Why do I love Dark Fantasy? Why should you like it, too? If you’re a Dark Fantasy lover, then this article may not be for you, because I’m explaining its awesomeness here, which you probably know already as a Dark Fantasy fan. But if you don’t read Dark Fantasy, and you don’t know what makes it ‘dark’ fantasy, then read on! But please note, this is my personal opinion and description of Dark Fantasy, so if you’re seeking for dictionary explanation, then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
A quick summary of what makes it so ‘dark’ yet likable.
It’s flexible, that’s why.
Dystopian and urban fantasies you might be reading even now may have violence, often even swearing, but that doesn’t make it ‘dark’, really. Nor does the fact the protagonist suffers some bad fate, like dying and being reborn (uh, I think I just described the MC of my book). However, it doesn’t mean that urban fantasy, for example, cannot be dark fantasy. It depends on the style of the narrative. Even LotR could be turned into dark fantasy if the book focused more on describing the ruthlessness of the ‘Enemy’ (Sauron and its minions), the psychological impact on the characters, and twisting the plot so that the reader is forced to think of the story as dark, while still maintaining the idea of an epic adventure to vanquish the evil.
What makes it so likable? Well, think about it, dark fantasy seldom follows a certain plot blueprint you might notice in your usual YA fantasies, which means that there aren’t too many cliches. I mean, when someone searches for dark fantasy, they want something that delivers (dark) emotional impact on them in a way that it amuses them. One good example is The Sacred Throne series that’s been published this year. The focus of the story revolves around a ruthless environment, and THAT alone is ENOUGH to satisfy the person searching for dark fantasy. And here’s the deal: if the mere style of the narrative is delivering the demanded content, the author has total freedom over the actual plot, and he or she can try to be creative while giving readers what they want.
I love reading books by dark fantasy authors who go all-out with their writing! (As long as it’s not too descriptive, like LotR.) And in my opinion as a reader, dark fantasy authors should focus more on their passion, as the ‘dark’ theme is easy to bring forth to satisfy the reader. And THAT is why you should read dark fantasy. Regular fantasy seldom tells you something absolutely crazy or new, as the readers demand a certain kind of a plot blueprint from the genre, unlike in dark fantasy, and authors who write to earn their money obey those demands. So yeah, you can say that mere fantasy is limited.
Does this make you curious? If so, I recommend reading The Sacred Throne, as it has only 200 pages (first book), so it’s a quick read. I’m going to make a list of dark fantasy books soon, so you can also follow my blog to discover even more dark fantasy. And as a side note, I’m a dark fantasy author myself.
Types of Dark Fantasy
Since dark fantasy is very flexible and broad as a genre, I’m breaking it down here for you. I’m trying to include example books for each. Note: grimdark isn’t included, as it’s almost impossible to define.
Medieval Dark Fantasy
Usually epic, includes action, poverty, ruthless characters, and very violent scenes. The best example of this type I can think of is The Sacred Throne, the type I prefer the most. There are some others, too, like The Nevernight Chronicle. Also, political struggles aren’t rare. In fact, the book series that got me into dark fantasy is all about the politics. In case you’re interested, it’s Dungeon Defense, and do me a favor and DO NOT mistake it for Japanese, because it’s KOREAN!!!
Historical Dark Fantasy
I’m not sure if there’s a better word to describe it, but by historical I mean a setting where technology has improved from mere swords and bows to steampunk level. The Sacred Throne partly falls to this category, but due to lack of guns and bombs, I’ll call it medieval rather than historical.
Contemporary / Urban / Dystopian Dark Fantasy
This is a whole different style, in my opinion. Apparently, some people categorize The Mortal Instruments as dark fantasy, which is urban / dystopian. But if I had to choose, I’d put it in YA dark fantasy rather than just dark fantasy. Basically, this type of dark fantasy usually focuses more on psychological impact than violence. I watched The City of Bones movie long ago, and I do recall that the heroine did have a blow on her emotions. But yeah, it turned out to be your typical YA romance, so I didn’t like it. Also, contemporary / urban / dystopian dark fantasy can be categorized in mystery and horror, too, although there are mixed opinions about that. Blind the Eyes is one example in this genre. I saw the author post about it in our Facebook group for authors.
YA Dark Fantasy
This is a very broad subgenre. It can be any of the above-mentioned, but the most common category for young adult dark fantasy is dystopian. Throne of Glass is a good example along with the Mortal Instruments (yes, people do categorize them as dark fantasy). In YA genre, the books are often short, but can also be really long sometimes. Also, the characters are usually young and stupid or angsty, or at least they aren’t super intelligent. The text is also easier to read, and in case of DF, the ‘darkness’ of the story is light in comparison to grimdark.
That settles it.
If this didn’t convince you to read dark fantasy, or at least enlighten you, then you deserve to leave this place with empty hands. I did my best to make it appealing. However, if you’re a fan of dark fantasy, and you read this article, then you MUST share your opinion! I’ll improve this post over time, so tell me if there’s anything I can add!