[Recommend] High/dark fantasy fiction

cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm RegentThe World on This SideRegistered User regular
edited April 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
So I'm rereading Game of Thrones again, and I really haven't read many books of the type at all.


Aside from the obvious LotR recommendations, hit me up, H/A. Bonus points for political intrigue.
(kind of a sucker for romantic subplots too)


I've read the Witcher book(The Last Wish) and loved it, so there's another good example.

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  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    The Black Company, Steven Erikson's Malazan books (I think?), Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles (2 of 3 books out).

    OnTheLastCastle on
  • finralfinral Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Most things by Michael Moorcock, but specifically the Runestaff Trilogy and the Elric series. Elric was specifically written to be the opposite of all the standard fantasy themes at the time, and it gets pretty dark.

    finral on
  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I'll second the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I'm just over halfway through the entire thing and aside from the first one they've all been excellent.

    Quid on
  • The_Glad_HatterThe_Glad_Hatter Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    The Farseer Trilogy by robin hobb.
    political intrigue, very much. (main character is the bastard son of a line of royalty that have a the-force kind of spirtual power).
    The setting is high middle ages with the addition of 2 types of magic.

    excellent writing, and interesting change from the standard sword's and sorcery fantasy.

    Romantic subplot is important but not too dominant or awkward. More of a driving force...

    the follow-up books are also very good (living ships, Fool's trilogy..)

    The_Glad_Hatter on
  • OnTheLastCastleOnTheLastCastle let's keep it haimish for the peripatetic Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I haven't managed to get through the first Malazan book. Man does it drag. But I hear such good things about the rest.

    I almost recommended the Farseer Trilogy, but I didn't know if it fit the dark part of the fantasy. I guess lots of bad things happen to and around Fitz. I read all 3 trilogies in that series and it was enjoyable.

    OnTheLastCastle on
  • Reverend_ChaosReverend_Chaos Suit Up! Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    The Farseer Trilogy by robin hobb.
    political intrigue, very much. (main character is the bastard son of a line of royalty that have a the-force kind of spirtual power).
    The setting is high middle ages with the addition of 2 types of magic.

    excellent writing, and interesting change from the standard sword's and sorcery fantasy.

    Romantic subplot is important but not too dominant or awkward. More of a driving force...

    the follow-up books are also very good (living ships, Fool's trilogy..)

    I see these threads pop up now and again, and I am always the one pushing Robin Hobb. I can't reccomend these enough. They are not as grand in scale as Martin's books, but they don't need to be. The Farseer trilogy which starts with "Assassins Apprentice" are a little simpler, and smaller in scale, but the trade off is a deeper immersion with the main character. I found this series to be gritty and compelling, and rarely have I cared more for the protaganist.

    Patrick Rothfuss is a rising star. I have not yet read the second book, but I read the first one twice within a month because I loved it so much.

    Reverend_Chaos on
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  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Seconding the Kingkiller Chronicles. Just finished the first one last night and it was amazing.

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  • EtheaEthea Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I would also like to recommend Brandon Sanderson. Mainly his Mistborn Trilogy, and if like his writing style his The Way of Kings series warning it is long.

    Ethea on
  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    The Black Company is awesome

    Sir Carcass on
  • TelexTelex Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I also love Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy, for all the reasons already said. Moorcock's Elric is great and dark but is not quite as immersive because of the archaic sounding prose (compared to modern authors). I am not a huge fan of the Kingkiller Chronicles - they're good but very much reliant on their genre and I still don't really care about the protagonist (compared to Robin Hobb's Fitz, he just doesn't seem real). I'm almost done with the second book in that series.

    EDIT: Oh and the Black Company Books are indeed awesome. Definitely my choice for when I feel like a straight-up military fantasy. I think I've read the first six books... You might look into some of his other series too. I remember almost buying the first Instrumentalities of the Night book but going for C.S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising instead (which was disappointing... I don't recommend it)

    Telex on
  • SeptusSeptus Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    I recall having fonder memories of Moorcock's Hawkmoon series than Elric. The books seemed to follow one cohesive narrative, whereas Elric had a lot of different unconnected adventures, and while Elric might have had a bit more going for him than Hawkmoon, I enjoyed Hawkmoon's setting more.

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  • PeenPeen tw1tch0rz occasionallyRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Guy Gavriel Kay sounds like he'd be right up your alley, I'd start with the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy or Tigana and go on from there.

    Peen on
  • SpawnbrokerSpawnbroker Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Throwing a vote in here for The Kingkiller Chronicles. The Name Of The Wind is excellent, and The Wise Man's Fear just came out a little bit ago as well. I powered through both of them in 3-4 days, and that's a heavy time commitment, as each of them are about a thousand pages long. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

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  • OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    J Gregory Keyes' Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series was pretty dark, especially the first two books.

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    The recommendations in here are pretty much what I would've said too.

    FYI, though, "high fantasy" means lots of elves and dragons and magic everywhere.

    Esh on
  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent The World on This SideRegistered User regular
    edited March 2011
    Ah. Well, I'm okay with that, but dark fantasy is more what I'm going for.

    cj iwakura on
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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    It may be suicide on these boards, but...

    Wheel of Time.

    The Crowing One on
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  • FallingmanFallingman Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Can't go past Conan by Robert E Howard. Pretty seminal stuff.

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  • ZedarZedar Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    No Abercrombie recommendations yet? What is wrong with you people?

    Read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, it starts off slow but once it hits its stride it's awesome. Blood spattered and very dark, with enough humour to prevent it from being soul crushing.

    Also, don't read the Name of the Wind if you want dark, it is the opposite of dark.

    Zedar on
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  • Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'd also recommend checking out the Thomas Covenant trilogies. They're pretty dark.

    Sir Carcass on
  • RadicalTurnipRadicalTurnip Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'd also recommend checking out the Thomas Covenant trilogies. They're pretty dark.

    I found the Covenant series to be a bit childish in feel, though I liked what it was trying to do.

    I highly recommended The Coldfire Trilogy By Friedman. A bit low on the romantic sub-plots, but an awesomely conceived series.

    I Second Wheel of Time, even though apparently everyone on here (minus one or two) hate it, though it isn't really all that dark.

    Have you read The Dark Tower by Stephen King? Not fully...fantasy? But it can't really decide what it is. I wouldn't call it Sci-Fi, either, but it's somewhere deep in those two genres, it just isn't sure which. And of course it's dark, and one whole book of the 7 is dedicated to a love story (and there's another love-story between two of the nearly-main characters).

    The Axis Trilogy (I always called it the "Wayfarer Redemption Trilogy) Gets pretty dark, especially in the...second trilogy? Or at least books 4, 5, and 6 of the "Trilogy". You should read the first books first, though...and it's still pretty dark, just not nearly *as* dark.

    I hate to ask it, but have you read the Harry Potter series? While the first books aren't dark, the entire series gets progressively darker as it goes on (with, I think, a small respite at book 6) as well as progressively more mature. I have a slight problem with her somewhat predictable (at times) writing style, but her stories (overarchingly) are quite good.

    Okay, that's all I can think of for now that hasn't been mentioned.

    RadicalTurnip on
  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Zedar wrote: »
    No Abercrombie recommendations yet? What is wrong with you people?

    Read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, it starts off slow but once it hits its stride it's awesome. Blood spattered and very dark, with enough humour to prevent it from being soul crushing.

    Also, don't read the Name of the Wind if you want dark, it is the opposite of dark.

    I just finished reading "Best Served Cold" by him. It was good, not as good as the First Law trilogy, but good.

    Esh on
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Zedar wrote: »
    No Abercrombie recommendations yet? What is wrong with you people?

    Read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, it starts off slow but once it hits its stride it's awesome. Blood spattered and very dark, with enough humour to prevent it from being soul crushing.

    The ending of that trilogy really disappointed me.
    Really? Really? The hero's love interest hates him for the wrong reasons and disappears forever? The wizard guide is just as bad as the badguys? The prince never gets to be with his true love but does get to be in a loveless and miserable coerced marriage, just as he realizes that he's a puppet figurehead spawn of a whore, and is controlled by the formerly good now-bad wizard guide? The hero loses all his friends and everything he cares about, returns home to an assassination attempt, jumps out a window and then it's over? Really?

    Retch. That's reader abuse, IMHO... I don't appreciate spending a dozen hours reading three long and quite enjoyable books just to have the author shit all over me in book 3's last two chapters. I guess you could call that "dark", but I call it betrayal.

    Blah.

    spool32 on
  • ElinElin Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon. Really. It's a very dark fantasy novel and it's excellent. It also meets your political intrigue interest as well.

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  • XagarathXagarath Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Gene Wolfe, Cliver Barker, Tim Powers, CJ Cherryh, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Joe Hill. All fantastic authors.

    Xagarath on
  • LibrarianLibrarian The face of liberal fascism Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    spool32 wrote: »
    Zedar wrote: »
    No Abercrombie recommendations yet? What is wrong with you people?

    Read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, it starts off slow but once it hits its stride it's awesome. Blood spattered and very dark, with enough humour to prevent it from being soul crushing.

    The ending of that trilogy really disappointed me.
    Really? Really? The hero's love interest hates him for the wrong reasons and disappears forever? The wizard guide is just as bad as the badguys? The prince never gets to be with his true love but does get to be in a loveless and miserable coerced marriage, just as he realizes that he's a puppet figurehead spawn of a whore, and is controlled by the formerly good now-bad wizard guide? The hero loses all his friends and everything he cares about, returns home to an assassination attempt, jumps out a window and then it's over? Really?

    Retch. That's reader abuse, IMHO... I don't appreciate spending a dozen hours reading three long and quite enjoyable books just to have the author shit all over me in book 3's last two chapters. I guess you could call that "dark", but I call it betrayal.

    Blah.

    I really couldn't care less about that, since the best character in the book got the best ending
    Glokta <3

    And it was pretty much clear that there wasn't gonna be a big happy end.

    I actually liked The Heroes by Abercrombie a lot, definitely better than Best Served Cold, which was still entertaining.

    Gene Wolfe: The Knight and The Wizard. Two book series, probably some of his most accessible works and pretty dark in places and just completely fantastic in every way.

    Ghormengast by Mervyn Peake is a classic and fits the bill.

    I also suggest The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
    It's a standalone story, have not yet read the second book, cause it felt a bit slow, will keep it on hold till Lynch has hopefully recovered from his troubles and finished the third one.

    I still have not managed to read any of it, but maybe some Fritz Leiber?

    I agree about Conan and Elric, though Elric is like the blueprint for every emo hero out there now and it might feel a bit dated, I still enjoyed it a lot when I first read it.

    China Mieville if you want something really depressing.

    Jeff Vandermeer's Shriek is pretty unique.

    I also agree that Patrick Rothfuss is the opposite of dark, plus I just can't get myself to finish Wise Man's Fear as it just plods on and on and feels pretty pointless and I am not even at the part where Mary Sue gets all his superpowers.
    I am about 400 pages in and put it away and read 2 other books since then.

    Librarian on
    Brad R. Torgersen says:

    Librarian,

    Go read what I said about not arguing with third graders.
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    He did get a good ending, heh.

    Did The Heroes abuse its readers as much as First Law trilogy? Those books were great right up until the end. Kind of like "A Walk in the Woods", which was amazing until the kick-in-the-balls miserable ending.

    spool32 on
  • HypatiaHypatia Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop is also pretty dark, not as epic as the Malazan books but they're decent

    With Hobb I could never get past his naming scheme, it's like getting clubbed over the head repeatedly by Captain Obvious. His writing is fine and the story is fine, it's just the names.

    Hypatia on
  • khainkhain Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    spool32 wrote: »
    He did get a good ending, heh.

    Did The Heroes abuse its readers as much as First Law trilogy? Those books were great right up until the end. Kind of like "A Walk in the Woods", which was amazing until the kick-in-the-balls miserable ending.

    The Heroes and his other book, Best Served Cold, are extremely similar to the series and given the reason you don't like the series I don't think you'd like either as they follow a pretty similar pattern. I don't know if you were just looking for a happy ending, but I'm kind of surprised that you complain about only the end given that the entire series is filled with people being miserable and manipulated. I do think that all of this books definitely fit the dark theme that the OP asked for.

    khain on
  • LibrarianLibrarian The face of liberal fascism Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    khain wrote: »
    spool32 wrote: »
    He did get a good ending, heh.

    Did The Heroes abuse its readers as much as First Law trilogy? Those books were great right up until the end. Kind of like "A Walk in the Woods", which was amazing until the kick-in-the-balls miserable ending.

    The Heroes and his other book, Best Served Cold, are extremely similar to the series and given the reason you don't like the series I don't think you'd like either as they follow a pretty similar pattern. I don't know if you were just looking for a happy ending, but I'm kind of surprised that you complain about only the end given that the entire series is filled with people being miserable and manipulated. I do think that all of this books definitely fit the dark theme that the OP asked for.

    I think that the ending to The Heroes is a lot more satisfying, definitely not as negative for anyone involved, some characters even seem to learn something and change.

    Librarian on
    Brad R. Torgersen says:

    Librarian,

    Go read what I said about not arguing with third graders.
  • JohnDoeJohnDoe Registered User
    edited April 2011
    I haven't managed to get through the first Malazan book. Man does it drag. But I hear such good things about the rest.

    I couldn't make it through the first book of Malazan either. I keep meaning to go back and give it another try though.

    The Black Company series is quite good.

    JohnDoe on
  • The_Glad_HatterThe_Glad_Hatter Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Hypatia wrote: »
    His writing is fine and the story is fine, it's just the names.

    interesting fact: Hobb's a woman.

    The_Glad_Hatter on
  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Legend, by David Gemmell (Most of his later stuff actually just sort of rehashes and dilutes the themes in Legend)

    Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council by China Mieville

    I just read The Warded Man and the Desert Spear by Peter Brett and they're pretty damn promising

    Oh and Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Stover. (these are technically sci-fi but most of their action takes place on another planet with a fantasy tech level)

    JohnnyCache on
  • CroakerBCCroakerBC TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Stephen Hunt, particularly The Kingom Beyond the Waves.

    And Mary Gentle. Almost anything she's done really, but especially Ash, Ilario and 1610.

    A second for Mieville, whose books can be bone crushingly dark, and Abercrombie - if, as noted above, you're serious about the 'dark' part. Happy endings for every..er..no-one, abound.

    Chris Wooding's 'Retribution Falls' is less dark, but it has its moments.

    Richard Morgan 'The Steel Remains'

    CroakerBC on
  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    how is morgan's fantasy? I LOVE the ideas in his sci-fi but his actual writing in his early books is a little sketch...esp. the godawful sex scenes

    JohnnyCache on
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    khain wrote: »
    spool32 wrote: »
    He did get a good ending, heh.

    Did The Heroes abuse its readers as much as First Law trilogy? Those books were great right up until the end. Kind of like "A Walk in the Woods", which was amazing until the kick-in-the-balls miserable ending.

    The Heroes and his other book, Best Served Cold, are extremely similar to the series and given the reason you don't like the series I don't think you'd like either as they follow a pretty similar pattern. I don't know if you were just looking for a happy ending, but I'm kind of surprised that you complain about only the end given that the entire series is filled with people being miserable and manipulated. I do think that all of this books definitely fit the dark theme that the OP asked for.

    Thanks for the warning, heh. Sure, the series is filled with bad stuff happening to the protagonists, must 95% of that was not between themselves... they hung together as a group until the end, when everything fell apart in the most disastrous ways possible.

    I wasn't exactly looking for a happy ending, but I was hoping for some resolution. The end of the First Law trilogy can basically be summed up with:
    ... and then everything went to shit for everyone, The End.

    Besides, what's wrong with a happy ending? Anyhow, First Law is certainly dark, but I maintain that the "resolution" is reader abuse. There's a difference between "dark fantasy" and "miserable disappointment". It leaves me thinking there should be an axiom here:

    Ambercrombie Axiom: Whatever you do, don't root for the characters! It's basically hopeless.

    spool32 on
  • CroakerBCCroakerBC TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    how is morgan's fantasy? I LOVE the ideas in his sci-fi but his actual writing in his early books is a little sketch...esp. the godawful sex scenes

    Its a new setting for him - the prose is a little more awkward than in, say, his later Kovacs novels. On the other hand, the setting is well done, and the characters are enjoyably grey throughout. On the other hand, there are even more sex scenes - if you didn't enjoy them the first two or three times around, this isn't going to make them any better (and may, without descending into the spoilerrific, be even worse).

    Still, worth picking up The Steel Remains for the plot and characters, especially since you can apparently get it used off Amazon for $6.00

    (OT: Turns out that one of his books is called 'Thirteen' there..how interesting)

    CroakerBC on
  • EchoEcho Moderator mod
    edited April 2011
    spool32 wrote: »
    Zedar wrote: »
    No Abercrombie recommendations yet? What is wrong with you people?

    Read Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, it starts off slow but once it hits its stride it's awesome. Blood spattered and very dark, with enough humour to prevent it from being soul crushing.

    The ending of that trilogy really disappointed me.
    Really? Really? The hero's love interest hates him for the wrong reasons and disappears forever? The wizard guide is just as bad as the badguys? The prince never gets to be with his true love but does get to be in a loveless and miserable coerced marriage, just as he realizes that he's a puppet figurehead spawn of a whore, and is controlled by the formerly good now-bad wizard guide? The hero loses all his friends and everything he cares about, returns home to an assassination attempt, jumps out a window and then it's over? Really?

    Retch. That's reader abuse, IMHO... I don't appreciate spending a dozen hours reading three long and quite enjoyable books just to have the author shit all over me in book 3's last two chapters. I guess you could call that "dark", but I call it betrayal.

    Blah.
    That's the thing with the entire trilogy: he's deconstructing fantasy tropes.

    You don't have the good wizard gathering a handful of heroes and fighting the bad wizard and the entire empire he puppeteers from behind the imperial throne.

    You just have two bad wizards using different means to fight each other, not caring in the slightest for the little people once they've served their purpose as tools.

    Richard Morgan's Thirteen is actually called Black Man, but for reasons unknown got renamed to Thirteen for the later US release.

    I actually read The Steel Remains just before starting a re-read of The First Law, and it felt like I just jumped from one book in a series to another. Both books have that "clever barbarian" archetype - Abercrombie's Logen Ninefingers and Morgan's Egar Dragonbane.

    Echo on
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  • Captain MarcusCaptain Marcus now arrives the hour of actionRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    A second for the Coldfire Trilogy. Nice, dark fantasy, with a hint of sci-fi thrown in as well. Not sure if the Crown of Stars series is what you're looking for, but it's pretty dark as well.

    Captain Marcus on
  • CroakerBCCroakerBC TorontoRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I could have sworn someone mentioned it upthread, but when I went back to look, I couldn't find it:

    R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series, which starts with The Darkness That Comes Before ; each book is very thick, very intricate, very clever, and reaches 'do not let your children/grandparents read' levels of graphic very quickly. It is also, most assuredly, 'Dark Fantasy'

    As an aside it's interesting that a lot of these recommendations (Lynch, Abercrombie, Hobb, Glen Cooks The Black Company) are low fantasy, that is, settings where typical genre tropes don't play an integral role. I'm not sure why that is, but it seemed worth noting.

    CroakerBC on
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