Top 5 Books with Desert Settings I Want to Read

photo of race the sands for top 5 desert settingsThis Top 5 series started back in October 2018 and it has grown really big! This is a series of books that all have a common theme. I post the schedule for the next month the last week of the prior month. You can talk about books you want to read or books you have read and all prompts are open for interpretation! Feel free to get as creative as you want with the prompts.

Upcoming Schedule!

February 27th, 2021 — Snow on the Cover

March 6th, 2021 — Gift Books (Books you got as a gift, would give as a gift or have given as a gift.)

March 13th, 2021 —  Fire on the Cover

March 20th, 2021 — Love Triangle

March 27th, 2021 — Desert Setting

April 3rd, 2021 — Diverse Characters

April 10th, 2021 — Blood on the Cover

April 17th, 2021 — Longest Books (Books you’ve read, on your TBR.)

Desert Settings

I love reading a book that is inspired by cultures that I don’t know or set in settings that are unlike the area that I like in. I like my reading to be pretty diverse and that includes diverse characters and diverse settings. Lately I’ve noticed that I am really fascinated by desert settings. I think a large part of that is because they tend to be influenced by cultures that fascinate me, but another part of that is that they feel exotic to me. There are a lot of cultural fantasies that have desert settings that I want to read and there are lots of books with desert settings that I’ve read and absolutely loved. Some of my favorite books with desert settings are: Race the Sands, Tiger Queen, The Candle and the Flame, An Ember in the Ashes, The Never Tilting World.

book cover with scorpion on it for desert setting top 5 booksThe Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

I really wanted an ARC of this book back when it first came out, but unfortunately I didn’t get one. But the sequel is coming out soon, so now would be a great time to pick this one up. This book has a competition for the throne, which is tends to make for a really fun concept. Plus the main character can communicate with animals. This sounds so cool!

book cover for top 5 books with desert settingsEmpire of Sand by Tasha Suri

A nobleman’s daughter with magic in her blood. An empire built on the dreams of enslaved gods. Empire of Sand is Tasha Suri’s captivating, Mughal India-inspired debut fantasy.

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.

Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance…

Empire of Sand is a lush, dazzling fantasy novel perfect for readers of City of Brass and The Wrath & the Dawn.

Honestly I don’t know much about this one other than it’s a cultural fantasy inspired by Indian history. A lot of my friends have really liked this book and I’ve heard that the setting is super vividly described. I got an ARC of this book back when it came out years ago and still haven’t read it. But I did just get an ARC of the author’s upcoming release The Jasmine Throne, and I predict that I’ll pick this one up when I finish The Jasmine Throne if I wind up loving it.

book cover of the girl of fire and thorns for top 5 books with desert settingsThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

I picked up a copy of this book recently because I’ve been looking at backlist series to binge read and this one sounds really interesting. It’s got some Latino influences and I actually didn’t realize that it had a desert setting until I was researching books for this post. I’ve heard that the character development is done really well in this book and the main character changes a lot. I love when character development is done well, so that has me pretty excited for this book!

book cover of the hundredth queen The Hundredth Queen by Emily R King

He wanted a warrior queen. He got a revolutionary.

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

This book is actually available for free to Amazon Prime members with Prime reading, so I’ve had a copy of it for a while now. This book has a lot of really incredible reviews from friends of mine and looks like it has a lot of potential. It looks rather unique and there is even a competition in this book!

the wrath and the dawn book cover for desert settings top 5 postThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Okay so I have to admit that I had a very hard time choosing a fifth book for this post, there were just too many good ones to choose from. So I decided on The Wrath and the Dawn because it has the highest Goodreads average. Everyone seems to love this one and I’m assuming that’s because it’s really good. It sounds like this book has some morally grey characters and has a lot of fans.

Check out other book blogger’s top 5 picks!

Etta @ Chonky Books — ~ Top 5 Saturday: Deserted Islands ~

Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog — Desert Setting — Top 5 Saturday!

Dini @ Dinipandareads — Top 5 Saturday: Books Set in the Desert

Jill @ Jill’s Book Blog — Top 5 Saturday — Desert Books

Lou @ Lou’s Book Stuff — Top 5 Saturday || Books with a Desert Theme/Setting That I Really Want to Read||

Let’s Chat!

Do you enjoy desert settings? What are some of your favorite books that are set in the desert? What do you like about desert settings? Have you read any of the books I listed above? What did you think? Make sure to comment below so we can chat about books with desert settings!


25 thoughts on “Top 5 Books with Desert Settings I Want to Read

Add yours

    1. I’ve never been to a desert so it’s great when a book can describe something so well that you’ve never experienced yourself. I like the cultural fantasies the most but I do love desert settings. One of my favorites is definitely Tiger Queen, I feel like that one really showed what the desert was like. And the The Candle and the Flame was a really good cultural fantasy. And Race the Sands was an incredible thrilling fantasy with great characters. But I feel like Tiger Queen really helped me visualize the setting the best


  1. Great Picks! I loved Empire of Sand, Girls of Fire & Thorn & Wrath and the Dawn. They’re all brilliant stories with some amazing characters. I’m also really excited to read The Kinder Poison, I read a few reviews from the blog tour & they’re all really positive 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Kinder Poison is on my wishlist I really want a copy!! And in glad to hear you liked Empire of Sand, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and Wrath and Dawn. Which one was your favorite of the three?? I own both Girl of Fire and Thorns and Empire of Sands.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay glad I’m not the only one! I have some old ARCs that I still havent read. My interests have changed over the years so I used to be intimidated by books over 300 pages and now I prefer longer books. So I have some longer fantasies from back then that I wouldn’t have wanted to read then but would love now. So it kinda works out

        Liked by 1 person

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