Do you enjoy dystopian, violent, amoral reads that dive into a world of darkness and unpredictable plots? Grimdark fiction might be for you. This subgenre of fantasy literature offers an immersive, often gritty experience that won’t leave you indifferent. While some might find this type of fiction too intense, others can’t get enough of it. For the latter, we’ve compiled a list of the five best grimdark books ever written. From bloodthirsty mercenaries to corrupt rulers and morally ambiguous characters, these books will keep you on the edge of your seat. Get ready for a thrilling ride.
First on our list of best grimdark books is The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
The Blade Itself the first book in the First Law trilogy, a widely celebrated series set in a world inspired by medieval Europe. Abercrombie’s characters are complex, flawed, and often downright cruel. The story follows three protagonists: Logen Ninefingers, the infamous barbarian; Glotka, a former torturer turned investigator; and Jezal dan Luthar, a pompous nobleman with a knack for fencing. As they cross paths, their fates become intertwined in a brutal, epic adventure full of twists and turns. If you like The Lies of Locke Lemora, you’ll love this. Read The Blade Itself here.
Best grimdark fantasy series – The Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence.
Starting with Prince of Thorns, Lawrence presents a compelling antihero in Jorg Ancrath. Raised to be a ruthless warrior, Jorg seeks revenge against those who wronged him and aims to become emperor at any cost. The world he inhabits is harsh and unforgiving, full of political intrigue and supernatural dangers. Lawrence’s writing is as sharp as Jorg’s mind, and readers will be engrossed in the dark, complex plot. He’s pretty much the GOAT of Grimdark Fantasy, so if you want to try one author of the genre, start here.
The Black Company by Glen Cook is classic grimdark fantasy
The Black Company follows the titular mercenary group as they work for the Lady, a sorceress who rules with an iron fist. The company’s members aren’t heroes; they’re just soldiers trying to survive in a brutal world. Cook’s style is bare-bones, but his characters have depth and realism. The action is fast-paced, and the events unfold in a way that begs the reader to keep turning the page. Grimdark Fantasy at its best. Read it here.
Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
This grimdark masterpiece expertly weaves themes of madness and redemption into an unforgettable tale. With its complex characters and gripping plot, this book will leave you questioning the nature of reality itself. Beyond Redemption is hard hitting and hilarious in equal measure – one you’ll think about for months after you’ve finished reading it. Read it here.
Last but not least Best Grimdark Books, The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
This novel blends grimdark fantasy and Asian mythology to tell a captivating story set in a world inspired by China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The protagonist is Rin, a young woman from a poor background who manages to get accepted into a prestigious military academy. There, she discovers her talent for shamanism and becomes embroiled in a war that threatens her country’s very existence. The Poppy War is a book that has it all: action, political intrigue, magic, and a deep exploration of the consequences of war. Find The Poppy War here.
So there you have it: the five best grimdark reads guaranteed to captivate and thrill you. While this subgenre might not be for everyone, these books offer a unique perspective on fantasy that’s well worth exploring. From Abercrombie’s gritty characters to Lawrence’s darkly humorous style and Cook’s classic mercenaries, there’s something for everyone here. And with writers like Kuang pushing the genre’s boundaries, there’s still plenty of unexplored territory to discover.
Pick up one of these epic grimdark fantasy books and prepare to be transported to a world of shadows and steel.