I could relate to because she’s a family-oriented individual and has a sarcastic sense of humor that kept me engaged. Worldbuilding concepts like the citizen ranking system, stasis pods, and environmental crisis kept me focused on the story, leading me to finish it in one day!

The Ones We're Meant to Find

By Joan He,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Ones We're Meant to Find as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Perfect for fans of Marie Lu and E. Lockhart, The Ones We're Meant to Find is a twisty YA sci-fi that follows the story of two sisters, separated by an ocean, desperately trying to find each other in a climate-ravaged future.
Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it's up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.…

The Mountains Sing

By Mai Phan Que Nguyen,

Book cover of The Mountains Sing

Why this book?

Although this book is non-fiction, it took me on an adventure through Vietnam, as I fell in love with their culture. This was the first book I’d read with a Vietnamese protagonist and one thing that made me fall in love with the story was the main character, Trần Diệu Lan’s, powerful narration. It inspired me to learn more about Vietnamese mythology and folklore. This is yet another book that has helped me during troubling times of COVID because of how the characters conquered adversity and tackled the struggles of being separated from family. I was able to relate it to my own situation as I was separated from my own family in Thailand. This book helped me regain hope that things would get better.

The Mountains Sing

By Mai Phan Que Nguyen,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Mountains Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Years later in Ha Noi, her young granddaughter, Huong, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai's first novel in English.

A Magic Steeped in Poison

By Judy I. Lin,

Book cover of A Magic Steeped in Poison

Why this book?

The first few chapters start off somber due to Ning losing her mother and dealing with her sister’s illness. Judy’s descriptions have struck a chord with me because it’s accomplished something I always seek in fantasy books: providing the escape from the stress of everyday life. As each character describes how tea is made, I’m taken on a new journey and excited about what’s to come, leaving me hungry for more. There’s something poetic and compelling about how Judy tells the story that forces the reader to listen. And once she pulls you in, you don’t want to put the book down. Judy’s craft is as calming as the tea her characters prepare, which provided a nice balance to the tension of the political turmoil.

A Magic Steeped in Poison

By Judy I. Lin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Magic Steeped in Poison as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A #1 New York Times Bestseller!
A 2022 PEOPLE Magazine Best Book of Summer!

Judy I. Lin's sweeping debut A Magic Steeped in Poison, first in a duology, is sure to enchant fans of Adrienne Young and Leigh Bardugo.

I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, "These are the hands that buried my mother."

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it's her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take…


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