10 Grimdark Books with Epic Vibes | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Grimdark is a genre coined and popularized by the tabletop figure game Warhammer 40,000. It has a dark, dystopian and particularly violent tone and is often described as “darkness for darkness’s sake.” There is a very thin border between Grimdark and High Fantasy, often characterized by there being no honourable heroes in a Grimdark story, nobody for the audience to identify with. In this article, we will take you through our top picks to introduce you to the genre of Grimdark. Here are 10 Grimdark books we recommend:

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

The Gutter Prayer is the first book in Gareth Hanrahan’s Black Iron Legacy series. Set in a dark and gritty city called Guerdon, The Gutter Prayer follows the lives of three thieves: orphan Cari, ghoul Rat, and Spar, a man slowly turning to stone. They find themselves caught up in a web of conspiracy, ancient magic and supernatural creatures.

In this Grimdark book, they navigate the treacherous streets of Guerdon; they must uncover the truth behind a godly threat that looms over the city. And they must do so before the Gods’ War makes its way to the city gates.

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half A King is the first book in the Shattered Sea series by Joe Abercrombie. A young prince is abandoned by his noble family because he can only use one hand, in a world where both are needed for survival.

Without the ability to pick up a shield or an axe, Prince Yarvi must brave the cold, cruel waters of the Shattered Sea to reclaim a throne he never wanted. He instead relies on a sharp mind and even sharper tongue to gather a band of outcasts to aid him on his journey: one full of twists, traps and tragedy.

Night Winds by Karl Edward Wagner

Karl Edward Wagner’s late 1970s pulp fiction fantasy series Kane has gathered a cult following in recent years. And it all started with Night Winds, where once the mighty Kane has passed, no one who lives forgets.

Night Winds is a collection of 6 stories taking place across several centuries and following a mystic swordsman confronting his past, present and future actions. From ruined cities to demon-worshipping former lovers to confrontations with Death itself, Night Winds will take you on a spine-chilling journey full of moral ambiguitytrademarks of the Grimdark genre.

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

The Horus Heresy is possibly the best-known series of books about the Warhammer 40,000 universe. In the first book, Horus Rising, Dan Abnett shows us a world where humanity is at its height. The immortal godlike man known only as The Emperor has fulfilled his dream of shaping humanity into the intergalactic imperium it would remain for over 10,000 years. He hands over the reins to his Warmaster, Horus, who was created by him in his own image. But another voice has whispered in Horus’ ear. Will he follow the visions of his creator, or this new, warped voice?

The Barrow by Mark Smylie

In Grimdark novel The Barrow, an unexpected crew of deviants discover a map that could lead them to the barrow of a long-dead wizard and his fabled sword. But a curse cast upon the map throws a spanner in the works. The team thought they were brought together by happenstance, but soon discover there might be a much darker design leading to their fate. Now the cast of murderers, mercenaries, mages and merchants must brave their own destinies in a fight to either end up in the history books or perish.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Spoiled prince turned thief Jorg Ancrath leads a band of outlaws in a wide series of atrocities. Known as Prince of Thorns, Jorg leads a life of violence and nightmares, mastering both the living and the dead. But now he must confront the one thing that still sends a chill down his spine: the horrors of his childhood. Mark Lawrence describes a world of blood, magic, brotherhood and treachery in a brutal yet beautiful landscape, making it one of the best Grimdark books you’ll find.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Scott Lynch gives us a thrilling story of a band of confident tricksters led by an outlandish criminal. A group of orphans is tutored in the art of thievery and lies by a scam artist posing as a blind priest. His most skilled student soon takes over the gang, known as the Gentleman Bastards, leading them on a path towards the top of the city underworld. But other forces in this Grimdark book have their sights on the same throne and will use Locke as a pawn in their own schemes.

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

Brent Weeks gives us an exhilarating and gripping start to the epic high fantasy Night Angel Trilogy. Weeks masterfully weaves a tale of assassins, politics, and magic, capturing readers from the very first page. The protagonist, Azoth, goes through a captivating transformation from a gutter rat to an apprentice assassin, navigating a treacherous world of shadows and intrigue.

With a richly built fantasy world, complex characters, and heart-pounding action, this book is a thrilling ride from beginning to end. Weeks’ writing style is engrossing, and his ability to create tension and suspense keeps readers hooked and craving more. A must-read for fans of dark fantasy and Grimdark.

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher is a dark and bloody tale of madness, power, and redemption–or the lack thereof. The book seamlessly blends fantasy and horror elements, creating a uniquely twisted world where the delusions of individuals can shape the fabric of reality. The characters are all delightfully flawed and utterly human, with their desires and obsessions driving them towards their inevitable doom.

Fletcher’s writing is rich with atmospheric detail, immersing the reader completely in the dark and violent world of his imagination. Beyond Redemption is a must-read for anyone who loves dark and gritty fantasy and is not afraid of exploring the darkest corners of the human psyche.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett delivers an enthralling and epic fantasy novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through a brutal and dangerous world. Set in a realm where demons emerge from the darkness each night, the story follows three protagonists as they battle against the terrors that haunt humanity.

Brett’s world-building is impeccable, with a unique magic system and intricate lore that immerses readers into the richly detailed setting. The characters are compelling and well-developed, their struggles and triumphs resonating deeply. With its fast-paced action, vivid descriptions, and a touch of darkness, The Warded Man is a must-read for Grimdark and fantasy lovers.

From brutal and bloody battles to the exploration of the depths of the human psyche, these books push the boundaries and challenge conventional notions of good and evil. Do you agree with our list? Did we miss your one of your favourite Grimdark books? Comment below and let us know!

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