As you might have noticed if you read my review of The Wrath and the Dawn, I’ve become a bit tired of and disillusioned by the stereotypical Western European-inspired fantasy world. You know the type – there’s a king who rules over a kingdom full of peasants and a few lords and such; everyone lives in houses made of hay and wood or giant castles; everyone wears a bunch of layers, whether you’re a man who has all those vests and puffy shirts and what now (no, I’m not basing this completely off of the fashion on Reign, what are you talking about?) or a woman who has corsets and petticoats and whatever else goes into those elaborate gowns. You can probably think of many, many clichés and tropes that show up again and again in these types of fantasies – which is why I’m getting so sick of them.
That doesn’t mean that I never like them. I read A Wicked Thing the other month, and it was comfortable reading about the sleeping princess dealing with waking up in a stereotypical medieval setting, like the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. I did like it, but the only things that it really offered new perspectives on were the character of Aurora and expectations versus reality, not the setting and time period that make for a stereotypical fantasy world.
It’s a bit ironic, really – since I love coming up with tons of new story ideas instead of focusing on the ones I’ve already started, I came up for a story about a college full of fairy tale characters – including a Sleeping Beauty character. In my original idea, Sleeping Beauty would be Indian, since the Disney version includes an arranged marriage and takes a brief look at the complicated feelings that can lead to; I wanted to look at how this could affect her. Unfortunately, I changed my mind when I found a picture of a model that I wanted to represent the Sleeping Beauty character who was likely white (I know, that’s a horribly stupid reason, but I did come up with some other wonderfully diverse characters, like a transgender love interest for the Little Mermaid character), but the point is that it could have been an interesting twist on the typical fantasy setting and such.
I know that I’m not the only one who has come up with ideas that twist typically Western-style stories into diverse ones, but too often it can feel like they never make it further than awesome ideas and short stories or brief outlines. I would have simply given up on it ever becoming a beautiful reality – then I read The Wrath and the Dawn.
A Middle Eastern fantasy world! Different clothes! Different foods! Different names and words and cultures! The world itself seemed so incredibly original simply because it wasn’t a quasi-1300s England or something. We didn’t have to read about drafty old castles that have no internal lights other than open windows; we didn’t have to listen to girls complain about corsets (which probably weren’t a thing all these centuries before, but if you’re going to make a fantasy world, I guess you might as well include corsets so that you can have pretty corseted dresses on the cover); we don’t have to see the same old, same old, and it is glorious!
And there are so many other cultures that we could see infused in our fantasies – or, we could get a whole hybrid of a bunch! It’s a fantasy world – we don’t have to read about the same misogynistic, racist, poor-hating cultures and kingdoms that were a part of our actual history. Fantasy can come up with anything! We could have a world that takes place in an Africa-esque world that has dynasties and dragons, Jasmine-esque outfits (I’m sorry if this is totally wrong, but that’s what I pictured whenever clothes were described in The Wrath and the Dawn) and open air estates. There is so much that we could have! GIVE US ALL THE DIVERSE FANTASY!