Top Ten Tuesday – Settings I Want to See More of in Fiction


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now being hosted by The Artsy Reader.

I’ve been telling myself that I’ll try out a TTT topic for over a year now, but I never actually took the plunge. But I saw posts for this week’s topic pop up in my inbox (at like 9 PM) and I just couldn’t resist. Because this is a topic I think about a lot.

So here’s a last minute list of settings that I’d like to see more of in fiction!


Underwater – Sea and Ocean

The incredible thing about these large bodies water is that they’re horror, fantasy, sci-fi all rolled into one. They inspire awe and fear and deep, deep curiosity, and really, they kind of do a lot the worldbuilding for you. Which is why it’s crazy that we don’t see more of them in stories. Especially underwater societies.

I do feel like we see them more in video games than we do in books: Bioshock, Sunless Sea: Zubmariner, Subnautica, and Soma, to name a few.

But these are several book examples (some not yet released), with two of them do featuring underwater societies.


๐Ÿ  Low by Rick Remender (writer) & Greg Tocchini (artist): a jaw-droppingly gorgeous graphic novel with incredible worldbuilding and a protagonist who oozes optimism.

๐Ÿ  The Deep by Rivers Solomon (with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes): Releasing this fall, and I’m unreasonably excited for it. It tackles slavery from an angle that I’ve never seen before.

๐Ÿ ย  The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah: A story about a submerged London starring a protagonist who’s a submersible racer.


Inside of a Whale

SUPER specific, I know. It’s also kind of related to “Underwater” but not really because there’s no written law that says whales can only exist in the ocean. There could be sky whales! Space whales! And dream whales are definitely a thing. They’d be like these massive islands you encounter during your romps through the dream world, with each one housing….well, something. Maybe the inside of each one would be a different level of the dream court. Maybe they’re all home to different dreamscapes (like a cetacean Inception). And maybe there’s this one super illusive whale that all dreamers have heard of but never seen, and the legend goes that it’ll lead you to the place you most desire. So kind of like Moby Dick, but trippier.

But why whales, you ask? No special reason other than that I just really, really, really love them and they’ve always been the subject of fascination for me, both scientifically and narratively. They’re immensely complex creatures and I find their existence constantly astounding and humbling. And it’s so very easy to imagine a myriad of worlds just sitting inside their stomachs.



Sky Islands

Because I want to see more airships in stories and because ground islands are so yesterday. And it’d be cool to see all the different creative methods of transportation that take you from island to island (other than airships). Plus, there’s the added thrill of knowing that one small misstep out on the garden or balcony can lead to a deadly fall.

Some of my favourite examples include Bioshock Infinite and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (and a fairly recent YA series that I can’t remember the name of).



Ice and Snow

I adore stories set in ice and snow and I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe because I dislike summer and latching onto cold things is something my brain does in retaliation. Or maybe because all the icy bits make the warm and cozy bits stand out more.

Whatever the reason, I want more of them. Books I can easily point to and say, “Hey, that’s one for my Winter TBR!” (pretending for a moment that curated seasonal TBRs is a thing I actually do). And movies/shows and games that I can consume during the summer to stave off the heat.



Forest Cities

I’ve dreamed of living in a forest city since reading/watching The Lord of the Rings, and that dream sort of became a (virtual) reality when I played Lord of the Rings Online and got to actually frolic through Lothlรณrien. And I talk a lot about packing everything up and going to live with the bears in some remote cabin in the woods, but like…I don’t think the postal service does book deliveries (or any deliveries) to the interior forests of British Columbia. Also, wildfires are a thing. So I guess I’ll just continue to live out my wood elf dream via fiction.




God Realms

I feel like most stories nowadays that feature gods take place in the mortal world, and it’s either a mortal protagonist getting caught up in godly affairs or a god/demi-god protagonist getting caught up in mortal affairs. We don’t often see modern stories about gods set exclusively in the world of gods. And when we do get it, more often than not it’s set in the Underworld.

So I’d like to see more variety. More breadth. I want to see mind-bending, cloying opulence rubbing elbows with decaying violence. I want to see how each territory interacts with another. What are the diplomatic relations like? What are the rules ofย  each kingdom? (goddom?)

The biggest examples I can think of is the God of War franchise and maybe the Sandman series (I know the Endless aren’t technically gods but their powers are god-adjacent).

And for stories that are set in underworlds, Lost Gods by Brom is phenomenally rich and beautiful and The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall offers a quiet but vivid world of gods and demons.



Very Specific and/or Non-Murdery Schools

I’m talking beyond assassin and wizard schools. Schools for automaton mechanics. Aspiring griffin trainers. Time traveling spies. Schools specifically made for demi-gods, because for some reason their powers manifest in unstable ways and they need to learn how to control that shit. Or schools for killer nuns, as we see in the Book of the Ancestor series.


But I’d really love it if the school featured mostly non-murdery activities. Like a traveling culinary school that roams the entire realm or galaxy, and its students learn about sustainable foods and methods on how to catch and cook some of the more challenging critters that exist in the world/universe.


Steampunked Asian Countries

So back in 2015, the universe gifted the world a masterpiece of an indie game called 80 Days. It’s basically a retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days (mashed up with his other famous works)except more steampunk and fantastical. And I’ve always loved steampunk as a subgenre, but I never realized how much I need Asian steampunk in my life until then. Steam-powered caravans pulling merchandise through the Silk Road. Asian aesthetics translated through the eyes of gears and cogs. And I want more of it. Badly.



Big Space Stations or Ships

Because they’re large enough to be their own little ecosystem of human and alien society, which is always interesting and fun, and because these stories usually feature found families and characters who would cross the depths of deep space and back for each other.ย The Mass Effect series and Becky Chambers’ books being notable examples.



Literally anywhere in the world that’s not the U.S.

Close your eyes and stick a pin anywhere in the world map, and if it’s not the U.S. then I want a story about it (unless we’re talking about Native American stories). Even if it’s out in the middle of the Pacific. Nothing against the U.S! It’s just that the market is so saturated with them and I just want to explore more countries that I’m not familiar with. Or countries that I am familiar with but have not been given enough spotlight in media. And let’s face it, there’s a LOT of them out there.





If you have recommendations for any of these categories–books, games, movies, anime–please, please, please do send them my way!

66 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday – Settings I Want to See More of in Fiction

  1. Tammy says:

    Ok first, it sounds like you need to write some of these yourself because I’ll totally read them! The idea of setting a story inside a whale is pretty cool. Although there is a book coming out that sounds similar, Nicki Draden’s next book takes place inside a “seafaring beast.” (Escaping Exodus.) Awesome list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      I REALLY do want to write a lot of these!!! I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all the possible dream whale stories since it first popped into my brain. ๐Ÿ˜€ And oooh, I’ve been excited about Escaping Exodus but I didn’t know the ship is going to be an actual beast! I thought it was more like one of those artificial-but-sentient ships (and I would have been happy with that). Well, now I’m even more excited!


  2. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    Great list! Books taking place in a God realm would amazing. Like you said so many stories involving gods take place in our world. Gods of Jade and Shadow has a lovely mix of 1920s Mexico and the Mayan Underworld and the scenes in the Mayan Underworld were SO GOOD.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. acquadimore says:

    …space whales. I can’t say I ever thought of that, but I did read a book in which a scene was set inside a whale (Under the Pendulum Sun, which can definitely be described as “trippy”*), so I guess it could happen?
    Also, I agree so much about the “literally anywhere that is not the US”, especially from authors who are themselves not from the US or have significant ties to the place they’re writing about, because I’d like to see other countries from a point of view who isn’t just there for the aesthetic.
    And underwater settings! They should be more common, I can’t wait to see what The Deep and The Light at the Bottom of the World do with them later this year. Great list!

    * [I really really recommend looking up the content warnings to anyone interested in reading it.]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Thank you!! I’ve been meaning to get to Under Pendulum Sun since it came out (I bought it because of the cover lol) so YAY, I’m happy to hear it’s got a whale scene! I should probably look up those content warnings beforehand, though.

      I’m not completely against people writing about countries that they don’t have ties with, but I’ve been burned by authors who just didn’t take the time to do enough research or check with sensitivity readers, and now I have major trust issues. Like, there’s this contemporary K-Pop story that’s recently come out, and it stars Korean-Americans and is set in Seoul. And it’s written by two white authors who are currently living in Korea, and I’m not sure if I want to try it or stay far away from it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • acquadimore says:

        Under the Pendulum Sun was definitely a cover buy for me too. I hope you like the inside as well!

        And that’s the worst, when the book sounds interesting but you don’t know if it would be a good idea to trust the authors with that premise. I usually end up not reading the book – too little time to get burned – but… yeah.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicole Evans says:

    AHHHH, you have so many GREAT options on your list!! I definitely am a fan of all of these, though in particular, I’d love more sky cities, forest cities, Asian steampunk (um, YES PLEASE) and anything that isn’t Westernized culture based. Great post! โค


  5. sjhigbee says:

    What a fabulous list! The god realm – The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin is also a cracking read – and The Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones is a great magical university with a lot of humour and without the murdery bit… also Spellwright about a dyslexic wizard by Blake Charlton; sky cities – Hidden Empire series by Jaine Fenn and a cracking space station read – Horizons by Mary Rosenblum… Those are my contributions – but I don’t have anything to offer for a whale story, except… ooooooo…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      You always end up piling so many books on my TBR mountain, Sarah, and I LOVE it. You have the best recs, thank you!!! I was debating whether or not to include The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, because its god world and mortal world is kind of smooshed up together, but I think it qualifies. ๐Ÿ˜€

      And it’s not a whale, but I’ve heard that Nicky Drayden’s upcoming Escaping Exodus features a ship that’s also a beast, so I’m very excited for that!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Justine says:

    Yay you did a T10T! There are so many on your lists that Iโ€™d die to see more of and so many new books on my radar now that Iโ€™ve read this post lol. For Snow and Ice Iโ€™ve heard really good things about Clan of the Cavebear. I cant judge for myself, though. ๐Ÿ˜…

    I also love how you said yea, you know, just literally not in the US loll. Same. Thereโ€™s a lot in literary fiction, but I donโ€™t reach for that genre a lot ><!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Chai @ Like Chai Tea says:

    Aww Patron Saints of Nothing is set in my country though I haven’t read that book yet. Ooh.. school for killer nuns remind me of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Though it’s not really a school but more like a convent. Anyway, time-traveling spies? A CONCEPT!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      I haven’t read Patron Saints of Nothing yet, either, but I’ve been hearing literally nothing but amazing things about it, and I’m hoping to get to it soon! And ahem, confession time! I actually stole the time-travelling spies one from a recent book I read (and LOVED) called This is How You Lose the Time War. It is SUCH a concept and the authors pull it off so well!


  8. Sarah says:

    These are all great picks!! Iโ€™d love to see more forest cities. Black Leopard, Red Wolf had one that I fell in love with (Dolingo, I think) until itโ€™s dark side was revealed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sophie @ Me and Ink says:

    Underwater societies are amazing– I mean if I could live in one I definitely would!! ๐Ÿ˜ I will have to check those books out!
    Ooh… the inside of the whale is super unique but I absolutely love whales so I am intrigued!!
    Sky islands are really cool– I too like the idea that you could step off at any given point and I imagine them to be so magical and dreamy as well!! ๐Ÿ˜
    Forest cities are also so, so amazing– I would love one!! I am dreaming of a treehouse palace/castle as well!! There should be more in books!! Yes, yes, yes!!
    Schools for certain skills are also super cool!! You can to delve into the skill and all the different components and explore so many things such as the magic and rules!! It is a brilliant setting!!
    I loved this post and I definitely want to see more of these settings too!! Great post!! ๐Ÿ’›

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Aww thank you, Vinny!!! I wrote it pretty last minute so it was fueled by 12 AM sugar energy. XD And YES to underwater stories! Songs from the Deep is another (possibly) underwater story coming out this year that I forgot to mention. It features sirens and I can’t wait!


  10. Diana says:

    I completely agree on the Underwater theme. I love to read books set underwater and my favourite book growing up was Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Avery @ RedRocketPanda says:

    ahhh I love this so much. Underwater (or just water-themed in general) are my absolute favourites. I haven’t gotten round to reading it yet but you might like the Underwater Ballroom Society, a whole water themed anthology, as well as Oceans (Frontiers of Speculative Fiction) which I have read and really enjoyed. I love a lot of your other suggestions as well, I feel like we have very similar tastes in things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

      Oh my god, YES, the Underwater Ballroom Society! I remember you and a few other bloggers talking about it last year and I had it added to my TBR but ended up forgetting about it. And I hadn’t even heard of the Oceans anthology before but it sounds fantastic (and the cover looks gorgeous). Tysm for the recs Avery!! โค


  12. Charlotte says:

    You seem to have put a lot of thought into the different whale ideas and they do sound intriguing. Maybe you should try out your dream one? I’d love more underwater books and I find something really appealing and snowy settings too (: I’d love more books at schools but I’m happy with any – especially boarding and magic schools, I know you get a lot of them but I do love those settings. I love the God idea!! I’d like to see more books in different places too. I have quite a few set in France on my TBR. I’d love to see more set in different times too; I love historical settings especially if they blend the supernatural in too.


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