Last Updated on December 22, 2017
It’s been a fantastic year for grimdark fiction across books and television, with plenty of new gritty action and unseen betrayals coming before us from a long list of our favourite authors and a host of new voices. As we have done each year for the last few years, I asked the Grimdark Magazine team to name their favourite read for the year. While not all the books are grimdark *shakes fist at group of wonderful volunteers* they all have that dark flavour and are all exceptional books.
Shawn Mansouri | The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
After back-to-back Hugo wins for her Broken Earth series, N.K. Jemisin destroys the world again… and again, and again, until those pesky little creatures called people return the Moon to its rightful place: in the arms of a vengeful planet called “The Stillness”. In her final installment, The Stone Sky, Jemisin brings the series to an earth-quaking end – or beginning, if you’re apt to believe in happy endings, which you’re probably not since you’re reading this off the grimdark page. Her characters are gray and complex, her world an antagonist unto itself, and when a mother and daughter finally reunite, an end to end all ends explodes.
Some series hook you in, sag in the middle, and leave you wondering why you wasted your time in the first place. Not this one. Marked by masterful storytelling, a voice that you’ll never forget, perspectives that change (she hits them all) and shift like tectonic plates, The Stone Sky was my favorite read from the grimdark stacks this year – Grimdark? Yes, don’t argue with me – and one of the best endings to a series I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. I predict a three-peat this coming year.
Mike Myers | Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
Beautifully written, wildly creative, boldly transgressive. Ng’s debut novel follows a missionary’s naive sister to Acadia, land of the fae, as she tries to find her incommunicado brother, who is on a mission to convert the fae to Christianity in this grim fantasy update of the Victorian novel. Madness ensues. Chock full of crazy characters and situations and vivid imagery. Extremely tense. Richly imagined. Beautifully told. You should read. Can’t wait for the sequel.
Jason Deem | The Unholy Consult by R. Scott Bakker
Equal parts fantasy and horror, metaphysical and carnal, grim and dark, this book needs a better word than “epic” to describe it. Bakker’s work, in general, is not for the faint of heart, and this book is no exception. Full of unflinching debauchery as well as deeply flawed characters, it is a challenging work that asks tough questions and gives no easy answers. The climax to his seven-book series delivers all the tragedy, heroism, twists, battles, mystery, treachery and conversations (yes, I said conversations) that you could hope for, and then some.
Check out an excerpt on the GdM blog, here.
Tom Smith | Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
We hear everyone complain about this trope and that trope and how stories don’t pay enough homage to D&D. Well, this book turns all those tropes on their ear and honors fantasy’s D&D roots while still being a total blast to read.
Eames loosely based the protagonists off of the members of a rock band and they are total rock stars. I loved this book.
Matthew Cropley | Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher
Swarm and Steel is the heart-warming tale of a cannibal and a corpse finding solace in friendship amidst Michael R. Fletcher’s unrelenting world of Manifest Delusions. It’s gritty as a sand thickshake, dark as the bottom of the ocean and so morally ambiguous that at times you’ll find yourself smiling about a character eating someone’s still-warm liver.
Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption and The Mirror’s Truth established his world and, as a standalone adventure, Swarm and Steel takes it to new grimdark depths while providing a surprising amount of heart. It’s a master of grimdark working at his peak. Check it out.
Adrian Collins | The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
Anna Smith-Spark’s The Court of Broken Knives is by far one of the strongest debuts I’ve read in a long time. The world is rich and gorgeous and brutal and harsh and only eclipsed by the depth of its characters. And there is one character to rule them all for me in 2017: Marith. As a GdM fan, you need to read Marith.
The Court of Broken Knives isn’t just a good read cover to cover, it’s an experience. For me, it was pretty much un-put-downable. It was lightning-paced, beautiful, deep, haunted, violent, gripping, gritty AF, and exactly what what I wanted.
Click here to read the full review of The Court of Broken Knives.