There are so many great books out there, it's hard to narrow down what to read. But since it's Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, why not try a book or two by an Asian woman? We've got a list of 17 science fiction and fantasy books by Asian women that you really need to check out, especially because they're so well-written and cinematic that we hope they get turned into movies sometime soon.
Want by Cindy Pon
Cindy Pon's dystopian novel is set in the near future, where the rich have suits to protect them from the pollution that is rampant in Taipei. Because of this, teenager Jason Zhou has a much shorter lifespan than someone like Daiyu, the daughter of the man whose company manufactures these suits. Jason becomes involved in a plot to level the playing field between rich and poor once and for all, but when he starts falling for Daiyu, everything becomes much more complicated. It's got some great commentary on socioecenomic differences and is an excellent eco-thriller.
The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta
The first in a series called Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, The Serpent's Secret introduces the reader to 12-year-old Kiranmala, who lives a normal life in suburban New Jersey. Or so she thinks, until a demon kidnaps her parents. It turns out that Kiran is a warrior princess, and she must travel to another dimension to save her parents and the world she knows.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Sabaa Tahir's hit series An Ember in the Ashes follows a slave named Laia who lives a quiet life with her brother and grandparents, trying not to attract the attention of the Empire. But when her brother is kidnapped, Laia must make a dangerous deal with a group of rebels to get him back. We recently had an exclusive excerpt of the third book in this marvelous quartet, A Reaper at the Gates, right here on SYFY FANGRRLS. If you haven't picked up this series yet, don't wait any longer.
Warcross by Marie Lu
Marie Lu's daring novel is set in a future where a virtual reality game called Warcross is where people spend their free time. Emika Chen is a hacker who makes ends meet with a variety of odd jobs, but when she hacks Warcross' international tournament, she knows she's in trouble. What she doesn't expect is that the alluring billionare and founder of Warcross, Hideo Tanaka, will ask for her help — or that she'll have to risk her life to figure out what's really going on in the VR simulation. It's a thoughtful look at how we use — and how much we depend on — technology.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
This atmospheric novel based on Hindu myths and legends focuses on the cursed Maya. Her horoscope promises that her marriage will bring death and destruction, and as a result, she's ostracized in her father's court. But when it becomes clear that Maya must choose a suitor to save everything she loves, she takes a risk and gets more than she bargained for. If you love beautiful prose and magical worlds, Roshani Chokshi is a writer you absolutely must read.
Ash by Malinda Lo
"Lesbian retelling of Cinderella" is really all I think needs to be said here, but if you need more to persuade you to try Ash, here you go: Ash is a teenage girl who deals with her grief at her father's death (and cruel treatment at the hands of her stepmother) by reading the fairy tales her mother loved. But everything begins to change for Ash when she meets a dark fairy, who might just grant her wishes. What she doesn't realize is just how dangerous Sidhean, the fairy, is. When she meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, and yearns to be free, she isn't sure whether that's possible.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
On the island of Fennbirn, three queens are approaching their 16th birthday. But Fennbirn can have only one queen, and these young women, who are triplets, must each vie for the throne. Each has a power — poisoner, elemental, and naturalist — which will help her best her sisters, and they must fight hard because it's a fight to the death. The cruel and visceral world that Blake builds in Three Dark Crowns is well worth exploring, and the story continues in sequel One Dark Throne.
Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra
This fantastical novel focuses on Kyra, who is part of a sisterhood of elite warriors who use weapons laced with magic. She isn't the most powerful in her order and has a lot to learn. When the leader of their order dies, Kyra is the only person who thinks that Tamsyn, a powerful member of the order, is responsible. She must go on the run until she can prove her suspicions. It's a fantastic premise and a "chosen one" story that turns the trope upside down.
Prophecy by Ellen Oh
As a co-creator of We Need Diverse Books, Ellen Oh is one of the main reasons young adult literature has so many more diverse options today than it did a decade ago (and why it's so much easier to find representative YA than it is adult SFF). Prophecy is the first in her trilogy about a teenager named Kira who is the greatest warrior in all the seven kingdoms. She is the only woman in the king's army and is the personal bodyguard to the prince. When it appears there is a traitor in their midst, Kira must go on the run with the prince to figure out what is happening and who has turned against them.
Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Diverse fantasy is becoming more and more prevalent, but it's not crossing over to science fiction as quickly. That's why Aditi Khorana's Mirror in the Sky is so important. It features Tara Krishnan, who's trying to fit in at her prep school and deal with normal teenage problems like boys, friends, and homework. But when NASA discovers an alternate, parallel Earth called Terra Nova, it shatters everything Tara thought she knew. As Earth becomes affected by this discovery, it changes Tara's life.
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade City was one of SYFY FANGRRLS' top books of 2017, and for good reason. This fantasy-gangster novel centers on rival groups that control jade. Jade is everything to the island of Kekon, and it enhances the magical abilities of a set group of warriors. This fascinating setting complements the interplay between the disparate gangs as everything begins to fall apart, and carefully wrought alliances disintegrate in a matter of seconds.
The Heroine Complex - Sarah Kuhn
The first book in the Heroine Complex series, this wonderful novel centers on Evie Tanaka, the hard-working assistant to superhero Aveda Jupiter. Evie knew Aveda before she was famous, which is the only reason Evie can put up with Aveda's outrageous demands. But when everyone discovers that Evie has superpowers too, it threatens to take the spotlight off Aveda. And as you can imagine, she's not a fan of that. This superhero romance series is well worth reading.
Sorcerer to the Crown - Zen Cho
Zen Cho's fantastical novel Sorcerer to the Crown is set in a sort of Victorian England, in which Zacharias Wythe is Sorcerer Royal, the first black man to hold the post. And his fellow sorcerers don't like that one bit. Nor do they allow lower classes or women into their ranks. But in order to solve the mystery of what happened to Britain's magic, and why it's running dry, Zacharias must defy every expectation — at least, the ones he hasn't already broken.
Wintersong by S. Jae Jones
This sensual novel centers on Liesl, who lives in Germany and helps her family run their inn. At 18, she knows she wants more, but Liesl also knows that fortune favors her beautiful sister. All Liesl has is her talent for music. But when her sister is kidnapped, Liesl must do everything she can to bring her back — even if it means believing in the fairy tales she was told as a child and going to the underworld to face the Goblin King himself. The sequel, Shadowsong, is also out now, and it's a fantastic look into mental health and the expectations of women.
House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
It's Paris in the late 20th century, but it's not the City of Light that we know and love. Instead, it's a city of ruins, the remnants of a magical war between great powers. That doesn't mean the war for Paris is over yet — the Great Houses still want to control the powerful city. Everyone thinks House Silverspires has fallen, but three people come together to restore it to its former glory — or die trying.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
This probably isn't the first time you've heard about Julie C. Dao's fairy tale retelling of the Evil Queen story, but if you haven't picked it up yet, hopefully, this does the trick. It's a provocative and thoughtful story of the price and limits of power and beauty. If you love anti-hero stories, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a novel you absolutely should read.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
It's a new release (it came out at the beginning of May), but that doesn't make The Poppy War any less spectacular. Based on the history of 20th-century China, it follows a young woman named Rin who defies every expectation set in front of her. She aces the Keju, the exam given to everyone in the Empire, despite people thinking she's just a lowly girl who couldn't score well. It turns out that Rin has powers no one could imagine, and they could turn the tide in a war that's been brewing.