Mihir over at Fantasy Book Critic was kind enough to curate a list of South Asian/Indian fantasy stories to add to your TBR. Check out these titles and get reading!
Palace Of Illusions by Chitra B. Divakaruni
A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, the Mahabharat—told from the point of view of an amazing woman.
Relevant to today’s war-torn world, The Palace of Illusions takes us back to a time that is half history, half myth, and wholly magical. Narrated by Panchaali, the wife of the legendary Pandavas brothers in the Mahabharat, the novel gives us a new interpretation of this ancient tale.
The novel traces the princess Panchaali’s life, beginning with her birth in fire and following her spirited balancing act as a woman with five husbands who have been cheated out of their father’s kingdom. Panchaali is swept into their quest to reclaim their birthright, remaining at their side through years of exile and a terrible civil war involving all the important kings of India. Meanwhile, we never lose sight of her strategic duels with her mother-in-law, her complicated friendship with the enigmatic Krishna, or her secret attraction to the mysterious man who is her husbands’ most dangerous enemy. Panchaali is a fiery female redefining for us a world of warriors, gods, and the ever-manipulating hands of fate.
Pradyutita by Geetha Krishnan
In Hastinapura, Atiratha and Radha find a baby floating in the river. In the palace, the impotent King Pandu is forced to abdicate the throne while his bastard half brother Vidura conspires with his queen Kunti. The blind King Dhritarashtra struggles against his autocratic uncle while the sage Vyasa fights desperately to avert a power struggle within the Kuru family. This is the saga of Mahabharata, as it has never been told before.
Sons Of Darkness by Gourav Mohanty
SOME BALLADS ARE INKED IN BLOOD.
Bled dry by violent confrontations with the Magadhan Empire, the Mathuran Republic simmers on the brink of oblivion. The Republic’s Leaders, Krishna and Satyabhama, have put their plans in motion within and beyond its blood-soaked borders, to protect it from annihilation. But they will soon discover that neither gold nor alliances last forever.
They are, however, not the only players in this game.
Mati, Pirate-Princess of Kalinga, must mend her ways if she is to be a good wife. But old habits die hard, especially when one habitually uses murder to settle scores. Karna, the gifted son of a lowborn charioteer, hopes to bury his brutal past, but finds that life is not generous in offering second chances. The crippled hero-turned-torturer Shakuni struggles in the maze of daggers, that is politics, leaving little time for him to plot the revenge he craves.
Alongside a cast of sinister queens, naive kings, pious assassins and predatory priests, these dubious heroes will converge where the Son of Darkness is prophesied to rise and break the World, even as forgotten Gods prepare to play their hand.
The Boy Of Earth & Fire by Sami Shah
Wahid’s father was a textile merchant in Karachi. His mother, however, is a djinn. Growing up in a city rife with corrupt cops and religious extremists can be challenging, and it gets downright dangerous once the djinns start hunting Wahid. To survive beings made of smokeless fire, women with feet turned the wrong way, and a violent terrorist sent to kill him, Wahid has to turn to the devil himself for help. But can Iblis be trusted?
What starts as a quest to save the soul of the girl he loves, ends up on the road to the dark heart of Pakistan’s nuclear fears, and the coming of the Islamic apocalypse. Islamic mythology blended with South Asian urban horror, Sami Shah’s epic novel is filled with vivid insights into life in Pakistan, and a whole new pantheon of mythical creatures.
Boy of Fire and Earth brings together Sami Shah’s Fire Boy and Earth Boy into one unputdownable volume.
These Savage Shores by Ram V (graphic novel)
In 1766 an insatiable vampire sails from London to the Malabar Coast, aboard an East India Company ship. But along the shores of the Indus lurk darker and more ancient powers, and a war is brewing in the night.
ALONG THESE SAVAGE SHORES, WHERE THE DAYS ARE SCORCHED AND THE NIGHTS ARE FULL OF TEETH.
Two centuries after the first European ship sailed to the Malabar Coast and made landfall at Calicut, The East India Company seeks to secure its future along the lucrative Silk Route, in the year 1766. An old evil now sails aboard a company ship, hoping to make a home in this new found land. But he will soon find that the ground along the Indus is an ancient one with daemons and legends far older than himself.
The Gamesworld trilogy by Samit Basu
The Simoqin Prophecies marks the debut of an assured new voice. Written with consummate ease and brimming with wit and allusion, it is at once classic SFF and subtle spoof, featuring scantily clad centauresses, flying carpets, pink trolls, belly dancers and homicidal rabbits. Monty Python meets the Ramayana, Alice in Wonderland meets The Lord of the Rings and Robin Hood meets The Arabian Nights in this novel-a breathtaking ride through a world peopled by different races and cultures from mythology and history
Mrityunjaya (the Death Conqueror) by Shivaji Sawant
The sixth son of Kunti, Karna is often reduced to an antagonist in most modern renditions of the Mahabharatha. In Mrityunjaya, The Death Conqueror: The Story Of Karna, a study of humanity, life and existentialism through Ved Vyasa’s epic, Shivaji Sawant examines Karna’s life. Summary of the Book The autobiography of Karna, this book contains six dramatic sililoquies to form nine parts. Four of these are in Karna’s point of view, mixed with the view points of Kunti, Duryodhana, Shatruntapa, Vrishali and Krishna. The author makes a comparison between Karna and Krishna, changing the reader’s perspective of Karna’s “sins.” About Shivaji Sawant Shivaji Sawant is an Indian writer. He has also written Chhava, Yugandhar and Muktigaatha Mahamanavachya among other popular Marathi books.
The Devourers by Indrapramit Das
On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.
From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.
Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
“Patel’s mesmerizing debut shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from the Ramayana….This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”
So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.
Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.
But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.
A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.
The Shiva trilogy by Amish Tripathi
1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived. This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracised and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills!
The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge.
Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?
Honorable mention to:
The Paternus trilogy by Dyrk Ashton for being so in-depth about Hindu mythology.
Described as American Gods meets The Avengers and Supernatural meets The Lord of the Rings, Paternus combines myths from around the world in a modern story of action and intrigue that is “urban fantasy on the surface, but so much more at its core!”
Even myths have legends. And not all legends are myth.
When a local hospital is attacked by strange and frightening men, Fiona Patterson and Zeke Prisco save a catatonic old man named Peter—and find themselves running for their lives with creatures beyond imagination hounding their every step.
With nowhere else to turn, they seek out Fi’s enigmatic Uncle Edgar. But the more their questions are answered, the more they discover that nothing is what it seems–not Peter, not Edgar, perhaps not even themselves.
The gods and monsters, heroes and villains of lore—they’re real. And now they’ve come out of hiding to hunt their own. In order to survive, Fi and Zeke must join up with powerful allies against an ancient evil that’s been known by many names and feared by all. The final battle of the world’s oldest war has begun.
Paternus: Rise of Gods, is Dyrk Ashton’s critically acclaimed debut novel and the first book in The Paternus Trilogy. It has been compared to works by Neil Gaiman, Scott Hawkins, Roger Zelazny, China Miéville, Joss Whedon, and Kevin Hearne.
Editions note: Earlier editions list the title as simply Paternus. These are the same book as Paternus: Rise of Gods.
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Contemporary Fantasy / Mythic Fiction.
Market: Adult to New Adult (as opposed to Teen or YA, though savvy 16 or 17-year-olds might survive without permanent damage).