Hot (as is temperature) fantasy and sci fi for a cold winter's night

Wet, cold Air Mass Alphonse (not its real name) has brought nasty winter mix to southern New England, and although High Pressure System Daisy (not its real name either) should arrive in a few days, it is Not Nice at the moment.  And so my mind has been escaping to nice warm books in which the desert, with all it's lovely dry heat, is front and center.

Of course, for most of the characters wandering around in your average hot fantasy, it kind of sucks--there really aren't  many books in which people are happy to be hot, mostly because they are (with reason) worried dying of thirst.  But that's their problem.  (I could have included jungle fantasy here too, I guess, because jungles are hot, but I'm trying to avoid dampness too.  My shoes got plenty damp walking home from the bus).

In any event, here are the hot, dry, speculative fiction books I'd recommend unreservedly:

The one hot book I can think off that's escapistly pleasant (as in, no actively unpleasant thirst) is The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley:  "The desert, with the black sharp-edged mountains around it, was a different from what she was accustomed to as any landscape could be; yet she found after only a few weeks in Istan that she was falling by degrees in love with it:  with the harsh sand, the hot sun, the merciless gritty winds" (p 19).   And the first half of the book in particular is filled with lots of lovely warm riding around the desert, enough to banish any chill.

Mirage, by Jenn Reese, is another diverting read featuring a girl charging around in a desert.  In this case, the lack of handy water is made more, um, concerning by the fact that the girl in question is a sea-person.   This one, though, is the second of a series, so you will have to read Above World, the first, to truly enjoy its pleasant warmth.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula LeGuin, is set on a planet with barely enough water to sustain its people, and the idea of Winter Mix never crosses their minds.  It's also a lovely, complex challenging book about a society in which, along with never being cold, people are never supposed to "own" anything--it is an society that strives to be an ongoing anarchy.   I can't recommend it highly enough.

Vessel, by Sarah Beth Durst, starts with a village running out of water, and goes on to sandstorms and sandwolves and plenty of life-draining heat.  It's a book of lovely world building and fascinating characters and magic...with no winter mix in sight.

Parched, by Melanie Crowder, lets you know right off that there's going to be heat and thirst, and it delivers in spades.   This story of two kids trying to survive in a future Africa hit hard by global warming and rising sea levels will take your mind off the cold, and make you grateful for water.

And though it is not set in the desert, The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, involves plenty of trekking across a hot, arid landscape....with olive groves shimmering in the heat etc. 


  1. What a lovely post idea! I also love THE BLUE SWORD and enjoyed VESSEL, so I'm glad to see them on this list. And yes, I do feel the need to warm up, especially after taking the bus and standing in the rain today...

  2. LOOK! I just got an excuse from the universe to reread THE BLUE SWORD!
    Oh, thank you, Charlotte, and poor dear, warm up and dry out soon! Daisy is coming! Hang on!

    *I snort in the direction of your naming practices. "High Pressure System Daisy," indeed!

  3. THE BLUE SWORD!!!!! That's one of my heart-books, because it quite literally got me through middle school.

    There's The Sunbird too, but the desert is rather unpleasant in that one so it doesn't quite fit.

  4. I love the Blue Sword! One of my comfort reads. I believe Monica Hughes' Sandwriter also takes place in a desert environment.

  5. The Blue Sword is one of my favorite books of all time. I loved the setting and the way that Hari becomes a part of a new culture. :)


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