Another Ten Indie Grimdark Novel Recommendations

The indie fantasy market is something that has been very good to grimdark authors. It provides a global audience for those who want to tell stories that might not be right for traditional publishers. I’ve been very lucky to not only find a bunch of great novels but meet some great authors as well. These are great works, though, that I think grimdark fans would be lucky to check out.

Paternus: Rise of Gods by Dyrk Ashton

Mini-Review: Paternus is not a book that I normally think of as grimdark as it is a grandiose tale of gods versus monsters that has been occurring behind the scenes for much of human history. However, the protagonists turn out to be more of the brutal and dark side of mythology. Heroes and villains mix in a story that I feel is just plain awesome to read.

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A Wizard’s Forge by A.M. Justice

Mini-Review: Not every fantasy story needs a lot of swearing, ultra-violence, and sex to be grimdark. A Wizard’s Forge is a work that deals with an interesting and underused plot device in Stockholm Syndrome. The protagonist is kidnapped, sold into slavery, and then gaslit until she’s genuinely in love with her captor. Thankfully, she’s also in hate and manages to escape to a country without slavery. However, the scars from her condition remain with her and cannot be easily excised.

Chains of Blood by M.L. Spencer

Mini-Review: Chains of Blood is the first book of the sequel series to the awesome Rhenwars Saga. I very much enjoyed the Rhenwars Saga and recommend it but you don’t need to have read it to enjoy this work. A young farmer has his family murdered by a mysterious cult in the middle of the night, only to force him to swear an unbreakable oath of allegiance to his tormentors. He then finds out he is the heir of a powerful magical bloodline just as the region is invaded by a sinister hive-mind of warriors that enslave all wizards. The moral ambiguity of the protagonist is the most interesting work here and how the various sides are all thoroughly repugnant but there’s no way to go it alone.

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Mercury’s Son by Luke Hindmarsh

Mini-Review: Mercury’s Son is a dystopian science fiction novel that I absolutely love. The Earth’s environment has been destroyed by a war that has left it under the control of a Luddite cult. The cult is incredibly hypocritical, though, and employs a cyborg assassin who has no memory of his past. This is a solid grimdark story of a more Blade Runner-esque influence than most. I really liked the protagonist and think it works as both a mystery as well as science fiction epic.

Gideon’s Curse by David Niall Wilson

Mini-Review: Gideon’s Curse deals with a subject that America still struggles with the legacy of: slavery. An antebellum plantation’s ruins is home to a horrifying curse that relate to its dark past. This is more a horror novel than a grimdark one, but I really enjoyed it and its author submitted to it as grimdark. Also, the story of how a decent (even saintly) person gets torn down from his idealism by the inherent crappiness of man makes it a story that has a lot of grimdark resonance.

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Child of the Night Guild by Andy Peloquin

Mini-Review: Child of the Night Guild is a rare combination: Young Adult with grimdark. This works surprisingly well as Viola is a woman who goes through a traumatizing series of experiences that slowly shapes her into someone looking out for her own interests over empathy. The Night Guild is not a lovable band of thieves but an abusive, controlling environment that eagerly buys children to turn them into tools. Books like The Hunger Games prove that just because books can be meant for younger readers, doesn’t mean that they’re not dark and edgy.

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Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

Mini-Review: I am fully of the mind Ben Galley is going to be one of the important voices in grimdark fiction from 2020 onward. He’s already created some future classics like Chasing Graves and, well, this. The Heart of Stone stars an unusual protagonist in Task the Golem. A creature built to kill and who has killed thousands, following his unusual journey was one that managed to combine an existential crisis with a surprising search for humanity.

Faithless by Graham Austin King

Mini-Review: Religion is always a good topic for grimdark as it is a trusted institution by many while also being a place many terrible things have been done in the name of (or hidden behind). Graham Austin King tells a surprisingly small-scale story in a fantasy setting that is, nevertheless, incredibly evocative. After a man is sold by his father to a mining god’s church, he is condemned to a life of slavery in the mines below before doing anything to get out of them into the hallowed temple above. Political intrigue, hypocrisy, black magic, slavery, betrayal, and greed are just some of the things you’ll find in this wonderful but dark story.

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The Elder Ice by David Hambling

Mini-Review: The works of H.P. Lovecraft are well-loved among many grimdark authors as his nihilistic cosmic horror tales are perfectly suited for existentialist fantasy stories. After all, if you can’t look to the gods or humanity for comfort then what do you do? The Elder Ice is a short horror adventure set post-WW2 and deals with an unusual situation in Lovecraftian fiction: the monsters never appear onscreen. Instead, it is the suggestion of them and their existence that causes greed as well as despair to overcome a small group of human beings fighting over an inheritance. Non-traditional grimdark fantasy but one that I deeply enjoyed, It is also the beginning of the enjoyable Harry Stubbs series.

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Lords of Asylum by Kevin Wright

Mini-Review: One of the most solid examples of grimdark on this list, I really enjoyed this book. Sir Luther Slythe Krait is a former justicar who has fallen to drink, murder for hire, and other crimes. Recruited against his will, Sir Krait is sent to investigate the murder of a noblewoman’s family by an apparent monster in a plague-ridden city. The twists and turns in this book are enough for three novels and it’s a hefty 500 pages. While Sir Krait has his redeeming qualities, they are deeply buried, and he reminded me a great deal of George R.R. Martin’s Hound.

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CT Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He's the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga. He is also a frequent contributor to Grimdark Magazine.