Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Sword of Truth, The Riftwar Cycle, The Inheritance Cycle, Shannara…
What do all these series have in common?
They’re fantasy, duh
But also, they take place in a world based off of medieval European times.
Now, I’m not saying these are bad series at all. My childhood would be formless without these tales of noble knights protecting their lords and princesses, kings and queens ruling in their castles over their magical lands. And dragons, So many dragons.
I’m just tired of it.
Fantasy can be much more than just one setting and I know it’s out there. Right now, I’m reading River of Stars by Guy Gavier Kay. It takes place in a land similar to China in their Three Kingdoms period. It’s not high magic, but it’s there, and I’m loving it. Brave soldiers, fox spirits, clever courtesans, and a ruling class that’s completely out of touch with their people. All good stuff.
This is why I love Robert E. Howard. Sure, his main character Conan is a muscle-bound white dude from a proto-Celtic people, but at the very least, he’s not from feudal England. Howard was a historian and loved to use ancient civilizations in his work. Ancient Greece, Egypt, Chinese, Scandinavians, Rome, Afghanistan, Iran…he used them all. He was also hideously racist, but we can do better than him.
I wrote my first book based off of ancient Egypt and in my research I didn’t get much further than just using Greek, Roman, and Scandinavian influences. Because with studying ancient civilizations, you can definitely go down a rabbit hole from which there is no return.
But I’ve got time. And I’ve got more books to write. I’d love to learn more about the Hittites, Nubians, and Hyksos. Ooh, and the Scythians!
Oh man. I’m going to be at this for a while. But my main point today is just check out some books that aren’t based in medieval Europe. Or try books that aren’t based off of any pre-existing culture, like the Broken Earth trilogy by N K Jemisin. It’s about geological magic and the evil things people do to try and harness the power and those who use it. Check it out!