Asian protagonists wielding magic, defeating villains, and wandering fantastical worlds? Yes please!
As the co-host of the annual Year of the Asian Reading Challenge, I am always on the lookout for shiny new releases from Asian authors. And 2021 promises to be an exciting year for fans of Asian-led and Asian-inspired fantasy!
Nothing butters my roll quite like seeing characters who look like me be the heroes of their own stories. Especially stories that involve some enchantment, adventure, and maybe a bit of witchcraft.
With all that said, I’m thrilled to talk about the upcoming Asian fantasy book releases in 2021 that I am really looking forward to. I hope these titles spark excitement in your heart, too!
The Chosen and the Beautiful
Nghi Vo's debut novel is an ambitious reinvention of The Great Gatsby with touches of fantasy and mystery.
Starring a queer Asian-American magician from an adoptive Vietnamese family, The Chosen and the Beautiful promises a spellbinding narrative that delves into immigration, xenophobia, and class struggle, all while offering loving odes to its source material.
Release date: June 1st, 2021
After spending her childhood years as a hostage to a powerful faraway country, Princess Thanh has returned to her mother’s imperial court, which eventually puts her in the path of her former love.
Pitched as The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle, Aliette De Bodard’s upcoming novella is an atmospheric romantic fantasy set in a world inspired by pre-colonial Vietnam. Fireheart Tiger is perfect for fans of sapphic romance, court intrigue, and exquisite world-building.
Release date: February 9th, 2021
The Jasmine Throne
Following the treacherous journey of a vengeful princess and a magic-wielding maidservant, The Jasmine Throne is set in a larger-than-life fantasy world inspired by the history and epics of India.
This story is sure to appeal to readers who are fascinated by forbidden magic, morally gray characters, and slow-burn romance. Plus, Tasha Suri has written two phenomenal fantasy books so far, and I am so excited to read more of her work!
Release date: June 8th, 2021
Sisters of the Snake
Teeming with deadly magic, hidden temples, and dark prophecies, Sisters of the Snake follows the lives of two identical girls who trade lives, only to discover that danger lurks in both of their worlds.
This debut novel promises a unique fantasy twist on The Princess and the Pauper. Its story is centered on sisterhood, which is particularly interesting since this book is written by a real-life sister duo.
Release date: June 15, 2021
Six Crimson Cranes
Elizabeth Lim is the queen of beautifully written fairytale retellings starring Asian characters – and that’s not up for debate.
Her next novel, Six Crimson Cranes, is a reimagining of The Wild Swans, where an exiled princess must unweave the curse that turned her brothers into cranes.
Steeped in forbidden magic, conspiracies, and compelling stakes, this fantasy is bound to deliver a highly addictive tale.
Release date: July 6th, 2021
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The Wild Ones
This gorgeous cover alone has me so excited! Intense cover lust aside, The Wild Ones is an unapologetically feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls who use their magic to travel the world and help the hopeless.
Nafiza Azad’s upcoming book sounds perfect for fans of lush writing, found family and sisterhood, and narratives that delve into grief, anger, and trauma.
Release date: August 3rd, 2021
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Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom
At its heart, Sangu Mandanna's middle grade debut is a story about a young, anxious Indian girl and her magical sketchbook.
Kiki's sketchbook is filled with drawings of the Indian myths and legends her mother has told her over the years, and things get incredibly complicated when her drawings begin springing to life right out of its pages.
Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is bound to be full of larger-than-life characters, colorful adventures, and heartwarming friendships – and I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on this story.
Release date: July 6, 2021
The Last Fallen Star
The Last Fallen Star introduces a family who belongs to a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches, where members earn their Gi bracelet and full magic at the age of thirteen.
Following a young Korean-American girl who must find the last fallen star in order to save her sister, Graci Kim's debut novel explores themes of adoption, and tests the boundaries of sisterhood, courage, and sacrifice. (Plus, I’ve heard that this story features enchanted boba tea!)
Release date: May 4th, 2021
Sugar and Spite
Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?
Gail D. Villanueva's sophomore novel follows the life of Jolina, a young Filipino girl who is tired of being bullied by Claudine.
Although she is still training to use her grandfather's arbularyo magic, Jolina brews a batch of gayuma in an effort to make the bullying go away. However, she soon learns that powerful magic comes at a cost.
Steeped in Filipino culture and lore, Sugar and Spite is a middle grade contemporary fantasy where reality and magic mingle. It offers a very cozy, heartwarming story about love, friendship, and forgiveness. I’ve personally read and loved Gail’s middle grade debut, and I’m sure to adore this story as well.
Release date: April 20th, 2021