12 Compelling Fantasy Books That Aren't Afraid to Get Dark

Fantasy isn't all fairies and unicorns; sometimes the genre delves into paranormal monsters that lurk in the shadows or black magic that corrupts from within. The twelve books listed here will pull you in with their unique worlds and fascinating characters and will keep you glued to the pages as they explore the darker side of fantasy. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Dark Fantasy: Our 12 Picks

Title Author
1. Of Bone and Thunder Chris Evans
2. Whispers in the Lake Brandy Nacole
3. Breaking Cadence Rebecca Clare Smith
4. Dead Soil Alex Apostol
5. The Kingdom of Eternal Sorrow C.G. Garcia
6. Dark as the Grave Peter W. Dawes
7. Wake of Vultures Lila Bowen
8. Apocalypta Z Maer Wilson
9. Black Heart, Red Ruby Teresa Yea
10. It Came From The Deep Maria Lewis
11. Blackbird Falling Em Shotwell
12. Sunscorched Jen Crane

Fun Activities For Fantasy Fans

8 Great Fantasy Horror Movies

  1. The Craft (1996)
  2. Underworld (2003)
  3. Trick 'r Treat (2007)
  4. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
  5. The Devil's Carnival (2012)
  6. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
  7. Krampus (2015)
  8. Dracula Untold (2014)

Common Fantasy Tropes

The possibilities in this genre are endless, and no two authors create exactly the same world. Still, there are several common tropes that writers love to come back to again and again, sometimes adding their own unique twists. Here are a few beloved fantasy staples:

The Mythology of Monsters

In Depth

Fantasy books may sometimes involve cute romances and fairy godmothers, but these imaginative settings and characters can also be used to tackle difficult issues people face in the real world. If you're looking for challenging stories that explore tragic themes, then you should check out these twelve compelling fantasy books that aren't afraid to get dark, listed in no particular order.

First up, at #1, we have "Of Bone and Thunder" by Chris Evans. Inspired by the Vietnam War, this story is set in the magical land of Luitox. Humans of the Kingdom occupy this realm, engaged in conflict with the rebellious natives known as slyts. The novel focuses on different soldiers of the Kingdom as they try to survive a seemingly unwinnable war, dealing with the issues of racial inequality and drug abuse along the way.

Next, at #2, is Brandy Nacole's "Whispers in the Lake." When she was younger, Jada and her brother were trained to be ghost hunters. Now, she's on her own, and her friend Eliza needs her help in solving a strange case revolving around a lake in Maine. There, people see and hear the wailing apparitions of the deceased, and Jada must dig deep into the town's dark history in order to figure out why ghosts keep appearing on the small island in the middle of the lake.

Now, she's on her own, and her friend Eliza needs her help in solving a strange case revolving around a lake in Maine.

At #3 is "Breaking Cadence" by Rebecca Clare Smith. Cadence Laurence lives in a town ruled by an oppressive committee, and when her brother Alex and his girlfriend break the rules, the three of them are forced to leave and fend for themselves in the harsh Wastelands. When her ex-lover resurfaces and splits the group apart, Cadence must find a way to save Alex and his girlfriend before it's too late.

Next, at #4, is "Dead Soil" by Alex Apostol. In the year 2020, a deadly flu that raises the dead spreads across the globe and threatens to wipe out humanity. As scientists rush to find a cure, people around the world struggle to cope with the losses of their loved ones and figure out how to fend off the hordes of zombies. The story focuses on several survivors living in the city of Chicago, each learning to adjust to their new, and potentially permanent, reality.

Next up, at #5, we have "The Kingdom of Eternal Sorrow" by C.G. Garcia. After accidentally falling into a portal, Allison McNeal finds herself in a strange new dimension. She soon discovers that she has powerful magical abilities which play a pivotal role in an ancient prophecy that will determine the fate of the entire world. With the help of an enigmatic Mage-general and a group known as the Brothers in Divinity, Allison must learn to control her powers before she inadvertently destroys everything around her.

After accidentally falling into a portal, Allison McNeal finds herself in a strange new dimension.

Next, at #6, is "Dark as the Grave" by Peter W. Dawes. One night, Peter discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him, causing him to go into a blind rage and murder his lover. While he's on the run from the authorities, a woman named Sabrina turns him into a vampire, and under her thrall, Peter trains to become a deadly assassin, changing his name to Flynn in the process. As he clings to the last bit of humanity he has left, he must decide whether he's truly good or evil.

At #7 is "Wake of Vultures" by Lila Bowen. Nettie Lonesome is a girl whose adoptive parents treat her like a slave. One day, she's attacked by a stranger who's seemingly impervious to everything she throws at him, but when she stabs him in the chest with a piece of wood, her attacker turns into a pile of black sand. Realizing that the world is full of monsters hiding in plain sight, she sets out to learn more about her true nature and why she can suddenly see these creatures.

Next, at #8, is Maer Wilson's "Apocalypta Z." While traveling home with her two poodles, Maddie stops at a rest area in order to take a quick break. When one of her dogs runs away, she's forced to leave it behind after she's suddenly attacked by zombies. With the help of a man named Nick Stanton, she works to gather fellow survivors and start a colony out in the desert. They soon learn that Maddie's missing dog may hold the key to saving humanity, so they set out to rescue her.

When one of her dogs runs away, she's forced to leave it behind after she's suddenly attacked by zombies.

Next up, at #9, we have "Black Heart, Red Ruby" by Teresa Yea. After losing her mother and getting expelled from high school, Ava has nowhere left to go. Neglected by her father, who's completely obsessed with his research, she starts working in order to make ends meet. When she learns about Arabella's Curse, a priceless gem that can raise the dead, Ava goes on a dangerous quest to find and hopefully use it to turn her life around.

At #10 is "It Came From The Deep" by Maria Lewis. Blamed for an unfortunate tragedy, athlete Kaia Craig's career is in jeopardy. One night, she's assaulted and nearly drowned in Lake Pelutz by her accusers, but when her attackers suddenly run away, she's convinced that she was saved by something that dwells underwater. Now, she digs deep into the history of Lake Pelutz in order to learn more about its inhabitants and whether the creature that saved her is a friend or foe.

Next, at #11, is Em Shotwell's "Blackbird Falling." Delia Caibre is a single mom with the power to make people love her. Her former lover Thomas Richard begs for her forgiveness, but she refuses his advances and focuses on raising her daughter Genevieve, who has powerful magical abilities. When a man from her past curses her sister and kidnaps Genevieve, Delia must set things right by bringing together the remaining members of the Caibre family.

Her former lover Thomas Richard begs for her forgiveness, but she refuses his advances and focuses on raising her daughter Genevieve, who has powerful magical abilities.

Finally, at #12, we have "Sunscorched" by Jen Crane. Several years ago, a phenomenon known as a sunscorch, which killed billions of people around the planet, left Nori Chisholm with a deadly allergy to sunlight. When her family receives news of another impending sunscorch, they're forced to send Nori underground, where she discovers a world full of hardships and cutthroat individuals. After uncovering shocking secrets about these subterranean communities, she learns that everyone above is in danger, and now she must do whatever it takes to return to her family.