Adult Fiction, Behind the Books, Book reviews and recommendations, Young Adult 16+

Fantasy Series – A Closer Look at the Genre – Part 7

Dark, Dying Earth, Gritty and Grimdark Fantasy

By Elaine Patterson, Newbridge Headquarters.

Dark Fantasy 

This sub-genre is a blend of horror and fantasy with a brooding or dark atmosphere, so it aims to unnerve or frighten the reader. The setting tends to be paranormal with supernatural elements such as vampires or werewolves. The magic in dark fantasy tends to be more paranormal or occult than the typical fictional magic present in Harry Potter or Disney films. Plots and characterisation are not complex and the level of violence varies depending on when a dark fantasy book was published. Consequently classic dark fantasy will more often imply violence while newer books will have a lot more gore. The following are examples:

Dying Earth Fantasy

This is fantasy where the earth is dying and the world is either dystopian or post-apocalyptic. Magic is present, although science and magic will often be indistinguishable from one another and violence will usually be moderate to high due to the need to survive.  Dying earth fantasy often explores themes or ideas related to the meaning of life and both characters and plot will be highly developed.

Related fantasy sub-genres are futuristic fantasy and science fantasy. The books below are examples of this sub-genre.

 Gritty Fantasy

This is fantasy with an emphasis on realism, a violent world and moral ambiguity. There is generally little magic present and a high level of violence in this sub-genre. Characters are well developed although the heroes will sometimes do bad things and villains good things and there may be a lot of them depending on the author. There is a high level of plot complexity due to the many plot lines and the moral haziness present in gritty fantasy. 

Related fantasy sub-genres are high, quest, coming-of-age, sword and sorcery, mythic, legend retelling and heroic fantasy.  The following are examples of gritty fantasy.

Grimdark Fantasy

This sub-genre of fantasy delves into the blackest depths of the human condition. Consequently the setting is often bleak, and anti-heroes or morally grey characters are common. Magic is present, although it may be more subtle than in other sub-genres and there is a high level of graphic violence. Characters are highly developed and plots are highly complex. Related fantasy sub-genres include epic, dark and gritty. The following are examples.

Check out all the examples above on BorrowBox or request them via our library catalogue.


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