Asian-Inspired Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books for Teens
by Laurie Espino
If books transport us to another world, then sci-fi and fantasy novels are the ultimate escape. Growing up, I couldn’t get enough fairytale retellings or dystopian stories. However, as a Filipino, finding books I could see myself in was unfortunately far and few between. What was truly disappointing was that there were so many Asian folk stories and tales that could provide inspiration. Thankfully, diverse representation has grown in the book world, and many new fantasy novels are rooted in Asian mythology and folklore. Here are 11 books to get you started!
Unravel the Dusk
From the New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Lim comes the electrifying sequel to Spin the Dawn. Picking up right where its prequel takes place, Maia Tamarin returns to the Autumn Palace to take the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be. But she’s been feeling strange since her return. Sometimes, it feels like she’s losing her mind. Could it be because she touched the demon Bandur? You don’t want to miss this fast-paced and action-packed sequel.
Welcome to Huaxia, where girls learn to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots for battling aliens. When Zetian kills the boy responsible for her sister’s death, she realizes she is a rare, powerful being called an Iron Widow. With her newfound power, she seeks to tilt society’s scales so that girls and women are no longer treated as second-best to their male counterparts. Historically inspired by East Asian mythology and played out in a futuristic world, this instant New York Times bestseller is a mind-blowing action story about a girl ready to dethrone the patriarchy.
Violet Made of Thorns
When a charlatan witch and a prince fall for each other, it means disaster for the kingdom. Violet’s days as the court’s prophet are numbered, mainly because her predictions are fake. But then she accidentally awakens a curse on Prince Cyrus. Violet and Cyrus may not like each other, but their affection grows as they spend more time together. This beautifully written fairytale is the perfect enemies-to-lovers romantasy to add to your TBR (to be read) list.
Wicked Fox is a rollercoaster K-Drama full of twists and turns with no shortage of magic and romance. According to Korean mythology, gumihos are nine-tailed foxes who devour the energy of men, and Gu Miyoung is one of them. She accidentally loses her gumiho soul one night when she saves the human boy, Jihoon. To get it back, she must sacrifice her immortal life or Jihoon’s human one.
Sefia is a survivor. After her father was murdered, her grandmother taught her how to survive by hunting, stealing, and tracking. But when her grandmother disappears, she’s left alone. Sefia sets out to find answers — and revenge. An instant New York Times bestseller, this glorious, epic adventure featuring pirates, assassins, and secret societies will keep you guessing until the last page.
In her smashing debut novel, Zhao gives us the story of Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess of the Cyrilian Empire. Her father, the emperor, has been murdered, and she’s the number one suspect. Follow her journey to prove her innocence in this riveting dark fantasy that will keep you entranced from the first page. With her cinematic storytelling, Zhao gives you a story that will stick with you long after you finish reading.
Continue the Blood Heir trilogy with its sequels, Red Tigress and Crimson Reign.
Song of Silver, Flame Like Night
Already finished with the Blood Heir trilogy? Don’t worry; Zhao’s newest novel has arrived!
Colonizers destroyed Lan’s life. They invaded her kingdom, murdered her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She discovers she possesses powerful magic when she crosses paths with a fabled magician named Zen. But is it strong enough to take back her kingdom? Buckle up because this page-turner has it all: Chinese folklore, a slow-burn romance, and unforgettable characters.
This humorous, high-tech fairytale needs to find a place on your TBR pile ASAP! In a dystopian future, Pru’s life is far from ordinary. She should be in jail but was rescued by a robot dragon, Rebelwing. And, although she looks like a regular prep school student, she moonlights as a smuggler selling contraband media. It is a thought-provoking story featuring characters you can’t help but love.
A Magic Steeped in Poison
Calling all audiobook lovers, here’s a high-fantasy story you can’t miss. Ning needs to save her sister. To do so, she must win the princess’s favor by proving she’s the greatest shennong-shi ― a magical tea-maker. Mysterious characters appear, court intrigue runs rampant, and nothing is as it seems in this beautiful debut novel based on Chinese mythology.Available from:
Six Crimson Cranes
You know Elizabeth Lim for her YA fantasy novels, but here, she deftly marries fantasy with classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and East Asia folklore. Six Crimson Cranes is the story of Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, who must save her six brothers, who have been turned into cranes by their stepmother.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
A reimagining of the Evil Queen legend (another side of the "Snow White" fairy tale), Forest of a Thousand Lanterns follows 18-year-old Xifeng as she attempts to manifest her destiny and become Empress of Feng Lu. Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world, Xifeng struggles to claim what's hers and keep the dark forces within her at bay. Brimming with magic, action, romance, and smarts, this story is a spellbinding read.