World building fantasy not inspired by medieval Europe?

Basically works where it is a fantasy setting but with no connection to Earth or the modern day, and also not inspired by medieval Europe/England?

The one example that came to me first was the TV show Avatar The Last Airbender, although to be fair they heavily crib from Asian cultures in world building.

CJ Cherryh’s The Paladin is somewhat based on ancient China but not actually placed there. (It’s also quite good)

If it’s a matter of the setting rather than the society, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy does have a lords-and-serfs society, but it’s set on a planet that’s closer to Hell than it is medieval Europe. A red sky with ashes constantly falling from it, brown plants instead of green, constant volcanic eruptions, etc. And religion having been stamped out as a rival to the immortal Lord Ruler is a plot point - that’s not very medieval European.

Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts wrote the Empire trilogy, which is set on a world that’s a combination of East Asian and pre-Columbian cultures. Feist had an earlier fantasy series called The Riftwar Saga, about a standard European fantasy setting being invaded by another world. The Empire series takes place on that other world, at the same time as the events in The Riftwar Saga, and follows the fortunes of a noble house that’s only peripherally involved in the war. IIRC, the series mostly stands on its own, although the plot is often suddenly upended by events from the other books, in ways that might seem a bit arbitrary. For example, there’s a scene in the second Empire book where an angry wizard suddenly shows up at a stadium, destroys it, and vanishes. Kind of comes out of nowhere, unless you read the Riftwar books, where the wizard was the protagonist.

In The Shattered World by Micheal Reaves, people live on the shards of their former planet which was indeed literally shattered by magic in ancient times. The shards move in magically maintained orbits and a magically stabilized habitable atmosphere; the people travel from shard to shard by flying ship.

It’s not quite what was asked for, but The Leopard’s Daughter by Lee Killough is set in mythical Africa. While it’s presumably set on Earth, the setting is so different from medieval European fantasy I felt it worth a mention.

Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea is deliberately non-European. More like, “If the South Pacific had a medieval era.”

Very definitely set on Earth, but Hughart’s Bridge of Birds was delightfully non-Western.

The Hickman/Weis Rose of the Prophet series is more Middle Eastern than European.

My fantasy-adventure novel Sailor of the Skysea is set in a constructed world with a detailed history, with parallels to the Americas of the 18th and 19th century. I wanted to create a fantasy world, story, and characters with a distinctly American feel.

Greg Keyes wrote a two-book series called Chosen of the Changeling. We don’t visit the whole world, but the major culture in the part we see is patterned on ancient Egypt, with perhaps a touch of Mesopotamia. (Oh, and there’s a bunch of magic.) There are powerful nomadic cultures similar to Mongols or Plains Indians (post-Columbian). And some pastoral folks who live in the North–and are the only “white” culture we meet.

This is his first series & the writing isn’t stunning. But he really built an interesting world. Glad I’ve got the paperbacks–it might be worth reading agaon…

D’Shai and Hour of the Octopus by Joel Rosenberg are set is a vaguely Asian feeling world with a strict caste system, with the interesting twist that the castes and family lines have genuine magical significance. A warrior caste is magically adept at fighting, a family of acrobats has supernatural acrobatic skill and so on.

And really good too.

I came in to talk about Bridge of Birds too, but since that’s already taken - Dave Duncan’s Reluctant Swordsman series. The setting is very Indian/Hindu, with a pantheon of gods and goddesses, and a strict (very strict) caste system, mediated by a modern-day Western main character.

The Forgotten Realms “Maztica” trilogy isn’t connected to real earth but is pretty much a point by point fantasy version of the Spanish conquest of Mesoamerica only with magic and real feathered serpents.

That said, I feel like it barely qualifies since they just took earth history, added fireballs & dwarfs and said “Fantasy!”. Even the name Maztica is cringe-inducing for its lack of originality.

Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light is based on aspects of Indian culture, especially Hindu mythology and Buddhism. For all intents and purposes it’s a fantasy, although it has science fiction underpinnings. (The founders of the world came by space ship from Earth, and deliberately used Indian culture in remaking the world.)

Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness similarly takes place in the far future on a world based on ancient Egyptian culture.

Some of Zelazny’s other stories borrow from other cultures as well.

Guy Gavriel Kay has a brilliant duology set in a fictionalized Byzantium: Sailing to Sarantium. Absolutely outstanding.

Barbara Hambly’s Raven Sisters duology is set in a desert kingdom, and feels more Persian than European.

What I remember of Chaz Brenchley’s Outremer books was similar. Something desert-y and Middle Eastern.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms doesn’t feel European, though I don’t really know what to call it (such a good book, too). I’ve only read the first book in the series so far, but it can stand alone.

Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son Trilogy is set in something like the American West. I’m not sure I completely recommend them, though.

Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is set largely in an alternate world where Arthurian tropes are resurrected into/melded with cowboys and spaghetti-Western frontier life. Oh and its also a post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic society. It’s weird and out there, which is what I liked about it - a fantasy story in a setting unlike any I had encountered. I hated the way the series devolved toward the end, but the first three books are still favorites.

Alan Dean Foster’s **Spellsinger **is about a stoner musician brought to an alternate world by a turtle wizard, to fight an army of giant insects. Definitely not medieval Europe there.

Of course, both do relate to actual modern day Earth, so maybe not exactly what you’re looking for.

I don’t know…I mean, superficially, it’s not European, what with the majority of the population being anthropomorphic animals, but the societies are flat-out standard fantasy European…towns and villages with European-style inns and blacksmiths and outfitters, wise wizards, town councils, city councils, guilds, even down to Robin Hood-type hats with a feather in them! It’s just an anthro gloss on the standard medieval European fantasy trope. You could really swap out Mudge with any standard rogue/hunter sidekick and it would work just as well. Same with Clothahump and a standard absent-minded, crotchety wizard.

And the Plated Folk are standard faceless Mongol/Hunnish hordes.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t LIKE the Spellsinger series. I do. If I came across copies of them in a used bookstore I’d buy them and read them again.

It’s been decades since I read it, so I may just not be remembering accurately, but I seem to recall Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant doing a pretty good job of building a world that wasn’t modeled after any particular Earth culture.

Nitpic: The duology is The Sarantine Mosaic: Sailing to Sarantium is the first book (Lord of Emperors is the second). Agree that it’s oustanding, but I’d argue that Byzantium would count as medieval Europe (and the books start in a clear analogue of Italy).

His most recent books, Under Heaven and River of Stars, are set in analogues of historical China. Under Heaven was quite good: River of Stars was just released and I haven’t read it yet.

$12.99 for a Kindle Book? Is it that good?

The Ketty Jay series?.

Kind of a slightly steampunk Firefly with airships, demons, golums, magic etc

Melissa Scott’s Five-Twelfths of Heaven and its sequels only spends a small time on Earth in the last book. It’s set in a future interstellar civilization where technology has largely been abandoned for magic; “Five-Twelfths of Heaven” for example is a starship velocity.