Sprawling, absorbing, and intricately-plotted sagas: you know you love ’em. And with stories about monster hunters and galactic empires and Nordic princesses from Poland, Japan, Sweden, and many other places, you’ll find yourself forgetting about mere mundane reality. So get started with these six bestselling speculative series in translation and read until your eyeballs jump out of your face and run away screaming!
Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Yoshiki Tanaka, translated by Daniel Huddleston (Haikasoru)
- Volume 1: Dawn (2016)
- Volume 2: Ambition (2016)
- Volume 3: Endurance (2016)
- Volume 4: Strategem (2017)
- Volume 5: Mobilization (forthcoming November 21)
- 5 more novels to be translated
This military space opera classic from Japan chronicles the intrigues, battles, and deadly power-struggles of the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance, bitter enemies that seek the complete annihilation of the other. And while the books in this series (originally published between 1982 and 1987) include detailed descriptions of massive space battles and brilliant tactical maneuvers, Tanaka also offers us two competing leadership personalities in the brilliant military strategists Yang Wen-li (FPA) and Reinhard von Lohengramm (GE). Ultimately, LoGH asks us to think about the competing ideologies associated with democracy and authoritarianism and what people are willing to sacrifice for each.
Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko, translated by Andrew Bromfield (Gollancz)
In this bestselling Russian series, individuals known as the “Others” are locked in a kind of civil war, with one group policing the forces of Darkness, and the other doing the same with the forces of Light. It’s an urban-fantasy-meets-spy-thriller saga that will suck you into the “Twilight” parallel dimension that lies at the heart of the story.
The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by various (see below) (Orbit)
- Witcher collections:
- Witcher novels:
This fantasy series (comprised of both stories and novels) by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski revolves around “witchers” (monster hunters with supernatural abilities), with a specific focus on the witcher Geralt of Rivia and the princess (and witcher-in-training) that he is bound to protect. According to the saga, witchers emerged to battle such creatures as werewolves and vampires that had swarmed The Continent after the cataclysmic “Conjunction of the Spheres.” Translated into multiple languages and adapted into a film, a tv series, video games, and a graphic novel series, The Witcher Saga is a collection of Polish fantasy that you need to put in your brain.
Apocalypse Z by Manel Loureiro, translated by Pamela Carmell (Amazon Crossing)
- Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End (2012)
- Apocalypse Z: Dark Days (2013)
- Apocalypse Z: The Wrath of the Just (2014)
Begun as a blog, this bestselling Spanish series imagines what would happen if a zombie virus erupted on Earth and threw civilization into chaos. Amidst this terror and panic, a young lawyer chronicles humanity’s last days and attempts to escape with a ragtag crew to one of the last places on Earth that is still free of the virus. Safety comes with a price, though…
Saga of the Borderlands by Liliana Bodoc, translated by various (see below) (Atlantic Books)
- The Days of the Deer, translated by Nick Caistor and Lucia Caistor Arendar (2013)
- The Days of Shadow, to be translated
- The Days of Fire, to be translated
Argentinian fantasist Liliana Bodoc offers us a story about omens, community, and the eternal duality of good versus evil. When the Astronomers of the Open Air learn that a fleet is approaching the Remote Realm, they must figure out if the fleet portends a triumphant return or the end of their way of life. Highly acclaimed in Latin America, Saga of the Borderlands is now making its well-deserved debut here.
Valhalla series by Johanne Hildebrandt, translated by Tara F. Chace (Amazon Crossing)
- The Unbroken Line of the Moon (2016)
- Estrid (forthcoming October 17)
- 2 more to be translated
Out of Sweden comes a quartet about the Nordic lands of the 10th century by war-correspondent-turned-author Johanne Hildebrandt. Destined to be the mother of the king of the Nordic lands (that would become Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and England), Sigrid navigates the ongoing war between the Vikings and the Christians (thanks to her ability to see into the future) and finds herself having to choose between the good of the Viking kingdom or her personal fulfillment.
This article was originally published in January 2017.
Rachel S. Cordasco earned a Ph.D in Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2010, and taught courses in American and British literature, and Composition. She has also worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. A Book Riot and SF Signal contributor, Rachel recently launched a site devoted to speculative fiction in translation. You can follow her @Rcordas and on facebook at Bookishly Witty and Speculative Fiction in Translation.