One of the things I wanted to do with Calligraphy Guild was find similar books to promote alongside it. Asian-inspired fantasy isn’t a sub-genre I’ve read or seen a whole lot–nor are slow-paced or story-themed fantasy–so I wanted to dive into it and see what I found. I came out with a pretty mixed bag, but there were a few highlights. (Though the first item on the list is not one I read as a comp title, but rather one that was an encouragement to me as I was writing Calligraphy Guild.)
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
This probably sounds like a really arrogant comparison to start with, so let me begin by saying there is no comparison, really. In terms of comparison, LOTR is clearly superior to Calligraphy Guild and I doubt anyone can match what Tolkien did.
That said, I do see Tolkien’s influence on my writing and I think Calligraphy Guild will appeal to readers who enjoyed Lord of the Rings. Both stories are slow-paced for the sake of establishing the world and characters, for the sake of appreciating the little things, and for the sake of revealing moments of humanity and simplicity amidst chaos and hopelessness. Reading Lord of the Rings a couple autumns ago and seeing those parallel reasons for slowing down was a huge encouragement for me in embracing the slow pacing of Calligraphy Guild and maintaining the style that the story needed, so Lord of the Rings deserves a mention on this list even as Calligraphy Guild is nowhere near the same class, lol.
Calligraphy Guild also resembles LOTR near the end, as both have about six different ending scenes to wrap up various plot threads and character arcs, lol.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin was a book I read only for the sake of my comp titles list–the blurb didn’t hook me right away–but I’m really glad I picked it up. It’s written in a folklore-esque tone, so the prose was a little sparser than I usually prefer, but the style was well-suited to the story. I loved the themes of gratitude and contentment threaded throughout and the emphasis on stories and their power.
Sing to Me of Rain by E.B. Dawson
Sing to Me of Rain by E.B. Dawson was definitely my favorite of the “comp titles” I read (LOTR doesn’t count). Dawson did such a great job of writing a story that explored characters with deep insights and an appreciation for the world (which was beautifully developed!) while never letting the story drag. There were so many thought-provoking lines that I had to underline. Sing to Me of Rain was such a deep, whimsical story and the character relationships were lovely. I absolutely loved the book and I think it’s a good option if you enjoy Calligraphy Guild (and vice versa), given they have similar themes, character dynamics, and pacing. Sing to Me of Rain is a bit faster and it has a much smaller cast, so it’s probably the easier read of the two. Either way, it’s an excellent book and I definitely recommend checking it out.
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
This one is super short and I do have some worldview issues with it but it’s also super cute and whimsical and somehow pulls off feeling slow-paced even though it’s so short? Anyway, it’s really neat, the art style is lovely, and it has emphases on community, crafts like tea-making and blacksmithing, building from tradition, and friendship, so there are some neat thematic parallels with Calligraphy Guild. Plus, tea and dragons are big elements of both stories.
The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin
While The Story Peddler is not Asian fantasy, I decided to pick this one up due to its emphasis on storytelling (and because it had been on my TBR for entirely too long). I really enjoyed the portrayal of the female characters in this one; they were well-balanced to be both strong and feminine (and strong in their femininity); and the two female POV characters balanced each other well, with one being more brash and outspoken while the other was more diplomatic and gentle. I also loved the emphasis on family and how many of the characters valued the family around them and/or the idea of building their own families. Overall, the whole worldview was really refreshing (especially after a couple of stories that fell very flat in that department).
What didn’t make the list
There were a number of other books I read while searching for comp titles that didn’t make this list because I wouldn’t recommend them, they didn’t resemble Calligraphy Guild, or both. You can find reviews for those below.
Air Awakens by Elise Kova (4 stars)
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (3 stars)
Timely by The Phoenix Fiction Writers (5 stars)
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin (3.5 stars, no comprehensive review)
Have you read any of the books on this list? What did you think of them?
Don’t forget to grab your copy of Calligraphy Guild!