The best fantasy novels for those who live in the dark

Who am I?

I’ve been writing since before I can remember and my stories always edge towards darkness. If darkness is a cliff-face, I stand precariously on the edge, taking my readers with me and maybe… eventually… giving them a little shove. Sorry, not sorry. As a writer of dark YA fantasy, it is both my duty and privilege to read as many dark fantasy stories as possible. My series, The Relic Trilogy, isn’t all sunshine and happiness. Whenever I see a review where the reader admits they ended up in a puddle of their own tears, I celebrate because that is precisely what I’m here for folks. 

I wrote...


By Bronwyn Eley,

Book cover of Relic

What is my book about?

In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow. As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow’s life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place. It’s an appointment that will kill her. As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade… That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics.

Relic is the absorbing first novel in The Relic Trilogy, a thrillingly dark YA fantasy series.

The books I picked & why

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Poison Study

By Maria V. Snyder,

Book cover of Poison Study

Why this book?

I haven’t always been into reading fantasy. Particularly, YA fantasy was a genre I knew not well. Not until I read Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study

I was intrigued by the main character Yelena and her less-than-ideal and superbly dark situation. The book opens with Yelena in prison and about to be hanged. But then she is given an offer (by a rather dashing and sexy older gentleman called Valek *obvious cough*) to become their ruler’s food taster. To protect him from poison that may be in his food. Seems like a good offer right? All Yelena has to do is stay alive a bit longer and find her way to escape.

Alas, it is never that simple. Each morning Yelena is poisoned by Valek. She goes about her duties and then the following morning she is given the antidote… before being poisoned all over again. So if she runs, she dies. 

Dark? Yes. Clever? Yes. Witty? Yes. Sexy? Absolutely.

Six of Crows

By Leigh Bardugo,

Book cover of Six of Crows

Why this book?

I’m sure many of you know Six of Crows well but for those who don’t, let me change your life. Six characters. Countless problems. One impossible (fantasy) heist. From Kaz’s strange glove-wearing tendencies to Inej’s killer throw, Matthias’ twisted upbringing to Jesper’s gambling addiction… this book has so many intriguing character arcs. But best of all is the plot – because who doesn’t love a fantasy heist? 

Heists are best left to those with dark skills, and each of the characters has a particular skill-set they’ve honed during their years of struggles. They may be criminals, but they’re downright lovable, and this is the kind of book that stays with you forever. You’re welcome.

Nevernight (Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle)

By Jay Kristoff,

Book cover of Nevernight (Book One of the Nevernight Chronicle)

Why this book?

This is one trilogy you may not be ready for. I certainly wasn’t! But I’m so glad I read it. When I first read Nevernight, I was blown off my feet by the sheer madness of this story. Protagonist Mia Corvere doesn’t give an inch in her quest for revenge, and it is an endless riot of blood, sexy times, sucker-punch plot lines, and laughter. 

Get ready to fall for the characters, even the ones you want to slap, but don’t get too attached because no one is safe in Mr. Kristoff’s worlds… damn you Jay! 

What I love most about this series is how Jay explores the concept of what makes a family. Is it blood? Is it experiencing things that bond you forever? 

This entire series has earned itself a place of honour on my bookshelf. Fearless, mad, magnetic… just a few words to describe what you’re in for.


By Thomas Taylor, Tom Booth (illustrator),

Book cover of Malamander

Why this book?

Delving into something a little different here – Malamander by Thomas Taylor may be a kid's book but here’s why you should read it: it’s like A Series of Unfortunate Events but less depressing. It’s a rich, creative, and engaging story that was really, really hard to put down! 

Young Herbert Lemon is the Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel. He returns lost things to their rightful owners – shoes, suitcases, money… but one night a strange young girl turns up at his window claiming to be lost. 

While both Herbert and Violet are absolutely delightful, my favourite character is the town itself. Eerie-on-Sea is a strange little town which, during the warm seasons, is frequented by tourists. But things change when the temperature cools and the mist rolls in… 

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

By Christina Henry,

Book cover of Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

Why this book?

I will unashamedly tell anyone I meet that I am obsessed with Peter Pan. I wished I’d written it myself and will one day write a retelling. Because, honestly, sometimes the retelling is better. When Peter is darker, when Neverland is madness… or more so than it already is.

Lost Boy was not what I expected. The ending got me hard and I’m completely obsessed with this book. I don’t even want to explain anymore. Just please read it. 

Most of us are familiar with the original story thanks to the cartoon movie, but if you haven’t yet read the original book, I highly recommend that because it is a lot darker than you might think. I remember being blown away by it when I finally read it as an adult. 

And then you can go on an obsessive read-a-thon of all retellings, starting with the magnificent Lost Boy

5 book lists we think you will like!

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