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    Default Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Fantasy is a massive genera. However, despite all the mythologies and potentials that exists out there to make fantasy worlds most stories seem to be set in the same, western-inspired Tolkien-esc fantasy world and I'm kinda tired of it. So I am reaching out to you for two points. I want to know A) Would you all read a fantasy story inspired by a non-western mythology and B) Can you recommend me a good fantasy book or book seires that is inspired by a non-western mythology? This thread can also be used to discuss non-western mythology based fantasy and both it's pros and cons, as well as how to do it right and wrong, ect...

    So, discussion on this is now open!
    Last edited by Giegue; 2012-10-01 at 08:52 AM.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Bridge of Birds is quite excellent . . .

    Though not quite fantasy and more along the lines of playing with mythology. Quite entertaining.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    If you are cool with classics Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and The Jungle Book (Depending on your definition of fantasy and your ability to forget the Disney version) are essential reads.

    For more modern works I am going to interpret your request in a more general manner, of fantasy stories that break the Tolkien-esque mode regardless of where they draw their lore from. Partially because precious little modern fantasy based on Eastern mythologies gets translated into English.

    The works of China Miéville, particularly the Bas-Lag Cycle while drawing influence from modern London have nothing at all tying them to the standard Tolkien-esque Fantasy. In just the first book a magical scientist trying to give a crippled birdman back his ability to fly gets himself and his beetle headed artist girlfriend involved in a plot involving hyper-evolved spiders, mind eating moths, magic punch card robots becoming sentient and drugs made from people's dreams.

    Jim Butcher of Dresden Files fame has the Codex Alera series. Think Pokemon meets Avatar the Last Airbender in Ancient Rome.

    Stephen King's The Dark Tower series draws inspiration from Western Fantasy lore but forces it through the genre lenses of a cowboy gunslinger Western.

    Watership Down frames a mundane modern world as a great Fantasy Epic by looking at it through the eyes of Rabbits. Much better than it sounds.

    Spice and Wolf is a Japanese series (so good luck tracking down the novels without accidentally buying the manga version) that while it takes place in what looks to be a medieval Germany strays from the usual Fantasy cliches by focusing on a travelling merchant and a Wolf Goddess who contracted him to help take her up North. It's also worth noting that Holo (the mentioned Wolf Goddess) owes more to Shintoism than any Western lore when you look at her Godly powers.

    Dinotopia a hidden island populated by peaceful sentient Dinosaurs that use magical crystals to protect themselves from the less intelligent carnivores but otherwise live peacefully. Conflict usually comes from people washing up on the shore and not quite adapting to the strange new world.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    I'm honestly surprises there is not more books based on Eastern mythology that is not translated; or that no western authors have made books based on eastern culture. With martial arts movies and the popularity of anime and manga I thought more authors would be interested enough in eastern cultures to do the research and write fantasy books based on them. Does this mean that there is actually a hole in the market that could potentially be filled or is there just no market for eastern-inspired fantasy stories?

    I ask because a while back I sort of had an idea for a novel based on Japanese mythology and the art of Onmyodo, and if there is actually a entitlement lack of eastern mythology-based fantasy I may actually seriously consider writing that story instead of just letting it be an idea in the back of my mind...It DOES however, have a Main cast that is made up of mostly teenage characters so if I did peruse it the story would probably be classified as YA rather then normal fantasy. I'd also have to do heavy research for this thing to work....but if there is a hole in the market I am willing to spend lots of time looking up mythology, cultural details and such as I'd want this to be accurate and done well.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Thing is, mythology is a bunch of stories that attempt to explain things that can't be understood. Every mythology that I'm aware of thus features things like gods, magic, spirits...

    If a book doesn't have any of those features, it's not really fantasy.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Fantasy only by means of "science has become indistinguishable from magic" levels of sci-fi, but Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light is excellent (Hinduism/Buddhism being the primary influence).
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    D'shai is a good book. Very little sword and sorcery. The basic gist is, everyone is born to a caste. They get a specific set of inborn skills that determines what their life is going to be. Some are born to be warriors, or message runners, or acrobats, some are born to be rulers. This is the story of an acrobat with little natural gift who is in love with a noblewoman. He gets accused of murder and has to figure out the mystery before its too late. Doesnt strike me as very western.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Yeah. That actually sounds VERY Hindu-inspired. Hinduism has a a caste system much like that. As for Mangosta71's comment, you can still have all those things and NOT be western-mythology based. India, Japan, China, various middle eastern countries ect.. all have their own form of gods and fantasy creatures and wizardry. I'm not saying I want a novel without those things, I just want a novel that uses the non-western takes on those concepts since pretty much everything uses the western versions. Admittedly a lot of this comes down to author laziness, as doing a story based in non-western mythology would require a fair bit of research to do right if you where not initially from the culture you are borrowing from. However, sometimes I wish authors where more daring and willing to do a little bit of research if it means they'd have a unique, interesting story instead of YET ANOTHER typical western fantasy world.
    Last edited by Giegue; 2012-10-01 at 11:30 AM.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    I just started reading The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, an Islamo-Arabic based fantasy book, and if you're interested in that sort of thing, you can read the first chapter here.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    I will never stop plugging Monday Begins on Saturday, mostly because it's free.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Of those which I would recommend;

    R. Scott Baker's Prince of Nothing series is set in a Middle Eastern setting, or one that is heavily represented by those cultures and their philosophies.

    Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay presents an alternate-China, to me the most alluring aspect was the great deal of attention payed to his language and general tone to keep you drawn into the setting.

    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, perhaps not strictly fantasy -- but speculative fiction -- Europe's population never recovers from the black plague and the world is reshaped without it. It's on my favourite list.

    Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, which is well -- a partly satirical, partly straight forward 1001 Nights, done in the world of Howl's Moving Castle. It's storytelling at its most enjoyable.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    I will never stop plugging Monday Begins on Saturday, mostly because it's free.
    I'll second that one, such a great novel (and a pretty cool twist at the end).


    For some more Russian fantasy, look at Lukyanenko's Night Watch series, it's urban fantasy that draws heavily on Russian and Eastern folklore for its inspiration.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Ever hear of something called Tekumel?

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Mahabharata and Ramayana are actual mythology, but the current form had been written down in what is essentially novel style. Similar to the Illiad and Odysey. However, combined they are over ten times longer and about as long as the whole Wheel of Time series.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Quote Originally Posted by Armin View Post
    Ever hear of something called Tekumel?
    Yes, the Petal Throne.

    M.A.R. Barker - very much influenced by India and Meso-America.

    Like Tolkien, he was a linguist and made up his own languages.

    Unlike Tolkien, he actually worked out complete grammar and vocabulary books so people can more effectively learn his languages (Tsolyani being the big one).

    (There are novels he wrote, but this started out as a very early Campaign Setting published by TSR).

    Barker died fairly recently in his 80s.

    Edit - also techically, this is another case of Fantasy setting by way of Science Fiction. It's not Earth, but the humans in the setting came from there originally via space travel.
    Last edited by WalkingTarget; 2012-10-01 at 01:32 PM.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Tales of the Otori is a series set in pseudo edo period japan. Not so much fantasy as alternate world, but a good read none the less.

    Isabelle Allende's City of the Beasts and it's sequels are set in our world with a whole bunch of mysticism starting from the amazon and moving through the himalayas and parts of africa in later entries (Kingdom of the Golden Dragon and Forest of the Pygmies respectively.)

    The Bartimaeus trilogy focuses on magicians in london, but they're all summoning djinni, ifrits, and other beings of that sort. Told from the dual perspective of a young magician and the djinni he summons beyond his talent to reasonably control. Bartimaeus becomes the vehicle for exploring the larger world of the setting through flashbacks and footnotes in which he recounts his experiences serving under different magi from all across history.
    Last edited by Xondoure; 2012-10-01 at 02:37 PM.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    The Epic of Gilgamesh could be the first fantasy novel in the history (besides its epic and moral nature), also featuring great adventuring heroes, a human beast, angry gods, the great bull of heaven, wonderful journeys, an enchanted forest, a giant guardian, failed saving throws, curses, tragic deahts, inner search, underwater adventures, immortal people, scorpion-men, and many other things. Enjoy it! ;)

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Seconding the following:

    Bridge of Birds (Barry Hughart). The sequel (Story of the Stone) is quite good as well, however the third book is a little off. But still fun.

    Journey of the West is interesting but a bit long (4 volumes in my library). There is a good abridgement in the form of Monkey - a folk tale of ancient China by Arthur Whaley.

    The Epic of Gilgamesh - a fairly good novel adaption of this was done by (I think) Robert Silverberg.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    I just started a book yesterday called Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. It's Japanese inspired steampunk but it definitely has fantastic elements because early in the book there are demons and a gryphon. I can't say if the whole book will be good but so far the first chapters have me interested and I'm with you on being kind of sick of the Western based fantasy. When so many fantasy books are set in Medieval inspired worlds they begin to feel a little too alike.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    I'll second Zelazny's Lord of Light as a novel that draws on Hindu and Buddhist influences, and while outside the scope of the OP the same author's Eye of Cat has a lot of Navajo in it.

    Glen Cook's Black Company books venture into a kind of India-analogue starting with the fourth book, Shadow Games; and the Dread Empire of the eponymously named series is more or less based on a kind of mythic China - an Arabia-analogue is also a major player in the events of that series.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    I forgot to mention Shanghai Steam a Steampunk / Wuxia (Chinese fantasy) anthology that is due to come out this November.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Zelazny's Lord Demon is a pure fantasy story, and has Eastern influences. There are still cross-references to Western stuff, and it's clearly written for a Western audience, but it might still work.

    I liked Bridge of Birds too.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    The first thing that comes to mind is the Breaking the Wall series by Jane Lindskold, the first book of which is titled Thirteen Orphans. I suspect, from some of the disclaiming certain characters do, that its influences are mostly-Chinese-but-highly-muddled, though I don't have the perspective to know for sure.

    The premise is basically as follows: When the Qin Dynasty rose to power and started suppressing non-approved ideologies, the resulting burning of books and scholars formed an alternate universe, the "Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice". These Lands were subject to frequent revolution and changes of government. On one occasion, the zodiac-themed major advisers of a deposed emperor were allowed to go into exile, back into our world. Some hundred years later, their descendants are being hunted by people from those Lands, leading some to be introduced to their family secret earlier than planned.

    The magic system is based on mahjongg (as an in-character mnemonic; the exiles apparently helped to devise the game when they showed up, partly for that purpose), and the cosmology is basically Chinese (although the main viewpoint character does start getting in touch with the other, Irish side of her ancestry in the third book).
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Broken Sky is a young adult fantasy series that draws heavily from Eastern weaponry, style and naming conventions. The plot, world and monsters, however, are quite original.

    The only monster I think I'd seen before was a wyvern (also the only Western animal in the series).

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn is Japanese themed fantasy.
    Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet is a series with a vaguely Eastern theme. Magic is created through poetry that summons divine beings with ultimate power over their field. Highly recommended. Actual mythology... I have no idea.
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Since we talked about reading the classics and mythology as fantasy, I'm really shocked that no one mentioned the Thousand and One Nights, which is just perfect for that.

    Nnendi Okofar's Who Fears Death is definitely an African (more specifically Nigerian) inspired setting. The same goes for most of the author's work, a lot of which is more urban fantasy. This is more of your typical grand quest, confront your evil father stuff though. Not for the faint of heart, since it deals with some pretty nasty forms of violence against women from the victim's perspective.

    Nancy Farmer's The Eye, the Ear, and the Arm is a nice YA novel involving a bunch of kids running around a futuristic Africa, with gods and mutant private detectives in the mix.

    G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen is kind of a fun cross of cyberpunk and urban fantasy with an Arab/Indian hacker for a protagonist.

    Naomi Novik is more famous for Her Majesty's Dragons, which is basically Horatio Hornblower with, err, dragons, but Crucible of Gold is a standalone in the same setting that puts the focus on African slaves in South America.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Speaking of the Thousand and One Nights, I'm surprised no one has mentioned Catherynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales duology. They are to the Thousand and One Nights what Tolkien's works are to Germanic folklore - a beautiful, carefully-constructed reimagining.

    Stories begin within stories within stories, all returning and shedding light upon each other, tales that are less about orcs and elves and more about monsters and women and cities of cinnamon and bone. There are djinn of smoke and fire, stars who fall from heaven and shape the world without meaning to, weaving spiders and cunning kappas. Some elements do come from medieval folklore, but the bits that have not often been mined by traditional fantasy - the leucrotta, the pard, the griffins that devour horses and hoard gold.

    It's not quite what you're looking for, in that it isn't an entire series centered around a certain mythology, but I think that it's unique and certainly not the Germanic ideal that most other fantasy patterns itself on. Give it a read!
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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Um... would Percy Jackson and the Olympians count? Modern day, about children of Greek gods who go to a magically protected summer camp in/near Long Island, New York, designed to help the demigods just survive. Takes place in America, because it's the current power (although they really should be moving to Asia or China in the next few years, I don't care how first-world we still are), and is about the Greek mythos, which the author mostly gets accurate.

    The quality of the writing starts to decline around book 5. By the sequel series, Riordan is struggling to write good personalities for half the new major characters. He was never good at foreshadowing (my sister figured out who the traitor was before the "twist ending" of the first book), but I can see
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    Hazel is probably following close behind.
    He also enforces an arbitrary and awkward love triangle between Hazel, Frank, and Leo.

    And with Heroes of Olympus, he's coasting on the stuff he established in Percy Jackson. In The Kane Chronicles, he doesn't have that, and he's outright mentioning the Greeks in that series, which just completely ruins everything.

    But the original series was a good series, with believable characters and a decent plot.
    Last edited by Hiro Protagonest; 2012-10-06 at 07:33 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jade Dragon View Post
    Takes place in America, because it's the current power (although they really should be moving to Asia or China in the next few years, I don't care how first-world we still are), and is about the Greek mythos, which the author mostly gets accurate.

    <snip>
    Minor nitpick here: It's specifically mentioned in the books that the Greek gods move with the center of western power. Which is why they won't be moving to Asia.

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    Default Re: Non-Western Mythology Based Fantasy novels......

    Well. Someone mentioned Nnendi Okorafor.

    Similar is Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. An urban fantasy novel with a distinct African flavour (specifically South African). Features shamanism, spirit animals, and a down-and-dirty "witch doctor" type of magic ("muti") in a modern setting.

    I wish I could recommend the book more, because it is brilliantly written, but anyone not familiar with South African culture and customs would be very disoriented. As an example, the book uses colloquialisms and slang from at least five different languages. Any South African would understand perfectly, but other readers might flounder a bit. But it's worth checking it out anyway.
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