Disney’s Mulan… and the New Release Date
By now you’ve probably already heard the news that the release date for Disney’s Mulan is getting pushed back indefinitely. I’m so bummed about this! I don’t go to the movies all that often, but this one has been at the top of my must-see list.
So here’s a thing that I’m pretty embarrassed about: I grew up as a Disney girl, and Mulan is one of my favorite movies they’ve made, but it wasn’t until I started to hear buzz about a new live-action remake that I learned that Disney’s inspiration for the story of Mulan actually comes from a Chinese folk song from the North Wei Dynasty.
I shouldn’t have been surprised– Disney didn’t make up The Little Mermaid or Cinderella, either, you know? I guess I just never really thought about the origin of the story until I heard about the live-action remake and the controversy surrounding who was writing Mulan retellings– and whether white writers should be the ones telling the story or whether it should be told by Chinese writers instead.
UPDATE: I wrote this post before the movie came out and before I learned of some of the controversy over its filming. It has been bothering me for a long time that I haven’t acknowledged that here. Here’s some information about why people have decided to boycott the movie because of the filming location and China’s treatment of Chinese Uighur Muslims.
So…. Perhaps instead of watching the movie, check out and buy these books inspired by Asian myth, folklore, and legend that were written by Asian authors.
Reading Asian-Inspired Fantasy by Asian Authors
All of that started me thinking about books by Asian authors and as I started reading, I began to fall in love with books inspired by Asian history, folklore, and mythology that are written by Asian authors.
The good news is this: there are some amazing books that, like Mulan, are inspired by Asian history and folklore and are just waiting for us to snatch them off the shelves and read them.
I’ve broken the list into two sections: series and stand-alone books. Check them out, let me know what you’ve read, and please tell me if I’ve missed any titles that should be included! I searched quite a bit before making my list, but I’m sure there are a few I’ve missed and I would love to add them.
Asian-Inspired Fantasy Series
Some of the series listed here (such as Shadow of the Fox) require you to read the books in order, but others (like The Star-Touched Queen) are much more loosely connected and allow you to read whatever appeals to you in whatever order. Check them out and see what meets your preferences. Also– for the books I’ve reviewed, you’ll find detailed content at the bottom of my review post, so be sure to click over to the review and look for that if it interests you.
Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links, which don’t cost you anything to use, but when used, help support this blog.
The Blood of Stars Series by Elizabeth Lim
Spin the Dawn
What you need to know: Hailed as Mulan meets Project Runway. The series is also set in the Silk Road era and full of Chinese culture. It’s got magic, forbidden love, and unforgettable characters. One of my favorite books of 2019. Read my full review.
Unravel the Dusk
What you need to know: Forbidden romance, political intrigue, magic gone awry. A girl touched by a demon and forced into an engagement with the emperor to keep the peace for her people. This is at the top of my To-Be-Read list.
The Girl King Series by Mimi Yu
The Girl King
What you need to know: Two sisters with very different preferred weapons: one uses a sword, the other, words. Loads of political intrigue, battles, strong heroines. It’s beautiful. Read my full review.
The Empress of Flames
What you need to know: I’m pretty sure the release date for this book was originally early this year, but it’s since been pushed back to March of next year, which is super sad! I wanted to at least mention it in this list, since I’m really excited to read it. You can add it to your reading list and learn more on Goodreads.
The Tiger at Midnight Series by Swati Teerdhala
The Tiger at Midnight
What you need to know: Inspired by Indian folklore. Friends to Enemies to Lovers. A female rebel assassin. Forbidden magic. Adorable romance. Read my full review.
The Archer at Dawn
What you need to know: Rebels in disguise, political intrigue, and adorable romance. Just a warning, this one will make you really want to read book three! Read my full review.
Girls of Paper and Fire Series by Natasha Ngan
Note: I haven’t read this series yet, but I have heard the content needs some trigger warnings for sexual abuse, violence, and animal cruelty.
Girls of Paper and Fire
What you need to know: F/F romance. Hope and recovery from trauma. Fierce girls refusing to accept a society that treats them as less-than. Beautifully rendered Asian mythology.
Girls of Storm and Shadow
What you need to know: Explores themes about morality during war. Continues the journey of healing for women who’ve experienced trauma. Features strong, warrior women. F/F romance. Asian mythology.
Sands of Arawiya Series by Hafsa Faizal
We Hunt the Flame
What you need to know: Described as a “richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia” on Goodreads. Enemies to lovers. Witty banter. Read my full review.
We Free the Stars
What you need to know: Final book in the duology. Packed with magic, danger, and romance, and set in a lush landscape inspired by ancient Arabia.
The Star-Touched Queen Series by Roshani Chokshi
The Star-Touched Queen
What you need to know: A cursed princess who turns out to be the only one who can save everyone. Steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. Total must-read. Read my full review.
A Crown of Wishes
What you need to know: Less a sequel and more a companion novel. Filled with the same gorgeous writing and world-building as the Star-Touched Queen. Enemies to lovers. Witty banter. Filled with eerie mythological creatures. Read my full review.
Shadow of the Fox Series by Julie Kagawa
Shadow of the Fox
What you need to know: Based on Japanese folklore. Enemies to lovers. Unlikely allies embarking on an impossible quest. Absolutely charming characters. Read my full review.
Soul of the Sword
What you need to know: Japanese folklore. Fierce heroine. Terrifying villains. Witty banter. Forbidden love. Read my full review.
Night of the Dragon
What you need to know: Read the other books in the series before this one– lots of it focuses on the final battle, so it won’t be as easy to follow or understand if you haven’t read earlier books. Based on Japanese mythology. Fierce heroine who never gives up and refuses to sacrifice her friends. Fantastic conclusion to an incredible series. Read my full review.
Gumiho Series by Kat Cho
What you need to know: Based on Korean folklore but told in modern-day Seoul. An opposites-attract love story about a fierce girl and a cheery, charming boy. Fantastic grandma/grandson relationship.
What you need to know: Expected publication in August 2020. Promises new dangers and romance. Based on Korean folklore but told in a contemporary setting.
Rise of the Empress Series by Julie C. Dao
The Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
What you need to know: A dark, Asian-inspired fantasy origin story of the Wicked Queen in the Snow White fairytale. Desperate, creepy magic. Compelling anti-heroine. Read my full review.
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
What you need to know: Asian-inspired retelling of Snow White. Lush world-building. A heroine with a good heart, committed to saving her friends.
Song of the Crimson Flower
What you need to know: I’m not sure if this book is part of the series exactly– Goodreads lists it as book 2.5, so it takes place between the other two books and maybe more of a companion novel? Same beautiful Asian-inspired fantasy story-world.
The Dragon Warrior Series by Katie Zhao
The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
What you need to know: Think Percy Jackson, but with Chinese mythology. High energy, super fun. For readers 10 to 12. Read my full review.
The Fallen Hero
What you need to know: The adventure continues in this fast-paced, wild ride featuring gods and goddesses from Chinese mythology. Read my full review.
Shamanborn Series by Lori M. Lee
Forest of Souls
What you need to know: Features the creepiest trees you’ve ever read. Seriously spooky! Celebrates the bonds of sisterhood/friendship. Packed with fantastic banter and sarcasm. High energy plot that will keep you turning pages. Read my full review.
Books two and three are currently untitled, but expected to follow. I can’t wait!
Standalone Asian-Inspired Fantasy
Sometimes a series feels like a big commitment, especially when the books are so closely tied together that you can’t read one without reading the others first. These are two standalone novels inspired by Chinese history, culture and mythology that are a perfect choice for readers who aren’t up for the commitment of a whole series.
The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim
What you need to know: Coming-of-age story about a child bride in medieval China. Based on history, culture, and mythology. Haunting and unusual. Reminded me a little bit of the story of Mulan in that it features a a strong heroine in a time period and culture where she feels entirely out of place for her strength. Read my review.
Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads
UPDATE 11/10/20: I’ve removed the buy links for this book as the publisher does not have legal rights to sell it at this time. See the author’s announcement on her Twitter feed.
What you need to know: Chinese-inspired fantasy. Features a strong heroine willing to risk everything in the pursuit of justice. Thrilling courtroom drama. Ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it’s uncertain whether there will be a follow-up novel.
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
What you need to know: Set on the Silk Road and featuring Middle-Eastern mythology. Brilliant characters– especially the female characters. Might be better classified as new adult than young adult.
What are your favorite Asian-inspired fantasy books?
Have you read any of the books on the list? If you’ve thought of others that I should add, please leave me a comment with the title and author. I would love to add to my list!