The best fantasy books for dark humour and light entertainment

Who am I?

I’m a writer by day and martial arts instructor by night, so when not spending time with my wife and kids, I love nothing more than to read, write, and fight. My favourite books are the ones filled with irreverent characters, who can smirk and joke at any grim situation, laughing the light of entertainment through the darkest of ordeals. These are the type of books I’m always drawn to, both in writing and in reading, where I can imagine taking any standout character and dropping them into a completely different book, then sitting back to watch the chaos they could make.

I wrote...

The Memory of Blades

By James Dwyer,

Book cover of The Memory of Blades

What is my book about?

“They say to hold a Memory Blade is to live forever, both as a life trapped within the blade and as a ruling Memory Lord carved into history. I say to hold a Memory Blade is to become an utter bastard, with three dozen pricks inside your head, all encouraging you to do depraved and despicable things. Immense fun, yes, but bloody dangerous when you have the four other Memory Lords coming to your city to celebrate your father’s funeral, doing their best to politely kill you and pilfer your family’s sword. So all I have to do is get through the next twenty-four hours without being spectacularly murdered and I should be fine. Right?“

– Lord Seff Thurat, beleaguered dilettante and all-around scoundrel

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Little Hatred

James Dwyer Why did I love this book?

Joe Abercrombie is the king of writing casual comic conversations in dire situations. His seventh book in this world, A Little Hatred is the first in a new trilogy, the freshest from a seven-year gap in the series, and one of the best for the sheer quality of standout characters. Savine dan Glokta is my favourite – “What an honour to see you, my lady.” “Isn’t it though!” – followed closely by Teufel, the brass-knuckled spy; Gunnar Broad, the man or bull (if he wears his spectacles); and Bremer dan Gorst, the deadliest man in the union who can only speak in a high-pitched squeak.

Not only is this a book you can read without prior knowledge of the previous six, this book will also convince you to go back and read all those other books, then re-read this again for it to take on an entirely different light, become an entirely different book, and one you’ll love in a thousand different ways.

By Joe Abercrombie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Hatred as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Funny and sardonic, violent and compelling' Guardian

'A tale of brute force and subtle magic on the cusp of an industrial revolution ... Buckle your seat belts for this one' Robin Hobb

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On the battlefields of the North, the next generation of would-be heroes rushes to make the same bloody mistakes as the last.

While the age of the machine dawns, the age of magic refuses to die. One might glimpse the future,…

Book cover of The Vagrant

James Dwyer Why did I love this book?

A Newman on the scene and, atrocious pun aside, Peter Newman redefines what it is for an author to have a fresh voice, especially since his lead character in The Vagrant speaks all of one word. And that’s one word per book if you go on to read the trilogy, which you will, because this novel is amazing. 

What more can you ask for when it comes to dark humour and light entertainment than a man traversing a poisoned world – filled with tainted humans, half-breed demons, and twisted infernals – and his companions on this journey are none other than a belligerent goat and a new-born baby. None of them speak, yet all three pull you into their hearts and them into yours.

An eye opens. A book is read. A reader becomes a Newman fan.

By Peter Newman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other.

Years have passed since humanity's destruction emerged from the Breach.

Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape.

As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde.

His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war.

What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The…

Book cover of City of Stairs

James Dwyer Why did I love this book?

A city of stairs, a world of mystery, a lot of tea drinking, and an investigation into the unfathomable. When I first read this book, about Divinities blinked out of the world, leaving reality broken in their passing, and I met Shara Komayd the Saypuri Spy, I didn’t know what to think. I found myself turning pages quite perplexed, wondering if this book was for me when I became suddenly aware that I loved everything about it. This, of course, was Shara’s plan all along. Ever the diplomat, she gave me a moment to compose myself, and went on to show me the administrative side of dark fantasy, and, of course, she also gave me Sigrud: one of the greatest characters ever written, who will pause to calmly contemplate all possible options to a dramatic situation, and then select the most outrageous.

The first of a trilogy, please read this book, because once you power past the opening hat scandal, you’ll be richly rewarded as the next book is even better.

By Robert Jackson Bennett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked City of Stairs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Robert Jackson Bennett deserves a huge audience' - Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Prism

In the city of stairs, nothing is as it seems.

You've got to be careful when you're chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.

The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent's past,…

Book cover of Steelheart

James Dwyer Why did I love this book?

What’s that you say, Steelheart isn’t urban fantasy? Even when it’s written by the emperor of fantasy himself, Mr. Brandon “I’ve written over fifty bestselling novels in twenty years” Sanderson. Well to that I say: Sparks! You’re like a rabbit doing maths equations instead of looking for foxes. And if you love ridiculous metaphors like that, then Steelheart is like a banana farm for guns. What’s not to love about this book? It’s a world filled with superpowered humans and every single one of them becomes an Epic villain. If that’s not dark enough humour for you, then David’s attempts at analogies will keep you entertained for days. I mean, who hasn’t looked at motorcycles racing towards you and thought “They looked dangerous, like alligators. Really fast alligators wearing black. Ninja alligators!” 

I absolutely love this book and all of the Reckoners books that follow.

By Brandon Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Steelheart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father.…

Book cover of The Lies of Locke Lamora

James Dwyer Why did I love this book?

Well, there can be no list of best fantasy books for dark humour and light entertainment without Locke Lamora and his Gentlemen Bastards. Set in the canalled city of Camorr, the life of Locke Lamora keeps you sprinting, guessing, laughing, gasping, as the twists and turns bring you from banter among the bastards to sudden betrayals, to ingenious plans, to gruesome deaths, and everything in between. Once you read (and love) this book, you can skip at least half of the next one, skimming through all the sailing knowledge you’ll never need, but the third is a return to top form, its only flaw being that it was written eight years ago and the fourth has yet to be released.

Is all this waiting an elaborate plan from Locke himself, is he actually Scott Lynch in disguise? We can never know, but I can re-read The Lies of Locke Lamora every year to eternity until the next one comes out, and only love this book more and more.

By Scott Lynch,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Lies of Locke Lamora as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of my top ten books ever. Maybe top five. If you haven't read it, you should' Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind

'Fresh, original and engrossing' George R.R. Martin, the phenomenon behind A Game of Thrones

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the…

You might also like...

The River of Eternity

By Bruce Balfour,

Book cover of The River of Eternity

Bruce Balfour

New book alert!

What is my book about?

1184 BCE. Ramesses III, who will become the last of the great pharaohs, is returning home from battle. He will one day assume the throne of the Egyptian empire, and the plots against him and his children have already started. Even a god can die.

Ray was raised with the teenage children of Ramesses as their friend, but his own mysterious past exposes him to threats inside and outside of the Egyptian court. When a prince is killed, Ray is framed for the murder and must run to protect Bull, the oldest son of Ramesses. So begins Ray’s dangerous journey from the snake pit of royal palace intrigue into a violent world of treachery and enemies that will take years to conquer if he can survive.

The River of Eternity

By Bruce Balfour,

What is this book about?

From the national bestselling author of The Forge of Mars and The Digital Dead, an Ancient Egyptian epic adventure thriller series, based on real events, for fans of Wilbur Smith, Steven Saylor, and Paul Doherty.

This is the first book of a series leading up to the event known as The Harem Conspiracy, the assassination of Pharaoh Ramesses III in New Kingdom Egypt (1184 BCE), which was led by members of his own family. Details were drawn from the first recorded judicial trial transcript ever recovered (Judicial Papyrus of Turin plus other fragments of the original papyrus).

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, murder mystery, and the end times?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, murder mystery, and the end times.

Murder Explore 891 books about murder
Murder Mystery Explore 469 books about murder mystery
The End Times Explore 38 books about the end times