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...

Relic

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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Poison Study

Bronwyn Eley Why did I love 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.

By Maria V. Snyder,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Poison Study as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How much is your life worth?

In the territory of Ixia the government maintains control through the Code of Behaviour, forbidding the practice of magic, but danger lurks in mysterious places...

Imprisoned for murder Yelena Zaltana's punishment is death, until she is reprieved - for a price.

As the Commander of Ixia's food taster she will risk assassination from poison daily, a position she would be a fool to refuse... In a world where magic equals death and freedom is for the lucky few, survival is all Yelena has and the battle for her life has just begun.

A CHRONICLES…


Book cover of Six of Crows

Bronwyn Eley Why did I love 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.

By Leigh Bardugo,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Six of Crows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

*See the Grishaverse come to life on screen with Shadow and Bone, now a Netflix original series.*

Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017, this fantasy epic from the No. 1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Grisha trilogy is gripping, sweeping and memorable - perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Laini Taylor and Kristin Cashore.

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams - but he can't pull it off alone.

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk…


Book cover of Nevernight

Bronwyn Eley Why did I love 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 Jay Kristoff,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Nevernight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a world where the suns almost never set, a woman gains entry to a school of infamous assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers that destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father's failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she wanders a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and its thugs. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the hearth of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined. Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock…


Book cover of Malamander

Bronwyn Eley Why did I love 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… 

By Thomas Taylor, Tom Booth (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Malamander as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep...

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy - especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma's parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance…


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

Bronwyn Eley Why did I love 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

By Christina Henry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. Once I loved a boy called Peter Pan.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate's sword. He wants always to be that shining sun that we all revolve around. He'll do anything to be that sun. Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Peter will say I'm a…


You might also like...

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

Book cover of At What Cost, Silence?

Karen Lynne Klink Author Of At What Cost, Silence?

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Child abuse survivor Reader Adventure traveler Animal lover

Karen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Secrets, misunderstandings, and a plethora of family conflicts abound in this historical novel set along the Brazos River in antebellum Washington County, East Texas.

It is a compelling story of two neighboring plantation families and a few of the enslaved people who serve them. These two plantations are a microcosm of a country on the brink of war, encompassing a variety of issues: love and friendship between men, relationships between fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, slavery, and the position of women in society.

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

What is this book about?

Adrien Villere suspects he is not like other boys. For years, he desperately locks away his feelings and fears-but eventually, tragedy and loss drive him to seeking solace from his mentor, a young neighbor Jacob Hart. Jacob's betrayal of Adrien's trust, however, results in secret abuse, setting off a chain of actions from which neither Adrien's wise sister, Bernadette, nor his closest friend, Isaac, can turn him.

At What Cost, Silence presents two contrasting plantation families in a society where strict rules of belief and behavior are clear, and public opinion can shape an entire life. Centerstage are the Villeres,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in revenge, Captain Hook, and private investigators?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about revenge, Captain Hook, and private investigators.

Revenge Explore 106 books about revenge
Captain Hook Explore 5 books about Captain Hook
Private Investigators Explore 276 books about private investigators