Looking for some (dark?) fantasy book recommendations


I’ve been an avid reader in the past few months and have had the pleasure of enjoying some very immersive fantasy novels.

Four series in particular that I have very much enjoyed are:

  • the Black Company omnibusses by Glen Cook
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
  • The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
  • the Malazan Fallen empire books by Steve Erikson

I am looking for more stand-alone novels as well as series which could be compared to these novels.

Aspects I like to see in the books I read:

  • heroes which don’t have as many lives as cats and (can) actually perish
  • preferably no black and white, but grey characters, each with their own motives and no absolute good and evil (of course some characters can be that or some enemy faction etc., but I’d like some grey areas)
  • can be low or high-magic worlds, but in my experience these aforementioned aspects are mostly found in the lower-magic fantasy works
  • i also like some grittiness

Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions

Bakker’s Prince of Nothing series. Dark and epic.

Mieville’s Bas-Lag novels. Dark and weird.

Kay’s Lions of Al-Rassan. A little dark, a little bloody, and very poetic.

Abercrombie’s First Law books (especially Best Served Cold). Dark-ish adventure.

Just sayin. ;)

Razarok, read the first 5 Amber books (the “Corwin cycle”, as it were) by Rodger Zelazney. Plenty of grey there (lots of machinations, and Corwin rules). Technically I guess I would call it high magic, except that calling it high magic will make you immediately think all sorts of things about it that aren’t actually true.

Oops. Meant that to be a recommendation of the non-trilogy First Law books.

I would recommend Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. With 7 books in total, they’ll keep you buys for some time.

Seconding the recommendation of China Mieville’s Bas-Lag books. They meet your requirements exactly and also have the bonus of being extremely well-written and having a fresh, innovative setting.

This is a very different kind of fantasy than any of the above, but I think you would likely enjoy Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels (starting with The Devil You Know). Also, if you’re willing to branch into comics, Carey’s Lucifer and (before Lucifer, as it’s technically a spinoff) Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

Parker’s The Folding Knife or The Company. Not The Hammer. The Engineer Trilogy is quite good as well.

Michael Moorcock’s Elric or Hawkmoon/Runestafe, both of which are recently released in excellent editions.

The original Conan stories have been released by Del Ray in excellent editions and they are still worth reading if you haven’t read them before.

Thank you very much, everyone.

Will be placing an order with amazon later and will check out these series.

Bakker’s Prince of Nothing and Aspect-Emperor series are great. Definitely recommended.

I’d throw the first Covenant trilogy out there as a suggestion.

I’d recommend Gemma Files’ Hexslinger series. Western setting with lots of blood, sex, and Aztec-flavored magic.

I liked Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories, collected in Tales of the Dying Earth. The darkness isn’t from grim warriors tripping over piles of corpses. It’s from a feeling of resignation. The cool people had emigrated the planet, come back, left again, etc., as technology became sufficiently indistinguishable from magic. By the time these stories take place, the cool people have left for good and the meek have inherited the Dying Earth. The remainders have no incentive to be selfless. Humanity is just marking time before the sun finally gutters out (or alternately are being eaten by ineffable horrors). Vance’s writing style is inimitable.

You might have to hunt through used book stores to find this other one, but Richard Adams (the dude who wrote Watership Down) wrote an epic doorstop named Maia. Terrible things happen to the eponymous heroine. She is more of a Pollyanna than a Mary Sue, but there’s darkness in the world. The political system is the basic Evil Empire, rife with slavery and treachery. Much of the sexytime (and good lord, there’s a lot of it in this book) is filled with both sadism and masochism. There are a few grim warriors in this one. I don’t remember if the corpses came in piles, though.

I was about to recommend Vance, in particular the Cugel stories (which are collected in Tales of the Dying Earth). Cugel is the ultimate anti-hero, and best of all, he doesn’t brood over it. It lacks grittiness by modern standards, but eh.

Richard K. Morgan’s The Steel Remains should also fit the bill. It’s plenty gritty, too :-)

Abercrombie was great, really enjoyed those.

My lord, can’t believe nobody has mentioned David Gemmell yet!

Steer clear of the late stuff, his writing declined towards the last several books, IMO, but most of the early books are great. Low magic, gritty and dark. Some books and characters are more greyscale than others. There are a few different ‘worlds’ in which the stories take place, but each book is pretty much self contained. If you like Abercrombie, I suspect you would like these.

A couple of recommendations:

Legend - his first book, pretty much a must read
Wolf in Shadow (post apocalyptic/fantasy hybrid)
Knights of Dark Renown
Echoes of the Great Song
Winter Warriors
Sword in the Storm

Ugh, thumbs down.

Strange book that wasn’t particularly enjoyable (it was memorable, unfortunately).

If Vance is fair game, his predecessor Clark Ashton Smith should qualify. As should Vance’s successor, Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, which perhaps has fewer of the stock horror elements of other dark fantasy tales, but whose setting and overall content fit the bill.

I can’t believe no one else has said anything about The Dark Tower series. No King readers here or did nobody enjoy the series?

You might want to read back up the thread.

Are you implying that the series doesn’t fall under the category of dark fantasy?