The Dark Side of Fantasy

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Wyrd and Wonder is a celebration of all things fantasy. The format of figurative consumption doesn’t matter. You can read, watch, game, puzzle, etc. anything fantasy! To learn more visit my introduction post, which includes links to the hosts and more information about this month-long appreciation of the fantasy genre.

Today’s Wyrd and Wonder prompt is “dark:”

Time to celebrate a subgenre – choose your path wisely, whether you love grimdark, dark fantasy, or horror.

When I stop to think about the type of fantasy I read, it comes down to either fantasy with romance or dark fantasy. Usually there’s some of both subgenres in a fantasy book that I pick up.

What is dark fantasy? Fantasy Book Fanatic describes this subgenre as “typified by a deliberately ominous tone, reinforcing what is commonly perceived as a “gloomy” atmosphere. Standard features of fantasy are deliberately intertwined with a sense of terror and dread to create this sinister subcategory of fantasy.” FBF lists characteristics often found in dark fantasy books, which can include a deliberately ominous tone; the possibility that evil can win; themes of good vs. evil; a lack of heroes; elements of horror; and a gloomy atmosphere.

Based on this definition I’d say I read dark fantasy, though it errs more to the lighter than the grimdark side of things. I think I gravitate towards this subgenre because it’s more realistic, in a sense. I’m also not a very fluffy person, so to speak, and like to read about a good character-building conflict.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of books that I feel fall into the dark fantasy subgenre. Maybe you’ll find a few that interest you to check out later.

The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins: Review

Over 400 years ago, twelve great warriors united the beleaguered armies of men and scoured the war-torn lands of evil, pushing the enemy back into the underground pits and caverns from whence they came. To ensure their legacy, each of the Twelve founded fortress monasteries to impart their unique knowledge of war and politics to a select few, the Knights of the Twelve.

But now the last of the Twelve have long since passed from history to legend and the Knights, their numbers dwindling, are harbouring a dark and terrible secret that must be protected at all costs.

Merad Reed has spent half his life guarding a great crater known as the Pit, yearning for some escape from the bleak monotony. Then the arrival of Aldarin, one of the few remaining Knights of the Twelve, sets off a chain of cataclysmic events that will change Reed forever.

To the north, Jelaïa del Arelium, heiress to the richest of the nine Baronies, must learn to navigate the swirling political currents of her father’s court if she hopes one day to take his place. But the flickering flames of ambition hide the shadow of an even greater threat.

And deep within the earth, something is stirring.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan: Review

Brie hates the Fae and refuses to have anything to do with them, even if that means starving on the street. But when her sister is sold to the sadistic king of the Unseelie court to pay a debt, she’ll do whatever it takes to get her back–including making a deal with the king himself to steal three magical relics from the Seelie court.

Gaining unfettered access to the Seelie court is easier said than done. Brie’s only choice is to pose as a potential bride for Prince Ronan, and she soon finds herself falling for him. Unwilling to let her heart distract her, she accepts help from a band of Unseelie misfits with their own secret agenda. As Brie spends time with their mysterious leader, Finn, she struggles to resist his seductive charm.

Caught between two dangerous courts, Brie must decide who to trust with her loyalty. And with her heart.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna: Review

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

A Land of Never After by R.L. Davennor: Review

All my life, I’ve dreamed of the sea.

Mermaids, stormy skies, daring adventures, pirates…it was little wonder I sprinted to the docks the moment I left the orphanage. Eager to begin my new life, I searched for a ship that would have me—and found a thief instead. I chased the bastard.

Now I’m trapped.

I’m told this place is Neverland, but everything I touch is dead or dying; what’s left is hellbent on killing each other. Monsters lurk around every corner, and everyone I meet hides a damning secret. I’m thrust in the middle of a deadly feud, and the only one capable of unraveling the curse that plagues us.

Neverland is my home now. Until it’s done with me?

It will never let go.

Peter Pan meets Pirates of the Caribbean in A Land of Never After, but reader beware: this children’s tale has been reimagined for adult lovers of all things dark and deadly, with an LGBTQ+ positive twist.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten: Review

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose—to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood—and her world—whole.

To Bleed a Crystal Bloom by Sarah A. Parker: Review

Nineteen years ago, I was plucked from the heart of a bloody massacre that spared nobody else.

Small. Fragile.
An enigma.

Now ward to a powerful High Master who knows too much and says too little, I lead a simple life, never straying from the confines of an imaginary line I’ve drawn around the castle grounds.
Stay within. Never leave.
Out there, the monsters lurk. Inside, I’m safe … though at a cost far greater than the blood I drip into a goblet daily.
Toxic, unreciprocated love for a man who’s utterly unavailable.

My savior. My protector.
My almost executioner.

I can’t help but be enamored with the arcane man who holds the power to pull my roots from the ground.

When voracious beasts spill across the land and threaten to fray the fabric of my tailored existence, the petals of reality will peel back to reveal an ugly truth. But in a castle puddled with secrets, none are greater than the one I’ve kept from myself.

No tower is tall enough to protect me from the horror that tore my life to shreds.

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