When we think of fantasy novels, we typically think of medieval Europe. Knights, kings, dragons, and wars are common in fantasy literature, and for good reason. These things are interesting and compelling, and they make a great backdrop for a fantasy novel. However, there is a whole world of fantasy novels that do not take place in Medieval Europe, and these novels are just as interesting and worthy of praise as the European middle ages fantasies that many of us know so well.
Persian fantasy is probably a genre that you are not familiar with. It is a genre that does not have thousands upon thousands of novels in it, but that doesn’t mean that it is not worth reading. If you are looking for a fantasy novel influenced by the Middle East, the religion of Islam, and/or the Persian culture, look no further than Persian fantasy. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating genre and everything it holds.
The Persian Empire
The Persian Empire is a series of dynasties located in what is now Iran. The Empire existed for thousands of years. From the 6th century BCE to the 20th century AD. Because this is such a massive length of time and the Empire was so geographically large, it is hard to assign exact cultures, languages, and customs to the Empire. There is so much history in the Empire and each part of that history is unique in its own way.
The Persian Empire reached from present-day Romania and Ukraine all the way to India and south to Egypt. The Persians developed the first postal service. They were the first people to establish communication between Asia, Africa, and Europe. The ancient capital of Persia sits in southern Iran. Many Persians practiced the religion of Islam, but there were several religions that were popular regionally and throughout history.
Though the Persian Empire is not common in pop culture, it is an empire that is full of rich history, fascinating customs, and interesting cultures. It is certainly a culture worth exploring and learning more about. There are many beautiful depictions of the Persian Empire in art, literature, and films. And many of these offer great insight into the culture and history.
It is fairly simple to define Persian fantasy as any fantasy novel that takes inspiration from the Persian Empire, Persian culture, or takes place in a Middle Eastern-type setting can be a Persian fantasy. These novels often contain beautiful desert scenery, fascinating cultural rituals, and elements of religion. There is so much to learn and explore in a Persian fantasy.
Persian fantasies can take many forms. There is always an element of magic or the supernatural, that is a given for any fantasy. But Persian fantasies must also contain some element or influence of Persian culture. This could take the form of the setting, the religion or customs of the characters in the novel, or the time period. There is a vast number of ways that Persian fantasy authors incorporate the culture into their novels, as we will see below.
Examples of Persian Fantasy
Though not the most popular subgenre of fantasy, there are so many great examples of Persian Fantasy from writers across the globe. Persian fantasy novels tend to steer towards being historical fantasy, but that is not always the case. As you will see below, there are many different ways for authors to write a Persian fantasy that result in beautiful worlds and captivating stories. If you are looking for an entrance into Persian fantasy, look no further than the novels and series below.
Throne of the Crescent Moon
Throne of the Crescent Moon is the first novel in The Crescent Moon Kingdoms series by Saladin Ahmed. Though this novel does not take place in Persia, it takes great inspiration from the Middle East and Persian culture. The world in which it takes place is quite similar to ancient Persia, making it a great choice for the reader who is looking to escape the classic medieval European setting of many fantasy novels.
This novel follows Doctor Adoulla Makhslood who is an elderly man looking to retire and spend the rest of his days drinking tea. He is a ghoul hunter, and he and his assistant are faced with a dark sorcerer. This novel is full of alchemists, shapeshifters, and demons. Alongside all of the magical elements, there is a storyline full of political intrigue that is quite captivating.
Persian culture and the Middle East, in general, have a huge influence on Throne of the Crescent Moon. There are many references to the culture, but that does not mean you need to be an expert on the Persian Empire or the religion of Islam to enjoy this novel. The characters will captivate you, the setting will entice you, and the plot will leave you on the edge of your seat.
The Song of the Shattered Sands
The Song of the Shattered Sands is a series of Persian fantasy novels by Bradley P. Beaulieu. This is another series that does not take place in Persia by name, but the influence is clear. The setting, the culture, and the dynamics of the story take great inspiration from the Persian Empire.
This series contains six novels and several novellas that each build out an incredible fantasy world with a beautiful Middle Eastern setting. The Song of the Shattered Sands series follows Cedamihn, a young girl who defies the evil King’s laws. The twelve kings who rule the desert will not allow the people there to have freedom until someone comes to save them from the oppressive kings.
There is less magic in this series than in The Crescent Moon Kingdoms series, but it is definitely still a fantasy. There are supernatural occurrences, epic battles, and mythical creatures throughout the series that give it a unique Persian fantasy feeling.
The Legend of the Wandering King
The Legend of the Wandering King is a 2005 novel by Laura Gallego Garcia. This novel is a beautiful retelling of a real king from ancient Persia. It is not quite historical fantasy, as the author takes a lot of liberties with the story, but the inspiration is there and it creates a fantastic story.
This novel follows Walid, a young prince who is also a renowned poet. He curses the only poet who is better than he, and this poet is forced to create a carpet that shows the entire history of the human race. Walid soon finds that he must find forgiveness for this curse and embarks on a journey to change his ways.
While this novel may not be quite as action-packed as some of the others in this genre, it paints a beautiful picture of Persian culture. This book is thought-provoking and full of interesting characters and scenarios. If this summary intrigues, it is definitely a novel worth picking up.
I hope this article has helped clarify what this genre is all about and given you some ideas of books to read in this subgenre.
And if you want to read more about unique fantasy subgenres on this blog, check out:
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another fiction-literature-related topic!