The desert is one of my all-time favorite fantasy settings, not only because I most enjoy imagining myself someplace warm, but also because it can be just as beautiful as it is deadly. When I considered where to set the cross-country race in The Kinder Poison, I knew I wanted a setting that would be both enchanting and absolutely merciless for royal teams who are meant to prove they can survive both the human and environmental challenges in their way. If you don’t plan for enough food or water in the mountains, you can probably find a creek and edible plants. If you don’t plan carefully in the desert, it might be the last mistake you ever make.
The characters that go along with such stories often evoke the same contrast of beauty and brutality. Here are five of my favorite titles set in the desert.