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Ten Desert Fantasy Books To Read If You Love Dune – Comic Years

Dune is on everyone’s mind these days with the upcoming adaptation by Denis Villeneuve set for release in December. Of course there are plenty of books set in the world of Dune to read. But maybe you’ve read all of those already. Or maybe you loved the first Dune book but couldn’t get into the rest. Or you love the Fremen and want to read more about desert dwelling tribes in genre fiction without so many white saviors butting in. Maybe you just really want to read more magical books set in fantastical deserts. Well we have got you covered. Below is a list of ten desert fantasy books to read if you loved Dune.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

Image via Penguin Random House

First up are two compelling desert fantasy books by acclaimed author Robin McKinley. The Blue Sword is technically a YA novel, it won the Newberry Award in 1983. But the story is sure to delight fans of all ages. Beautifully written with a detailed world and a heroic female protagonist. The Blue Sword is technically a standalone, but there is a prequel novel called The Hero & the Crown that McKinley later published that is also wonderful and worth checking out.

The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty

Image via Harper Collins

This trilogy is one of the more recent on our list. The third book – Empire of Gold – only just came out in June. And it definitely ranks as some of the best desert fantasy books I’ve read in recent years. The Daevabad trilogy follows the character of Nahri, a young woman living in 18th century Cairo. A chance encounter with a Djinn warrior named Dara changes Nahri’s life forever. And she soon finds herself tangled up in magic and politics of the secret Djinn city called Daevabad. Complex characters and fantastic worldbuilding that draws from Islamic folklore make this trilogy stand out. Plus it was recently optioned for adaptation for Netflix, so it might just be the next big fantasy hit on television.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Image via Penguin Random House

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the first book in an ongoing series: Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley P. Beaulieu. This action-packed fantasy adventure was named one of the best books of 2015. The series draws inspiration from Islamic and Egyptian folklore.

The desert in these fantasy books is as much of a character as any of the protagonists. This is another series rife with political intrigue. But this time it extends to the gods as well as the mortal characters. A fascinating series with complicated and compelling characters, it is definitely not your standard western high fantasy story. With five books (plus a couple of novellas) out now, this is a series that will keep you occupied for quite some time.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Image via Penguin Random House

Saladin Ahmed received several prominent award nominations for this title when it was published in 2012. Throne of the Crescent Moon is (allegedly) the start to a series of desert fantasy books. Set in a medieval Middle Eastern world, and is actually written by someone from with Middle-Eastern heritage.

The story follows a an old sorcerer who is ready to settle down. But he is drawn into one last quest that ends up being more complicated and world-shattering than anticipated. There is magic and mysticism alongside very real human problems and politics. Comic book fans might also recognize Ahmed’s name from his work in the Marvel realm writing for Exiles, Ms. Marvel, and Spider-Man.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Image via Orbit Books

A powerful novel about power and colonialism wrapped up in a richly imaginative fantasy setting. Empire of Sand is the first book in The Books of Ambha series by Tasha Suri. The novel follows the character of Mehr. She is an illegitimate daughter of nobleman who must find her place in the world. The magic in her bloodline that comes from her mother is feared by those around her. But it is within this magic that Mehr finds her power and identity. Torn between two cultures, Mehr is a compelling protagonist who brings this debut novel to life.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Image via Hachette Books

A lush and original novel from the author of the acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. This book follows the character of Lazlo as he journeys across the desert to a lost city. It also follows the powerful children of murdered gods who live in a floating citadel, hidden away from humanity. These storylines converge in an unexpected way as the characters uncover secrets about their own identities, and how those secrets relate to the larger world history. A beautifully written book that is part of a duology, the second book The Muse of Nightmares is just as powerful as the first.

Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro

Image via MacMillan Publishing

The newest book on this list, Each of Us A Desert may also be the most unexpected. Unlike many of the other Arabian inspired novels on this list, this book draws from mythology of Central America. It is a queer Latinx story about a character who has the power to absolve the sins of others by taking their stories upon herself. A powerful novel about love, loss, and the power of faith and defying your fate. The titular desert is both real and deeply metaphorical. The imagery and emotion of the novel will linger with you long after it is over.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

Image via Tor/Forge

A standalone novel from the author of the bestselling Kushiel’s Dart series. This novel achieves what very few do, telling an epic fantasy story in one volume. This fantasy starts in the desert and is many things at once: a coming of age novel that focuses on individual characters, and a story of prophecy and what that entails.

The novel questions the notion of destiny and plays around with gender and sexuality in an interesting way. In a world where the stars have fallen from the sky, the protagonists endeavor to unlock their full potential while figuring out their identities.

City of Bones by Martha Wells

Image via Tor/Forge

Martha Wells is the author of many series including The Books of Raksura and the Murderbot series. But for this desert fantasy we go all the way back to her second novel ever written: City of Bones. In this post-apocalyptic world water is a scarcity as the desert reclaims the land. Impressive worldbuilding and nuanced characters are a mainstay of the author’s work. A rare standalone novel, the story draws upon Arabian Nights for inspiration, along with some steampunk and post-apocalyptic elements.

The Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin

Image via Orbit Books

N.K. Jemisin is a mainstay on our top 10 lists, but I think this is the first time we have recommended her excellent Dreamblood duology. The Dreamblood duology is loosely based on ancient Egyptian and Nubian culture. The books are full of magic with religious themes and issues of morality.

The first book The Killing Moon follows the character of Ehiru, a Gatherer who harvests the ‘dreamblood’ from citizens that is a powerful agent in healing magic. But a murder mystery sparks questions in Ehiru about faith and loyalty. Much more of a high fantasy epic than Jemisin’s other novels, each book can work as a standalone but together they tell a powerful story about the nuance that lies between ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ An excellent pair of desert fantasy books from one of the foremost genre authors of our time.

The Rose of the Prophet Trilogy by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Image via Bantam Spectra

Authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are probably known best for their RPG novels such as Dragonlance. However, in the late 80’s they branched out into a series of desert fantasy books with their Rose of the Prophet trilogy. This trilogy is more standard high fantasy than many of the other novels on the list. But that is also what Weis and Hickman do best.

This desert world brings in disparate fantasy elements where djinn and wizards both work their own magic, but the 20 gods of the world are also major players. The RPG elements are also strong in this novel, effective in establishing action and character. A fun and lighthearted trilogy that also asks deep questions about humanity and our relationship to the gods.

Pick up one of these novels today and immerse yourself in new and unfamiliar worlds. Were there any great desert fantasy books that we missed? Let us know by joining the conversation with Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.

(Featured image photo by Patrick Langwallner via Unsplash)

Emily O’Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.