Good Dark Fantasy Books?

humorblade

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Hello all,

First time on the forum, and I'm looking for some good old fashion dark fantasy. Back in the day I used to read a lot of the Ravenloft stuff, but that seems to have died off as far as I can tell. Anyone have any good recommendations? Been a while for me. Thanks!
 

Heather Myst

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humorblade,

Dark fantasy is my favorite and here are my suggestions:

George R.R.Martin Song of Ice and Fire series.
Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth series.
Joe Abercrombie First Law series and Best Served Cold.
John Marco Tyrants and Kings series.
David Coe Winds of the Forelands series.
Fiona McIntosh Quickening, Percheron, and Valisar series.
Jennifer Fallon Second Sons trilogy.
Carol Berg Rai-Kirah series.
J.V.Jones Sword of Shadows series.
Brent Weeks Night Angel trilogy.
Michael J. Sullivan Riyria series.
Greg Keyes Thorn and Bone series.
Patrick Rothfuss The Name of the Wind.
David Durham Acacia and The Other Lands.
Robert Redick The Red Wolf Conspiracy and The Ruling Sea.
Scott Lynch The Lies of Locke Lamora.
Anne Bishop Black Jewels series
 
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Heather Myst

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A few more that you might enjoy:

Lynn Flewelling Nightrunner and Tamir series
C.S.Friedman Coldfire series
Glen Cook Black Company series
Brandon Sanderson Elantris and Warbreaker
 

Nesacat

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Here are some from the classics if you wish to give those a try and have not read them already:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

And some more contemporary offerings:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Sanctuary by Edith Wharton
Song of Kali by Dan Simmons
The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
The Imago Sequence & Other Stories by Laird Barron
 

humorblade

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Wow. That's quite a list. Sadly, I think Frankenstein is the only one I've heard of. Let me do some research on the list you gave me. Thanks for the help. Personally, I think dark fantasy is the better part of fantasy fiction. Not sure how many others would agree though. Thanks again.
 

j d worthington

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Much of Moorcock's Eternal Champion cycle is of the dark fantasy stripe, especially those which are outright fantasy, rather than his ironic comedies (such as the Cornelius or Dancers at the End of Time sets), science fiction or science fantasy books, etc. These would include the books of John Daker/Erekosë/Urlik Skarsol/Clen of Clen Gar/Prince Flamadin; Elric of Melniboné; Corum; and Dorian Hawkmoon, for instance:

Eternal Champion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There are also the books of Kane, by Karl Edward Wagner; a decidedly dark "hero", in that it is hinted he is the Cain of legend, first to bring murder into the world; a savant and a savage; brutal and yet sensitive and even poetic; often vicious and not infrequently heroic (though always for his own reasons, never the usual ones); a sorcerer and one who battles all manner of sorcerous entities (again, usually because their aims conflict with his rather than from any noble motives):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kane_(fantasy)

Clark Ashton Smith's fantasies are almost invariably dark, often perverse, and with a delicate decadence to both the settings and the characters. Though he didn't write novels (at least, not full-length ones), his short stories are well worth seeking out. Most of his outright fantasies are set in the lands of Poseidonis, Hyperborea, Averoigne, or Zothique; the mode varies between an adventurous (albeit often grim or darkly humorous) tone and the prose-poetic. Smith has influenced many of the modern fantasy writers, and is well worth exploring. You can take a look at his work here:

Clark Ashton Smith - The Eldritch Dark

There are plenty of others out there, should you be interested....
 

Connavar

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Drawing of The Dark by Tim Powers great historical fantasy with supernatural elements
On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, similar
The October Country by Ray Bradbury
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E Howard

Bradbury,Howard collections are if you like dark fantasy,horror short stories.
 

Stephen Palmer

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I really enjoyed Sixty-One Nails recently, which I think is roughly in this category.

also I'd count The Borribles as dark fantasy.
 

Moontravler

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In addition to the books already mentioned above:
The Secret Books of Paradys by Tanith Lee, (collection of relatively short fiction),
Tanith Lee's Flat Earth series, (starting with Night's Master)
Gene Wolfe's Books of the New Sun. (Starting with The Shadow of the Torturer)
 

Fried Egg

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I would second the recommendation for Clark Ashton Smith and also recommend Algernon Blackwood. I read the collection called "Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories".
 

Lord Soth

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A few more that you might enjoy:

Lynn Flewelling Nightrunner and Tamir series

Meh, personally I cant stand Lynn Flewelling and wouldn't consider it dark fantasy, and TBH I wouldn't say some of the others listed are really dark fantasy either.

humorblade - I'd do a few cross references first to make sure you get what you want... although as usual it depends on your own personal interpretation of dark fantasy :)
 

GOLLUM

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I can recommend many fantasy writers but here are some of the best for me who are far from formulaic, cliched or mainstream in nature and can certainly be quite dark...

Kelly link
Ted chiang
Jeff vandermeer
Neil gaiman
Philip pullman
Michael swanwick
China mieville
M. john harrison
Gene wolfe
Lord Dunsany
Hope mirlees
Bruno schulz
Jorge lois borges
Stephen donaldson
Ricardo pinto
Mervyn peake

and so it goes on and on......
 

humorblade

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This is a huge list, and an excellent place to start. Thank you everyone.

Lord Soth - My definition of dark fantasy is anything in which the hero(es) do not necessarily win in the end (or have a bittersweet ending), during which the entire story is gritty and foreboding. I think I'm jaded over Hollywood's tenacious habit of vomiting happy endings on us after the main character dodges every possible bullet. Yawn.

Though I loved Lord of the Rings, I feel like the elf and dwarf stories have been thoroughly played out. Out of all the books on the list, are there any that have entirely unique worlds, with unique creatures?
 

j d worthington

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Certainly China Miéville would qualify there. I myself am not a great fan, but that is more a matter of his work simply not quite appealing to me personally; I would nonetheless highly recommend him as one of those very much worth keeping an eye out for.

Moorcock's worlds sometimes use more traditional figures or tropes, but often in non-traditional ways; and tragedy is often the tone. Let's face it: when, in more than one instance, your Champion either destroys the earth or witnesses the destruction of the entire universe -- sometimes multiple universes -- you're not exactly dealing with the typical "happy ending". Often even when he wins, he loses. The general theme of Moorcock's work can be summed up in a quote which appears, in different forms, in several of his books: "The war, my friends, is ceaseless. The most we can expect in our lives are a few pauses in the struggle, a few moments of tranquillity. We must appreciate those moments while we have them."

A lot of fantasy would fit what you describe as "dark fantasy", including such a piece as H. Rider Haggard's She (which is something you should definitely look up) and no few of Lord Dunsany's writings.

You might also want to look up Storm Constantine's work, while you're at it....

And, of course, Smith's work very seldom features "happy endings"... though some of the darker ones do have a rather mordant humor to them. Robert E. Howard's fantasies also often have ambivalent to dark endings, and there is a rather grim tone to quite a few. (The Conan stories are probably among his lightest in this respect, though even there you have no few examples of his awareness of, as de Camp put it, "the underlying tragedy of life": "Beyond the Black River"; "Queen of the Black Coast", with its strikingly grim jest using the necklace of blood-colored stones; "The God in the Bowl"; "The Tower of the Elephant"; "A Witch Shall Be Born"; etc....)
 

Connavar

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J.D: Which is why recommended Solomon Kane and not Conan. Those are bleak stories that is almost horror.

There is alot of good dark fantasy it depends on what you like. Urban stories,S&S/heroic stories etc
 

j d worthington

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J.D: Which is why recommended Solomon Kane and not Conan. Those are bleak stories that is almost horror.

There is alot of good dark fantasy it depends on what you like. Urban stories,S&S/heroic stories etc

Indeed. Several of the Kull tales, as well as the Bran Mak Morn stories, have that tendency; and a lot of Howard's historical fantasies (such as "The Gray God Passes" or "The Cairn on the Headland") do. There you really do have that feeling for the tragedy in life, and they are sometimes quite bleak... but also often quite beautiful.

As Conn mentions, you might also want to check out some other pieces in the S&S vein, such as Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword... now, if that isn't dark enough for you, you're one seriously tough customer to please....:rolleyes:
 

Connavar

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Indeed. Several of the Kull tales, as well as the Bran Mak Morn stories, have that tendency; and a lot of Howard's historical fantasies (such as "The Gray God Passes" or "The Cairn on the Headland") do. There you really do have that feeling for the tragedy in life, and they are sometimes quite bleak... but also often quite beautiful.

As Conn mentions, you might also want to check out some other pieces in the S&S vein, such as Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword... now, if that isn't dark enough for you, you're one seriously tough customer to please....:rolleyes:

Which is why Conan isnt my fav REH work anymore even if his world,stories are great S&S. His historical fantasies Like Kane,Bran Mak Morn,Dark Man etc are something special dark and beautiful. The bleak writing,settings is more to my natural taste.
 

humorblade

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I'll have a look at She and The Broken Sword, for starters. I think perhaps I am a tough customer, sadly. While I love fantasy, I'm drawn to the stories that are much less epic and wide spread. For example, watching worlds and universes perish seems a bit, well, unrealistic. At the risk of counteracting the purpose of the genre, I generally enjoy stories in which the focus is not on fantastic magic or giant-slaying heroism, but on the people and their mortality. Happy endings (and indeed the opposite of the spectrum where the world is destroyed) are hard for me to swallow. Heroes bringing about their own destruction? Now that is art. Tragedy is an excellent touch, because it encompasses the underpinnings of emotions we've all felt from time to time, and exaggerates the minor defeats we've all experienced. "Oh good, I'm not the only one, and my life isn't nearly as bad as that guy."

"Realistic fantasy," gritty, with screwed up characters and no inhuman feats. Voila! :)

I'll pick up a copy of The Broken Sword first. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but the name seems to capture the argument well. Thanks again.
 

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