10 South Asian Fantasy Books to Add to your TBRs

Hey there, welcome back to the labyrinth! The last couple weeks were a horrible mess—I’d barely gotten any reading done nor any proper blogging. And if you’ve noticed, I had also redone my headers—which look a little better now! (I’m still itching to change it though.)

And today, I’m here to share 10 South Asian fantasy recommendations, which I found to be quite underrated. I haven’t read everything on the list—but definitely looking forward to. As a person who’s starved for accurate representation, I stumbled across quite a few gems in the last couple months and in honour of the AAPI heritage month (to which, I’m quite late), I wanted to share these recs with you.

the descent of the drowned by ana lal din

She is bound to serve. He is meant to kill. Survival is their prison. Choice is their weapon.

As the sacred slave of a goddess, Roma is of a lower caste that serves patrons to sustain the balance between gods and men. What she wants is her freedom, but deserters are hunted and hanged, and Roma only knows how to survive in her village where women are vessels without a voice. When her younger brother is condemned to the same wretched fate as hers, Roma must choose between silence and rebellion.

Leviathan is the bastard son of an immortal tyrant. Raised in a military city where everyone knows of his blood relation to the persecuted clans, Leviathan is considered casteless. Lowest of the low. Graduating as one of the deadliest soldiers, he executes in his father’s name, displaying his worth. When he faces judgement from his mother’s people—the clans—Leviathan must confront his demons and forge his own path, if he ever hopes to reclaim his soul.

But in the struggle to protect the people they love and rebuild their identities, Roma’s and Leviathan’s destinies interlock as the tyrant hunts an ancient treasure that will doom humankind should it come into his possession—a living treasure to which Roma and Leviathan are the ultimate key.

Set in a colonised Indo-Persian world and inspired by pre-Islamic Arabian mythology, The Descent of the Drowned is a tale about power, identity, and redemption, and what it takes to hold on to one’s humanity in the face of devastation.

The Descent of the Drowned was my first read of 2022 and I had absolutely loved it! Set in an Indo-Persian world that is inspired my Islamic mythology, Ana Lal Din definitely knows how to pull you in with her beautiful prose. I really liked both Roma and Levi’s character arcs and the worldbuilding was on spot, with rich culture. It also deals with darker themes and has recently been moved from Crossover YA to Adult Fantasy (see here) so make sure to look out for trigger warnings.

a spark of white fire by sangu mandanna

The first book in a sci-fi retelling of the Mahabharata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to.

In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back.

Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali.

It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart.

Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.

I have had my eyes on this series for quite some time before I actually picked up one of the author’s books. It wasn’t A Spark of White Fire, but her middle grade debut—Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom and I absolutely loved it! As a huge mythology nerd, I’m so excited to see what this book has done with the Mahabharata, one of the greatest Indian epics. I’ve also heard great reviews from people who have read this book, and I am so looking forward to starting this!

the heartless divine by varsha ravi

In this unexpected twist on mythology inspired by Sangam India, reincarnated lovers find themselves bound together, connected to their past by a centuries old tragedy that only one of them remembers.

In the ruthless martial empire of Naja, Suri is the crown’s unfailing blade. But the princess dreams of a life exploring the lands beyond the borders, unshackled by blood. The king and queen offer her freedom, at a price: marriage to a king she’s meant to kill, and the death of Athri, a kingdom her family once nearly destroyed.

Her only obstacle lies in the mountains above the Athrian capital of Marai, where a young prophet sees a world struck by catastrophe—a world where a girl lies dead in the temple of the fire god, and the city lies burning below.

Centuries later, Suri lives with no recollection of her past lives. Haunted by her family’s deaths eighteen years ago, Suri sees the boy bleeding gold on her doormat as an opportunity to unravel the mystery of the car crash that took their lives. But not all gifts are created equal, and the boy soon proves to be more trouble than he’s worth, a dangerous link back to a world of gods and wishes.

Inspired by Sangam India, The Heartless Divine is a story of two reincarnated lovers. I have not yet read this book, but I’m very excited to get into it solely because of the Tamil representation and reincarnation. Reincarnated lovers are actually, quite common in Indian media and this is the first time I get to read it in a book and I’m so excited!

the ivory key by akshaya raman

In this epic YA fantasy debut, magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology that’s perfect for fans of The Gilded Wolves, There Will Come a Darkness and We Hunt the Flame.

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic. 

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power. 

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good.

The Ivory Key is a stunning debut by Akshaya Raman! My favourite aspect of the book was the worldbuilding; it was so intricate and rich. Also, the food descriptions! This book, by far, has the best descriptions of desi food, believe me. And I also liked the family dynamics and ancient magics coming into play. The books ends on a cliffhanger, so I’m so looking out for news of its sequel!

the lady or the lion by aamna qureshi

Perfect for fans of These Violent Delights and The Wrath and the Dawn, this scintillating debut retells “The Lady or the Tiger?” against a Pakistan-inspired world of forbidden love and court intrigues.

As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. His family has three months to prove their innocence, or they will all have war.

As Durkhanai races to solve who really orchestrated the attack, ambassadors from the neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each with their own intentions for negotiations, each with their own plans for advantage. When a mysterious illness spreads through the villages and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must dig deep to become more than just a beloved princess—she must become a queen.

To distract Durkhanai from it all is Asfandyar Afridi, the wry ambassador who tells her outright he is a spy, yet acts as though he is her friend—or maybe even something more.

Court intrigue, retellings and a diverse coded world. What isn’t there to love? Most of my friends who have read this book have enjoyed it and I’m definitely going to be reading it. The sequel, The Man or the Monster, comes out later this year, so don’t forget to add it to your shelves!

monsters born and made by tanvi berwah

You swim with monsters, these people cannot scare you.

Sixteen-year-old Koral and her brother Emrik risk their lives to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.

In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the ruling elite have indentured her family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others—if they’re lucky—survive.

When they fail to capture a maristag for this year’s race, her family can’t afford medicine for Koral’s chronically ill little sister. Koral decides her only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.

But Koral must race against contenders who have trained their whole lives and have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. And when riots break out Koral has to do more than win the trace, she’ll have to stop the whole island from burning.

Monster Born and Made is an epic South Asian inspired fantasy that will leave you breathless until the very last page.

Pitched as The Hunger Games meets The Scorpio Races, Monsters Born and Made is a unique YA fantasy set in a South Asian-inspired world. It follows Koral, a Hunter, as she volunteers to participate in the Glory Races to make ends meet. I am currently reading this and so far, it’s great! The world is richly imagined and deals with caste systems and hierarchy. It is coming out this September, so make sure to add this to your TBRs!

the tiger at midnight by swati teerdhala

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Drawing inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, the first book in Swati Teerdhala’s debut fantasy trilogy captivates with electric romance, stunning action, and the fierce bonds that hold people together—and that drive them apart. 

I have heard nothing but praise for The Tiger at Midnight trilogy and I’m so hyped to read it! A slow-burn enemies to lovers with Indian history and mythology? I’m so in! This also gives me We Hunt the Flame vibes so what are you waiting for? Go check it out right now!

night of the raven, dawn of the dove by rati mehrotra

To learn what she can become, she must first discover who she is.

Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.

But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

I have recieved an ARC of this book via NetGalley and I’m so excited to dive in! If you haven’t guessed already, the reason that drove me to request this book was the breathtaking cover! The color palette and the way it showcases night and dawn—so absolutely gorgeous. I’m hoping the book is also as excellent as this one, since the premise sounds equally magical!

nura and the immortal palace by m. t. khan

Nura longs to wear a beautiful red dupatta or to bite into a sweet gulab. But with her mom hard at work in a run-down sweatshop and three younger siblings to feed, Nura must spend her days earning money by mica mining. But it’s not just the extra rupees Nura is after. Local rumor says there’s buried treasure in the mine, and Nura knows that finding it could change the course of her family’s life forever.

Her plan backfires when the mines collapse and four kids, including her best friend, Faisal, are claimed dead. Nura shovels her way through the dirt hoping to find him. Instead, she finds herself at the entrance to a strange world of purple skies and pink seas—a portal to the opulent realm of jinn, inhabited by the trickster creatures from her mother’s cautionary tales. Yet they aren’t nearly as treacherous as her mother made them out to be, because Nura is invited to a luxury jinn hotel, where she’s given everything she could ever imagine.

But there’s a dark truth lurking beneath all that glitter and gold, and when Nura crosses the owner’s son and is banished to the working quarters, she realizes she isn’t the only human who’s ended up in the hotel’s clutches. Faisal and the other missing children are there, too, and if Nura can’t find a way to help them all escape, they’ll be bound to work for the hotel forever.

Y’all aren’t gonna like missing out on this one, just saying. Nura and the Immortal Palace is a short and fast but heavy read. It focuses on child labour and emphasizes the importance of education, something that’s very unique in Middle Grade Fantasy. I think this is a book anyone can read, regardless of age. The way M. T. Khan spins an alternate jinn world—both whimsical and dark, I will forever be in awe of that.

the boy with fire by aparna verma

Dune meets The Poppy War in Aparna Verma’s The Boy with Fire, a glorious yet brutal tour-de-force debut that grapples with the power and manipulation of myth in an Indian-inspired epic fantasy.

Yassen Knight was the Arohassin’s most notorious assassin until a horrible accident. Now, he’s on the run from the authorities and his former employer. But when Yassen seeks refuge with an old friend, he’s offered an irresistible deal: defend the heir of Ravence from the Arohassin, and earn his freedom.

Elena Ravence prepares to ascend the throne. Trained since birth in statecraft, warfare, and the desert ways, Elena knows she is ready. She only lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. With the coronation only weeks away, she must learn quickly or lose her kingdom.

Leo Ravence is not ready to give up the crown. There’s still too much work to be done, too many battles to be won. But when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, Leo wages war on the heavens themselves to protect his legacy.

The first of The Ravence Trilogy, The Boy with Fire is the tale of a world teetering on the edge of war and prophecy, of fate and betrayal, of man’s irrevocable greed for power — and the sacrifices that must come with it.

The Poppy War is one of my favourite books of all time, and a South Asian-inspired fantasy based on that has me wanting this book. Set in a Indian-inspired world, The Boy with Fire is the first in The Ravence Trilogy. The synopsis sounds very exciting and has me no less pumped!

That’s all for today, hope you enjoyed the recommendations! Have you read any of these books or are excited to? I’d love to hear thoughts in the comments below, so don’t hesitate to reply!



12 thoughts on “10 South Asian Fantasy Books to Add to your TBRs”

  1. i love this list so much!! i’m always on the hunt for more south asian stories in ya—i feel like there’s never enough emphasis on it when we talk about asian rep. i can’t wait to read the lady or the lion and night of the raven, dawn of the dove. they both sound so amazing!

    thanks for all the lovely recs queenie 💖

    Liked by 1 person


    Liked by 1 person

  3. ahh thank you so much for this amazing list, I’m adding all of these to my TBR right away!! And I’ve been meaning to get to the ivory key for so long, it seems so good!!😭 adored this post!!💖🥺

    Liked by 1 person

  4. love this post! we definitely need more south asian books ah! most of these are on my tbr already! ‘The Descent of the Drowned’ sounds amazing ah, i’m so glad you shared it, i’m off to add it to my tbr ❤
    might i also recommend 'the jasmine throne' by tasha suri? it's a sapphic historical fantasy set in ancient india with lots of political intrigue and Actually Morally Grey characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you ash, im so glad you enjoyed it!

      also yes, i’ve read and loved the jasmine throne, but i didn’t include it since i wanted this post to highlight more of the underrated authors out there. and yep, dotd is amazing, hope you enjoy reading it!! ✨


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