Book Table 09: Non-Western Themes in Fantasy Literature

What about fantasy that doesn’t fit the genre-typical western Medieval European setting? In this episode, some of our whisperers discuss books they’ve read that explore non-western themes and places, as well as a bit about the genre as a whole!

In this episode, you heard from:
Akhi | @akhipill
Dorothy | @bwp_dorothy
Louisa | @otterbewriting
Rebecca | @rumy91989

Books mentioned in this episode include:
The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Stavely
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
Dune by Frank Herbert
Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Harry Potter / Pottermore by J.K. Rowling
The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The article about J.K. Rowling’s “Magic in North America” can be found on the Native Appropriations site.


The Book Table is a podcast from Backroom Whispering Productions. Our theme music is by Mark Wayne.

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Setting the Story: Medieval vs Early Modern


Akhi Pillalamarri
Head Web Content Contributor
Twitter | Website

Fantasy, as a genre, has largely been associated with the Middle Ages. While this is obviously not always the case, especially with those stories set in the real world (many of which, like Harry Potter, take place in contemporary times), there is some truth to this. The fantasy movement did grow out of the Romantic movement of the 19th century, which was, in part, a reaction against the science and rationalism of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. The “Medievalism” of fantasy is related the genre’s use of magic, awe, emotions, folklore and escapism, as alternatives to the increasingly rationality, homogeneity, and banality of modern existence.

Thus, most constructed fantasy worlds, both historical and mythical, are essentially Medieval European in nature. These can either be based off of the Dark Ages (500-1000) of early Medieval Europe, which gives off an “empty-world” sort of feeling, or the more crowded and better-historically documented High Middle Ages (1000-1350). Jump forward a bit, and you may or may not be in the fantasy genre anymore. This is when you get to Steampunk based off of the 19th century Victorian Era, or the slightly later Dieselpunk, based off of the “interwar period” (1918-1939) through the 1950s. Relatively little fantasy is set in worlds inspired by the ancient and classical periods of human history. 

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