The best fantasy books for dark humour and light entertainment

James Dwyer Author Of The Memory of Blades
By James Dwyer

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

The books I picked & why

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A Little Hatred

By Joe Abercrombie,

Book cover of A Little Hatred

Why 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.


The Vagrant (the Vagrant Trilogy)

By Peter Newman,

Book cover of The Vagrant (the Vagrant Trilogy)

Why 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.


City of Stairs

By Robert Jackson Bennett,

Book cover of City of Stairs

Why 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.


Steelheart

By Brandon Sanderson,

Book cover of Steelheart

Why 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.


The Lies of Locke Lamora

By Scott Lynch,

Book cover of The Lies of Locke Lamora

Why 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.


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