Dark Fantasy Books to Keep You Up at Night
The world of fantasy books is wide and vast. One bright—okay, dark—spot is dark fantasy, which incorporates more horror-y themes than regular fantasy. Things are, well, dark, scary, and gloomy. Here, we have some excellent novels and novellas that fit the bill of dark fantasy, with tales of ravaged kingdoms, genetic mutations, and everything in between. Sink your teeth into these dark fantasy books that are sure to keep you up all night.
The Banished Lands are in chaos. While Queen Rhin conquered the west, High King Nathair held on to the cauldron—the most powerful of the seven treasures. Behind Nathair are the demons of the Otherworld, and they plan to take more with them to the world of flesh. They just need to get those seven treasures. Nathair knows what is going on and has to decide which side of history he wants to be on. Meanwhile, there are plans for a rebellion under Nathair's rule. Corban, suffering the losses and hardships of war, is ready to spark change. He travels to Drassil, the fabled fortress deep in the Forn Forest, where the spear of Skald, another of the seven treasures, lies. John Gwynne's Ruin is the third book in The Faithful and the Fallen series, in which a prophesy foretold that the Bright Star will fight the Black Sun.
In this novella, a sequel to the Inheritance trilogy, some truths must be learned the hard way. Shill, the first new godling born in thousands of years, defies her parents and sneaks off to the mortal realm. She steals a demon's grandchild, finds herself in a secret underground magical dance competition, and offends her powerful sibling. Did we mention that she's also the heir presumptive to Sieh the Trickster? The Awakened Kingdom by N. K. Jemisin is the story of Shill and her friend Eino, who is trapped in an arranged marriage and has had enough of the kingdom. He's going to fight back, and Shill's going to have to grow up on new terms.
Al Jeery is a loyal member of the Cardinal's personal guard. The Cardinal is the ruler of the City. When Al is pulled from his regular duties to investigate a murder, he finds an unexpected discovery that tests his loyalty. The mystery runs deep, with hints of the dead, the City's Incan forefathers, the Cardinal, and the near-mythical assassin Paucar Wami—an enigmatic figure who can kill anyone without consequence. In Darren Shan's dark fantasy novel Hell's Horizon, Al has to come to terms with the truths he discovers and how much he and Wami have in common.
For years, the Free has sold its martial and magical skills to the highest bidder, winning victories that have overthrown kings and shaken empires. They are the most feared mercenary company in the world. Yulan, a newcomer to the Free, is ready to prove himself as worthy of the job title. He gets his chance when corsair marauders ravage the kingdom's coastline and he has to bring calm. But getting the king to sign a peace treaty isn't so simple; the fortress holds many secrets. In Brian Ruckley's A Tale of the Free: Corsair, Yulan has to fight for the glory of his kingdom, but also for his own survival.
Sabina Kane is of mixed blood—half vampire, half mage—and for that, she's an outcast and a professional assassin. But her latest mission is one that can undo years of fragile peace between her two races. Sabina has to pick a side, but this time, it's far too personal. In Jaye Wells's Red-Headed Stepchild, Sabina learns deep, dark secrets about her birth and has to contend with that along with her big mission.
Enoch Bryant was called a monster from birth and has been abandoned by his family. He lives in a rundown orphanage now and finds that the other children there are just like him. They're called "the plague generation" and they all have a genetic mutation causing hidden powers. It's 1984 and the post-apocalyptic world is unkind to Enoch. He's never hurt anyone, but everyone in the nearby town hates him. The barriers between the orphanage and the rest of the world are high—as are tensions. When a dead body shows up, things get even more tense and a revolution is sparked in Craig DiLouie's One of Us.
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Ashley Holstrom is a book person, designing them and writing about them for Book Riot. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color.