Last week I caught up with how the reading goals I set myself at the beginning of this year are progressing, so this week I thought I’d check-in and talk about how my progress for the Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2020 is progressing!
I’d like to read a lot more Asian authors this year – there’s so much Asian-inspired fantasy I keep meaning to cross off my TBR and keep not reaching for, for whatever reason – but considering last year I read 7 Asian authors (I know, I’m embarrassed for me too) I’ve already beaten last year’s total with four novels, one novella and three short stories by eight different authors!
So far this year, I’ve read:
As well as the short stories “As the Last I May Know” by S.L. Huang, “And Now His Lordship is Laughing” by Shiv Ramdas and “Ten Excerpts From an Annotated Bibliography of the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen. I read all three of these because they’re shortlisted for a Hugo Award this year, and you can find my thoughts on them and the rest of the shortlist here!
The highlight for me thus far has definitely been The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang, which I’m sure is going to be one of my favourite reads of the year, but I also loved The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo and I’ll definitely be reaching for more work from both Wang and Vo in future.
By the end of this year I’d’ve liked to have read at least 12 novels/novellas by Asian authors, so I can at least say I’ve read one a month, and as three of my reads so far this year have been short stories, I need to read at least another seven—but hopefully I’ll read even more than that. With any luck I can get to all of these…
Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.
Now, the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.
When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets — and of Kekon itself.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king.
It’s the highest honour they could hope for…
And the most demeaning.
This year, there’s a ninth girl.
And instead of paper,
She’s made of fire.
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class in Ikhara. Ten years ago, her mother was snatched by the royal guards, and her fate remains unknown. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl whose golden eyes, whose rumoured beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. There, Lei does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.
Please be aware that this contains scenes of violence and sexual assault.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.
When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.
Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon Â but the Queen of the Fae and her maniacal court are hard on his heels.
An unusually gripping Victorian-tinged fantasy set in a richly imagined High Gothic world.
The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi
A sweeping, emotional journey of two childhood friends—one struggling to survive the human slave trade and the other on a mission to save her—two girls whose lives converge only to change one fateful night in 1993.
India, 1986: Mukta, a ten-year-old girl from the lower caste Yellamma cult of temple prostitutes has come of age to fulfill her destiny of becoming a temple prostitute. In an attempt to escape this legacy that binds her, Mukta is transported to a foster family in Bombay. There she discovers a friend in the high spirited eight-year-old Tara, the tomboyish daughter of the family, who helps her recover from the wounds of her past. Tara introduces Mukta to a different world—ice cream and sweets, poems and stories, and a friendship the likes of which she has never experienced before. In 1993, Mukta is kidnapped from Tara’s room.
Eleven years later, Tara who blames herself for what happened, embarks on an emotional journey to search for the kidnapped Mukta only to uncover long buried secrets in her own family.
Moving from a remote village in India to the bustling metropolis of Bombay, to Los Angeles and back again, amidst the brutal world of human trafficking, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship—a story of love, betrayal, and redemption—which ultimately withstands the true test of time.
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
How’s your 2020 reading going?