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Multicultural Fantasy

Quasi-Celtic-Norse-medieval fantasy is easy to find: walk into a bookstore, stick your hand toward a shelf, and you've got pretty good odds of hitting a work of generic Eurofantasy. The purpose of this list is to collect in one place the other stuff, the books that take place in other parts of the world, or invent worlds that look like something other than pre-Renaissance northwestern Europe.

Not all of the books on this list are necessarily good; not all of them are accurate, either. (Two different concepts.) My aim here is to provide a comprehensive resource, a foundation for more critical work. If you want to know whether a given title is worth reading, I recommend searching for reviews online.

Please also note that this list is primarily composed of works originally composed in English. If you happen to know that something in here was translated from another language, please let me know, and I'll annotate the entry with that information.

This list is a work in progress, and I welcome suggestions for additional books (or corrections for the ones listed here). More detail on what I'm looking for -- and the semi-logic behind my groupings -- may be found at the bottom of this page.

My criteria for building this list are admittedly fuzzy. I want books that draw substantially on a particular culture for their subject matter or setting; what I mean by "substantial" is highly subjective. I'm personally interested mostly in fantasy, but there's some SF in here, and I will certainly add more if anybody can point me in the right direction.

This list consists of novels and the very occasional single-author short story collection. My reason for not listing short stories individually is partly that my task would quickly become overwhelming; there's also the consideration that short stories are often much harder for a reader to track down than novels are.

The categories I'm leaving out are Celtic fantasy, Norse fantasy, and fantasy based on England prior to the Tudor period. Thanks to our good friend J. R. R. Tolkien, these are the three settings most commonly seen in the genre, but in a simplified, flavorless form brought on by too many writers copying other writers copying other writers copying Tolkien. I may someday go looking for fantasy with those settings where the author appears to have done some actual research, but that'll have to be a separate list, since I'll want to read everything I put on it and make judgement calls on how solid I think it is.

As for the categories I do have, there's a certain blurriness to them, too, based on how many books there are of a certain type, and how much different sub-categories blend together. I've lumped the entirety of Africa together, for example, because at present there aren't enough novels in that list to make up substantial sub-categories. I've also lumped the Aegean region (which includes Greece, Crete, and because I feel like it, Atlantis -- but not Troy, which got big enough to have its own category). I split England by time because there's a whole subset of Elizabethan fantasy, and likewise ended up splitting Rome from later periods of Italy. Spain's got the secondary header of Moorish because it's pretty tough to separate those two; same for the Near East, Middle East, and Crusades (but Sumer's off on its own). Like Sumer, the Caribbean gets its own category, even though it's obviously heavily linked to African material. If you think I've put something in the wrong category, feel free to let me know, but on the whole, I hope this is enough to steer readers in appropriate directions.