Top 10 Standalone Grimdark Novels

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

We all love fantasy trilogies and other series where we can immerse ourselves in new worlds and develop long-lasting relationships with characters over the course of multiple books. The majority of fantasy novels—grimdark fantasies included—are published as series.

However, sometimes I am not ready for the commitment of starting a new series and am left craving standalone fantasies. Here I am defining “standalone” as books that are not part of a series and do not require knowledge of other works by the same authors to enjoy fully.

It is surprisingly difficult to find standalone grimdark fantasies. Here I’ve compiled a list of ten excellent standalone novels we think grimdark fans will love, presented in no particular order. These standalone novels also represent a good cross-section of authors who are creating some of the most exciting new work in grimdark.

Before proceeding, I’d like to express my thanks to the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers Facebook group for several great suggestions of books to include on this list. Without further ado, here are ten excellent standalone grimdark novels for your reading pleasure.

Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder

Cover for Norylska Groans - standalone grimdarkNorylska Groans is a tour de force from two of the top authors in grimdark fantasy, Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder. The story is set in the Russia-inspired industrial city of Norylska, the perfect setting for an urban grimdark novel, bathed in filth and constantly groaning from its brutal cold and wind.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Norylska Groans…with the weight of her crimes. In a city where winter reigns amid the fires of industry and war, soot and snow conspire to conceal centuries of death and deception.

Norylska Groans…and the weight of a leaden sky threatens to crush her people. Katyushka Leonova, desperate to restore her family name, takes a job with Norylska’s brutal police force. To support his family, Genndy Antonov finds bloody work with a local crime syndicate.

Norylska Groans…with the weight of her dead. As bodies fall, the two discover a foul truth hidden beneath layers of deception and violence: Come the thaw, what was buried will be revealed.

Read Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder

Buy this book on Amazon

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

The Book Eaters - standalone grimdarkThe Book Eaters is told with an abundance of dry wit, drawing the reader in. With its focus on characters and immersive world-building, the plot moves at a slower pace, giving the story room to breathe and capturing the reader’s full attention. This is one of those books that you don’t devour quickly, but savor slowly.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

Read The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Buy this book on Amazon

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree - standalone grimdarkThe Priory of the Orange Tree is an epic fantasy jewel of a novel, featuring terrific characters, stunning set-pieces, and a brilliantly crafted grand and picturesque world.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Read The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Buy this book on Amazon

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng - standalone grimdarkUnder the Pendulum Sun is decidedly bleak, nihilistic, and perhaps the most morally grey novel you will read in some time. In addition to being grimdark to those of us in the aesthetic camp, Under the Pendulum Sun is also beautifully written, evocative, provocative, fascinating, and, foremost, fantastic in the true sense of the word.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

Read Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Buy this book on Amazon

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

The Maleficent Seven - standalone grimdarkThe Maleficent Seven from author Cameron Johnston is an interesting, bloody, action-packed novel that starts big and doesn’t let up. Starting at a point where most novels would end, The Maleficent Seven brings a bunch of grim, weary bastards together to protect a town threatened by the march of a seemingly unstoppable army of fanatics. Humor, blood, and a lot of bad people doing bad things – The Maleficent Seven is a book you will not want to miss.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory. 40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke – the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before. Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.

Read The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

Buy this book on Amazon

The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

The Sword of Kaigen - Standalone GrimdarkThe Sword of Kaigen is a well written and fast paced romp through a fictional Japan-adjacent country living on the brink of war and trying to maintain its martial and cultural traditions while the rest of the world is leaping forward with technology.

Read more here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

On a mountainside at the edge of the Kaigenese Empire live the most powerful warriors in the world, superhumans capable of raising the sea and wielding blades of ice. For hundreds of years, the fighters of the Kusanagi Peninsula have held the Empire’s enemies at bay, earning their frozen spit of land the name ‘The Sword of Kaigen.’

Born into Kusanagi’s legendary Matsuda family, fourteen-year-old Mamoru has always known his purpose: to master his family’s fighting techniques and defend his homeland. But when an outsider arrives and pulls back the curtain on Kaigen’s alleged age of peace, Mamoru realizes that he might not have much time to become the fighter he was bred to be. Worse, the empire he was bred to defend may stand on a foundation of lies.

Misaki told herself that she left the passions of her youth behind when she married into the Matsuda house. Determined to be a good housewife and mother, she hid away her sword, along with everything from her days as a fighter in a faraway country. But with her growing son asking questions about the outside world, the threat of an impending invasion looming across the sea, and her frigid husband grating on her nerves, Misaki finds the fighter in her clawing its way back to the surface.

When the winds of war reach their peninsula, will the Matsuda family have the strength to defend their empire? Or will they tear each other apart before the true enemies even reach their shores?

Read The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Buy this book on Amazon

Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Snakewood by Adrian Selby - standalone grimdark

Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Make no mistake: Snakewood is grimdark. It’s grimdark and then some. Moral ambiguity infuses all the major characters, and no clear line is ever drawn between right and wrong, good and evil.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

An epic fantasy like no other, Adrian Selby’s debut takes an unblinking look at the price we pay for our pasts, the art of war and the people who make it their business. Enter a violent world of revenge and bloody combat with characters you’ll never forget.

They called them Kailen’s Twenty, a legendary band of ruthless mercenaries who gave no quarter. Living only by the code of steel, blood and coin, and aided by fightbrews that gave them the edge in battle, whoever met their price won.

Now, broken up and seemingly forgotten, they are being hunted down, one by one.

Drawn from multiple accounts compiled by a scholar investigating the legendary group’s demise, who is also the son of one of the Twenty, Snakewood is fantasy at its most inventive and rewarding.

Read Snakewood by Adrian Selby

Buy this book on Amazon

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Remote Control - standalone grimdarkThe ending is like a warm, loving, grimdark slap in the face. It comes out of nowhere and works brilliantly.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From here on in she would be known as Sankofa—a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks—alone, except for her fox companion—searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

Read Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor

Buy this book on Amazon

Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Ghosts of Tomorrow - standalone grimdark

Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

In the not-so-distant future, humanity has become dependent on “Scans.” These are effectively crude A.I. created by taking human brains and copying them in a process which destroys them. The book has action, drama, pathos, cyborgs, and genuinely despicable behavior from humans motivated by money.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The children are the future. And someone is turning them into highly trained killing machines.

Straight out of school, Griffin, a junior Investigations agent for the North American Trade Union, is put on the case: Find and close the illegal crèches. No one expects him to succeed, Griffin least of all. Installed in a combat chassis Abdul, a depressed seventeen-year-old killed during the Secession Wars in Old Montreal, is assigned as Griffin’s Heavy Weapons support. Nadia, a state-sanctioned investigative reporter working the stolen children story, pushes Griffin ever deeper into the nightmare of the black market brain trade.

Deep in the La Carpio slums of Costa Rica, the scanned mind of an autistic girl runs the South American Mafia’s business interests. But she wants more. She wants freedom. And she has come to see humanity as a threat. She has an answer: Archaeidae. At fourteen, he is the deadliest assassin alive. Two children against the world.

The world is going to need some help.

Read Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

Buy this book on Amazon

Gunlaw by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence (being the prolific legend that he is) has a tall stack of short stories freely available on his website. He also has a cracking fantasy western novel called Gunlaw on Wattpad. With Lawrence’s versatility, you know there is a good chance you’ll enjoy yourself.

Read more here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A complete fantasy book. Technically, a weird western. Gunslingers, hex witches, dogmen, minotaur, trains that run further than you can imagine…

Mikeos Jones is a gunslinger, faster than thinking, part of the gunlaw, a man who can seldom afford the luxury of looking past the end of any given day.

Jenna Crossard is a hex-witch, but her ambitions are larger than spells and charms – the need to understand the world consumes her. They say the gunlaw keeps men safe from the endless horror of the sect, but to Jenna it’s a cage and she wants out.  If that means breaking open the world and killing a few gods…so be it.

Read Gunlaw by Mark Lawrence

Gunlaw is only available on Wattpad, here.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

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