Fantasy Translation Reading Challenge

September is just around the corner and, as promised, I have another reading challenge.

The premise is pretty simple. A common criticism of the fantasy genre is its tendency to lean heavily on European settings and historical influences, England’s most especially. What I wanted to do was find fantasy novels from all over the world, books written in a different language for a different audience, in the hopes of learning something new about the genre that I love.

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Translated by Andrew Bromfield, Night Watch will be the first novel on my list, originating from Russia. It’s an urban fantasy novel published in 2013 involving magicians, shape-shifters, vampires, and so forth, where each supernatural person must swear allegiance either to the forces of Dark or the forces of Light, an uneasy peace between which is enforced by the titular Night Watch. It seems like it has the potential to be a pretty intense novel, and I am hoping for a little more nuance between the two factions than is suggested in the synopsis.

Supernova: The Knight, the Princess, and the Falling Star by Dewi Lestari

I was excited to find an Indonesian text to add to my list. Supernova appears to be another urban fantasy novel. Its synopsis is devoid of any fantastical elements, mentioning unconventional love stories, contemporary social conflict, and technologically adept characters, but it’s tagged as fantasy on Goodreads, so I’m willing to give it a try. The novel was originally published in 2001 and translated by Harry Aveling.

A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba

I tried so hard to find a fantasy novel originating out of South America. Alas, I failed in this regard, but in my search, I found a possibly speculative fiction novel about a group of kids that appear out of a jungle and nearly tear apart the foundations of the city they arrive in. It was such an intriguing concept that I had to pick it up, regardless of genre. Supposedly, it’s similar in concept to Lord of the Flies, but told from the perspective of a journalist in the city. It’s translated by Lisa Dillman and originally published in 2017.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara

Fortunately, it was far easier to find fantasy novels from countries like China and Japan, and I settled on this 1988 Japanese epic fantasy novel translated by Cathy Hirano. Returning to the duality concept of light vs dark, Dragon Sword and Wind Child follows Saya, raised to love the light only to learn she is a daughter of the dark. She might be the key to ending the war between the two forces, if she can survive long enough to find the legendary Dragon Sword first.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Technically a spare novel to make up for potential lack of fantasy elements in two of my above novels, Tyll is a German historical fantasy novel infused with magical realism. I’ve seen some pushback about calling “traditional” fantasy Euro-centric because it implies that all of Europe shares similar cultures and history, and so I’m curious to see how Tyll fits into that argument (as well as the last book on my list). The novel, published in 2017 and translated by Ross Benjamin, follows the titular character as he travels across the country and picks up the skills required to become a juggler and jester in the aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War.

The Last Wish (The Witcher) by Andrzej Sapkowski

This list would not be complete without a Witcher novel on it. I’ve been eager to read one of the books since the show came out, and have been impatient for September to come around so I could finally dig my claws into it. If you’re familiar with my reading challenges, I like to pick a book with an adaptation to compare it to. This will be a little different from my previous challenges because I’ve already seen the first season of the Witcher; it’ll be interesting how the two compare. I’m not entirely sure what all is covered in this novel, but of course it follows Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher whose duty it is to hunt down and kill monsters. I’m guessing Ciri and Yennefer will be involved as well, but we shall see. The novel was originally published in 1993 and is translated by Danusia Stok.

Some Final Comments

As I mentioned before, I really wanted to get a variety of fantasy novels, but was incredibly surprised at how difficult it was to collect a list of titles from outside the expected areas. I know this list doesn’t have any books from Africa, and I had hoped for a good fantasy novel translated out of India as well. And although there were more than a few books written by latinx authors, most of them were originally written in English and were more magical realism than full-on fantasy. (Which is fine, but I had really hoped to get my hands on some high fantasy novels.) Long story short, I’m aware of the rather large blind spots this reading challenge has, but I’m more than willing to do this challenge next year if I can accumulate some suggestions.

Lastly, I do also have the novel Odin’s Child by Siri Pettersen. It’s a Norwegian novel translated by Siân Mackie and Paul Russel Garrett. You might’ve seen it in Barnes and Noble; I think it’s surged in popularity recently. But she is a bit thicker than the other books and I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d have time to read it. If I do, I’ll add it to the wrap-up at the end of the month. If not, it still seems like a pretty cool book, so I’ll just add it to my TBR pile.

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