Horror in Strange Pages: 6 Creepy Dark Fantasy Books was originally published in our horror newsletter, The Fright Stuff. Sign up for it here to get horror news, reviews, deals, and more!
It has been almost two years since I decided that I needed more horror in my reading life and started my first forays into the genre. And now I’m here, writing you this, and that’s a bit surreal. It was actually dark fantasy that served as my soft intro to the horror genre: that beloved intersection of fantasy and horror.
Sometimes horror is zombies and ghosts, sometimes it’s unholy magics, twisted monsters, and vengeful gods. You don’t have to choose! Part of the beauty of horror is its crossover power, able to fit into any other genre and make everything it touches that much darker and creepier. Whether it’s dark fantasy or a particularly vicious romantic suspense novel, if it makes your skin do that crawling thing where it tries to physically move away from the book you’re holding, it’s also horror. So let’s celebrate those books both frightening and magical.
Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria
Still the winner of the “most delightful cover ever” award, Soria’s dark fantasy novel features a city and a people ruled by the ancient prophecies of the elder seers, issued from behind the closed doors of the citadel even as the people wage a war in the streets. It has been over a decade since the last infallible prophecy came to pass and left unrest and anger in its wake. Now Cassa and her friends must solve the mystery of the final prophecy before their city and all they’ve known is destroyed in its wake.
The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood
It’s dark, it’s queer, and I’m here for it. Csorwe, sacred tribute, turns her back on the Shrine of the Unspoken and the sacrifice that should have been hers. She follows the powerful mage who offered her her life in exchange for her assistance in his quest to destroy an empire and reclaim his power. But old vows are not easily broken, and gods have a nasty tendency to remember those who have betrayed them.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Lin is the daughter and former heir to her father’s throne, presiding over an empire controlled by mighty and horrible bone shard magic. When her father refuses to recognize her claim to the throne, even as his own power fails him and revolution threatens to split the Empire apart, Lin vows to master the dark power of the bone shard magic and surpass even her father in skill. But that much power comes at a terrible cost, and Lin must decided how far she is truly willing to go to claim her seat on the throne.
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht
Giesbrecht’s novella is a delight of dark fantasy goodness. In the dying city of Elendhaven, on the edge of the sea, a monster stalks the shadows and does his master’s bidding: a creature in the shape of a man but who cannot die like one, twisted by magic and and shaped by his master’s cruel cunning. Together they will have their revenge on Elendhaven, no matter the cost.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Chupeco you might recognize as the talented author of the Girl from the Well YA horror series, and I’m happy to say that her dark fantasy Bone Witch series is every bit as dark and delightful. Also, there’s necromancy. And if you stick around here long enough, you’ll realize that Jessica never says no to necromancy. Tea can raise the dead, but at a price. She has a gift for necromancy, which means that she is a bone witch, but though her abilities allowed her to resurrect her brother from the dead, they also mean that she is feared and shunned by those around her.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
You might remember Craig’s debut novel making the horror rounds in 2019. It was even nominated this summer for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Award for Best Young Adult novel. Inspired by the fairytale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” House of Salt and Sorrows is dark, gothic, and filled with magic. Annaleigh lives in a manor by the sea with her sisters, her father, and her stepmother. Where there were once 12 sisters roaming the halls, there are now only eight, and the tragic death toll just keeps climbing. Every night Annaleigh’s sisters sneak out and spend the night dancing at mysterious balls with unknown partners. And one by one they die. Who — or what — have they been dancing with?
Looking for more dark fantasy reads? Try: