Listmaking: Epic Fantasy with Protagonists &/or Settings of Color/Non-White

On Twitter @afrolicious asked: Any suggestions for epic fantasy books with Brown folx driving the action?

People threw out a few suggestions but I thought it would be worthwhile to ask if anyone knows of a list that has already been compiled. I am SURE there is one but I am evidently not googling well enough to find it this morning, pre-caffeine.

Regardless, I thought, why not mention some suggestions here.

There is a very extensive YA Protagonists of Color/Non-White compiled by Rachel Brown here but it is specifically for YA (Young Adult) novels, not adult epic fantasy. She also references a similar list for MG (middle grade) on Stacy Whitman’s blog. Marie Brennan has a Multicultural Fantasy list on her blog. And OF COURSE (ETA) Medeivalpoc on tumblr.

What epic fantasy novels/series can you name that are

1) reasonably epic (how to define epic I leave up to you)

2) include one or more (if in an ensemble cast) protagonists of color/non-white “driving the action”

3) the setting can be anything, of course, although I’m personally interested in how the protagonist interacts with the setting: Is the protagonist an insider, an outsider, or somewhere in between? And, of course, how the setting interacts with the protagonist.

Titles welcome. If you also want to add a brief (brief!) description of why protagonist and/or setting fit the question that would be cool but definitely not necessary.


ETA: Have had to close comments on WordPress site due to issues with spam

21 thoughts on “Listmaking: Epic Fantasy with Protagonists &/or Settings of Color/Non-White

  1. For example:

    David Anthony Durham’s ACACIA trilogy features an ensemble cast of protagonist (four siblings), all of color. The setting is a fully secondary fantasy world (no obvious Earth correlates) with multiple cultures, peoples, and ethnicities, all of which are explored. The siblings are the children of the emperor, and therefore are introduced originally as high status and part of the ruling class.

  2. Also:

    Elizabeth Bear’s The Eternal Sky Trilogy features an ensemble cast. The setting is secondary world but has strong Earth inspirations as (it seems to me) it has strong analogs from Central Asian and Western Asian history. Most of the protagonists are PoC (one is not human) from the central cultures explored in the book.

  3. Definitely Saunders. He’s been writing this for a long time. I first came across him in a short story collection decades ago.

  4. N K Jemisin’s The Inheritance Trilogy
    Epic, secondary world (multiverse category), deals with issues of empire and power. Different protagonists/pov in each volume, all PoC.

  5. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy. Pretty much everyone in that world has various shades of dark skin. She manages difference among the groups well; they notice skin color, and it shades their view of each other, but it’s more novelty than fear.

    The one exception is the race described as “savage” — they have pale skin and light hair.

  6. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
    Brown Girl in the Ring (and everything else) by Nalo Hopkinson
    the anthology Long Hidden, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older
    A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

  7. Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennet’s Shadow Magic and Dragon Soul both have important Point of View characters who are PoC, residents of an empire which has an East Asian feel to it. These novels are part of a series that takes place in a secondary world where large-scale military conflict, political intrigue, and magic are vital to the plot.

    Glenda Larke’s Stormlords Trilogy Takes place in a very arid secondary world setting that is reminiscent of Australia. Both protagonists are PoC and members of ethnic groups that are regarded as outsiders in their society. Magic and large scale military conflict figure prominently in the plot.

    Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon takes place in a secondary world that is clearly inspired by the Middle East.

  8. Saladin Ahmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon — epic fantasy in a secondary world inspired by the Middle East (haven’t read it so can’t be more specific)

    Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven and River of Stars — a loose duology set in a secondary world closely based on 8th-century China

  9. Oh, and the Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay also, and is in a setting that’s based on Moorish Spain. The three protagonists of the novel are each from one of three races and religions in that setting.

  10. In addition to the good suggestions above: Martha Wells’s Wheel of the Infinite, perhaps? Not sure if “epic” enough. 🙂

    As well as the Inheritance Trilogy (excellent stuff!), there’s also the Dreamblood duology (The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun) by N.K. Jemisin.

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