Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Musings: Fantasy Settings and Diversity

To give you a little background on this week's MM, I'm going to talk a little bit about The Kiss of Deception.  No spoilers, and it's only to give parameters for the topic.

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)

The Kiss of Deception is not only a book you should absolutely go pick up now, it's a book that led me to an interesting epiphany of sorts.  While reading this book I came to a realization: for possibly the first time ever, I imagined all these characters as non-white characters without consciously making the decision to do that in the beginning of the book.  I had been imagining the main character as resembling someone like Jasmine from Aladdin (and actually she still might be - I couldn't remember her description) and the others as a range of darker skin tones - but Rafe is blond and Pauline is described at some point as having honey hair, and another character is mentioned as having pink skin.  This actually dampened my enjoyment of the novel - the characters were just so different in appearance than I had imagined!  This is unusual for me, because I generally have a vague concept of how things appear, not specific ideas so I can't think of a time finding out someone's appearance or race being different than I imagined as a bad thing.  But I suppose I was just so pleasantly surprised to discover a fantasy novel with both diverse settings and diverse people that I got disappointed when I discovered this wasn't the case.

I was trying to figure out why this bothered me so much and why I had imagined them all as non-white characters in the first place.  Then I realized that the setting is different - there are jungles with tigers, as well as deserts and your general expected town settings in a fantasy novel.  Almost all fantasy worlds are set in the equivalent of the Western world, and almost all characters are white. Fantasy novels rarely get deserts, and even scarcer are jungles, and I think these settings are intrinsically linked to other cultures for me, therefore other races are at the forefront of my mind when imagining these places.  When I think of jungles and the desert, my mind definitely jumps to stereotypes of Africa, the Middle East, and South America - all places where there's generally a majority of darker skinned races.  (My dad is South African and he's white, so this all goes to say that I DO know that not everyone is one color in these places.  And there's plenty of blonde South Americans.  But still. Generally, stereotypically speaking, I think most people around me also have the same stereotypical images when thinking of these places)

I was really excited about getting new settings - while I'm a fantasy girl through and through, we really do seem to get a lot of the same looks in fantasy worlds.  I'm always excited to discover something entirely different (in fact it's one of the ONLY things I liked about Defy - it was probably the first fantasy novel I'd ever read that even mentions a jungle).  That's a lie - Tamora Pierce does a fantastic job of getting her characters into all sorts of different lands - Carthak and the Copper Isles are great examples, and the Circle of Magic series has even more great settings.  But otherwise, I really haven't encountered much Eastern based fantasy. (C.S. Lewis doesn't count. The Horse and His Boy had some offensive stereotypes if I recall. I could be wrong about that though.) Now I have even more reason to want diversity in setting - specifically speaking for me, I imagine more racially diverse books when the setting is more diverse itself.  This isn't to say that I don't strongly believe we need more diversity in ALL fantasy - after all it's not like the Western world is only built up of white people, so we shouldn't be getting only white characters in our Western based fantasy novels - but if I get to kill two birds with one stone (Actually I hate that saying. It's barbaric.) why not get a book with diverse climates, cultures, and people?

Goal: I'm always on the lookout for books with diversity (this is not exclusive to race), but I'm also specifically looking for non-Western based fantasy.  Go!


  1. Assassin's Curse, Girl of Fire and Thorns....uh....that's all I got so far. Sad.

  2. Wizard of Earthsea is actually a book with all non-white characters. A great fantasy.. if you haven't read it before. Don't watch the movie though, they cast all white people.

  3. At least there's two books I can bump up my TBR list!

  4. Oh man I LOVE the Wizard of Earthsea series! I grew up on that stuff, and only recently discovered the Ursula K. Le Guin wrote primarily sci-fi. I didn't know they made a live action film of it either, so I'm glad you warned me because I probably would have been excited about it if I had come across it haha


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