Sometimes, you might like your fantasy a bit macabre, with a little gloominess, or just straight-up scary and violent. If that’s the case, dark fantasy books are probably already your forte. Dark fantasy can take many forms, combining the elements of fantasy with horror and supernatural stories, while others delve into ominous and sinister depictions of violence, war, and bloodshed.
But say you’re not already an expert in the subject of the best dark fantasy novels. It might be hard to know where to start. Worry not, because you can’t really go wrong with these books. Here are some more of our favorites to get you started!
In a dark fantasy world brimming with industrial growth and opportunity, there is an unspoken of undercurrent of violence and deception swirling. Joe Abercrombie's A Little Hatred more than lives up to its title, evoking themes of industrialization, class warfare, and greed in a sweeping narrative that kicks off the ongoing Age of Madness series.
The first in a new fantasy duology, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin draws on West African folklore to tell the story of a princess, Karina, and a refugee, Karina, who must navigate the conflict between their romantic attraction to one another and what feels like a fated series of events that are leading them to literally murder one another. This is a tight-knit story by Roseanne A. Brown, an exciting new voice in YA fantasy.
The tension between a violent upbringing and the urge to protect is the central conflict in David Dalglish's A Dance of Cloaks, the dark fantasy book in the six-part Shadowdance series. As an introduction to the series, it is a brilliant, action-driven novel that sets the stage for grand episodes of intrigue and violence to come.
Elena May somehow combined fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal vampire fiction into one incredible package here in Kingdom of Ashes, which depicts a world in which vampires rule the world and breed humans for food. There is a resistance force gaining momentum in the shadows, one which a young woman named Myra attempts to join. However, she is captured instead, and must plot her escape. This is one of the best dark fantasy novels for young adults in recent years, and was originally self-published.
N.K. Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy is nothing short of an incredible trio of books, and is particularly notable for being the prolific author's debut series. While book one is a great adventure in its own right, books two and three are where the series really reaches great heights. The Broken Kingdoms takes place a decade after the events of the first book, while The Kingdom of Gods occurs one hundred years after that. Part of what I like so much about this series is its willingness to stretch its own timeline so far, and to explore the long-ranging implications the events of one book has on its successor.
Looking for an urban fantasy that combines uncanny environments and characters, almost reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, with magic, monsters, and a sly sense of humor, all tied together into a neat dark fantasy package? Neverwhere may just be the book for you. Following the journey of Richard Mayhew, a businessman, through the strange alternate-reality under the streets of London, this is an intriguing and unique read.
Devin Madson's debut novel is an emotionally cathartic story of three people—a warrior, an assassin, and a princess—attempting to pursue their individual ambitions in a world that is ravaged by constant war. The Kisian Empire, a sprawling state built on bloody conquest, is in danger of crumbling, and provides the perfect backdrop for this story of power, violence, and greed. It's one of the best dark fantasy novels to come out this year, and should definitely be on your TBR.
The first in Brent Weeks's Night Angel series, The Way of Shadows follows Durzo Blint, an extraordinarily skilled assassin who treats his trade like an art form. He is a prolific killer, to whom a young man named Azoth apprentices himself as a tactic for survival. In doing so, Azoth must abandon his old life, and even his very identity, and completely embrace the politics and arcana of life as a professional assassin.
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D.R. Baker is a writer and musician based in New York City. Their work has appeared at Book Riot, Submittable, HowlRound, and others.