Top ten new horror novels for grimdark fans

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

Grimdark fans love the darker side of fantasy and science fiction, which often intersects with the horror genre. In this listicle, we recommend ten recently published horror novels with strong elements of dark fantasy or science fiction that will appeal to grimdark fans. These books are noted for probing the darkest depths of the human psyche in worlds infused with magic or twisted technological advances.

We also shared our love of horror in issue #35 of Grimdark Magazine (July 2023), which features a horror-filled selection of short stories and book reviews.

Without further ado, here are ten outstanding new horror novels for fans of grimdark fantasy and science fiction.

Full Immersion by Gemma Amor

Full Immersion, Gemma Amor’s deeply personal sci-fi horror, opens with a cry for help from the protagonist, Magpie, who pleads to be accepted into a new Virtual Experimental Therapy program to overcome her postpartum depression. Magpie has tried all traditional forms of therapy but still finds herself sinking further into despair. Her letter to the Virtual Experimental Therapy program concludes with three devastating words: “Please help me.”

Full Immersion is, first and foremost, a profound psychological analysis of a person who finds her way back from the deepest depths of postpartum depression. The sci-fi aspects of the story are a great vehicle for bringing Magpie’s mental state vividly to life. The horror elements mostly focus on Silhouette, a shadowy creature who represents the physical manifestation of Magpie’s depression, aggressively consuming everything in its path.

The finest books will leave such an indelible impact on the reader that it makes them a changed—and hopefully better—person. Full Immersion is one of those books.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A traumatized woman with amnesia finds her own dead body and sets out to uncover the truth of her demise in a race against time, sanity, crumbling realities and the ever-present threat of the Silhouette.

When Magpie discovers her own dead body one misty morning in Bristol, it prompts her to uncover the truth of her untimely demise. Her investigations take her on a terrifying journey through multiple realities, experimental treatments, technological innovations and half-memories in a race against time and sanity. Accompanied by a new friend who is both familiar and strange, and constantly on the run from the terrifying, relentless presence of the mysterious predator known only as Silhouette, Magpie must piece together the parts of her life previously hidden. In doing so, she will discover the truth about her past, her potential, and her future.

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The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw’s latest book, The Salt Grows Heavy, is a darkly beautiful nightmare brought to life, which will drive a dagger through your heart and leave you begging for more.

The Salt Grows Heavy feels like a hallucinatory night terror from Hans Christian Andersen. Khaw cranks the darkness knob all the way to the “black hole” setting, sucking the reader into the story and refusing to let go.

The Salt Grows Heavy is a truly mesmerizing story and one of the finest works of horror and dark fantasy I’ve ever read, dripping with a gruesome and disquieting passion.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

From USA Today bestselling author Cassandra Khaw comes The Salt Grows Heavy, a razor-sharp and bewitching fairytale of discovering the darkness in the world, and the darkness within oneself.

You may think you know how the fairytale goes: a mermaid comes to shore and weds the prince. But what the fables forget is that mermaids have teeth. And now, her daughters have devoured the kingdom and burned it to ashes.

On the run, the mermaid is joined by a mysterious plague doctor with a darkness of their own. Deep in the eerie, snow-crusted forest, the pair stumble upon a village of ageless children who thirst for blood, and the three “saints” who control them.

The mermaid and her doctor must embrace the cruelest parts of their true nature if they hope to survive.

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A Dance for the Dead by Nuzo Onoh

A Dance for the Dead Nuzo Onoh lives up to her title of “Queen of African Horror” with her latest novel, A Dance for the Dead. Stitched with powerful imageries of dark magics and secret rites, Onoh weaves a macabre tale of revenge.

A Dance for the Dead takes place in the Kingdom of Ukari and the ten villages, a world of cruelty and raw beauty. Onoh’s latest novel is a celebration of nightmarish imagination. It is African horror triumphant.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

On a moon-lit night, Diké, heir to the Kingdom and leader of the terrifying warrior cult, the Ogwumii, falls asleep inside his bedroom. He wakes up to find himself trapped within the secret shrine of the village deity, a dark cave forbidden to all save the powerful witchdoctors.

Overnight, the mighty warrior-prince becomes an Osu—an untouchable and outcast.

In disgraced exile in the forbidden shrine, his sole companion is the raging ghost of a murdered slave girl, wrongly sacrificed to the gods on the false prophecy of a lecherous witchdoctor. To break the Osu curse, Diké must find the traitors who orchestrated his downfall and embark on a terrifying journey to the ancestors’ realm, a deadly quest that could end his life or return him to full citizenship and glory.

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The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland

The God of Endings The God of Endings is the masterful debut novel by Jacqueline Holland, a literary dark fantasy that explores the purpose of life through the eyes of a reluctant immortal.

The basic premise of The God of Endings, i.e., following the lonesome life of a protagonist who defies human mortality, parallels the classic 1820 Gothic fantasy, Melmoth the Wanderer, by Irish novelist Charles Maturin, focusing on weighty themes such as the search for meaning and permanence in a life where everything is transient.

Altogether, The God of Endings is a hauntingly beautiful dark fantasy that serves as a meditation on the arrogance and love associated with bringing new life into the world.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

By turns suspenseful and enchanting, this breathtaking first novel weaves a story of love, family, history, and myth as seen through the eyes of one immortal woman.

Collette LeSange is a lonely artist who heads an elite fine arts school for children in upstate New York. Her youthful beauty masks the dark truth of her life: she has endured centuries of turmoil and heartache in the wake of her grandfather’s long-ago decision to make her immortal like himself. Now in 1984, Collette finds her life upended by the arrival of a gifted child from a troubled home, the return of a stalking presence from her past, and her own mysteriously growing hunger.

Combining brilliant prose with breathtaking suspense, The God of Endings serves as a larger exploration of the human condition in all its complexity, asking us the most fundamental question: is life in this world a gift or a curse?

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Leech by Hiron Ennes

In Verdira, a brutal winter encroaches as a replacement arrives for a recently deceased doctor. Both the dead doctor and the replacement are part of The Institute, where doctors are trained; but they also both share the same hive-mind. The fact that the replacement has no idea how the original doctor died is cause for concern—what could have happened that the hive mind isn’t aware of?

As Leech continues, the paranoia ramps up as nearly every character displays something that could suggest infection, coming to a head in one of the creepiest, most unnerving scenes involving a bloody mix of body horror and vile character dynamics. As the climax hits, paranoia falls away for something both stranger and stronger. It’s a great ending to this fantastic, weird, unsettling novel.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In an isolated chateau, as far north as north goes, the baron’s doctor has died. The doctor’s replacement has a mystery to solve: discovering how the Institute lost track of one of its many bodies.

For hundreds of years the Interprovincial Medical Institute has grown by taking root in young minds and shaping them into doctors, replacing every human practitioner of medicine. The Institute is here to help humanity, to cure and to cut, to cradle and protect the species from the apocalyptic horrors their ancestors unleashed.

In the frozen north, the Institute’s body will discover a competitor for its rung at the top of the evolutionary ladder. A parasite is spreading through the baron’s castle, already a dark pit of secrets, lies, violence, and fear. The two will make war on the battlefield of the body. Whichever wins, humanity will lose again.

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A Song for the Void by Andrew C. Piazza

A song for the voidA Song for the Void is Andrew C. Piazza’s masterful cosmic horror set in the South China Sea during the Opium Wars between Great Britain and China in the mid-nineteenth century. This historical setting is the perfect backdrop for Piazza’s exploration of nihilistic philosophies and psychological manipulation.

Horror comes in the form of an evil-looking eye in the sky, which the sailors view as a strange stationary comet. The eye is known as the Darkstar and is the physical manifestation of nihilism, manipulating the minds of the crew members to convince them that their lives are meaningless. The power of the Darkstar is especially potent when its victims are high on opium, causing them to question the purpose of life and even the existence of reality itself.

The novel is a page-turner, full of action and deception. The philosophical discussions are perfectly balanced by the novel’s heart pounding action. Grimdark readers will especially enjoy the gruesome scenes in the latter part of the novel.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

A mind imprisoned is the greatest of hells. 1853. South China Sea. While on patrol between the Opium Wars, the crew of the steam frigate HMS Charger pursues a fleet of pirates that have been terrorizing the waters surrounding Hong Kong.

But now the hunters have become the hunted. Something else has come to the South China Sea, something ancient and powerful and malevolent. Now, the crew of the Charger must face their worst nightmares in order to survive the terrible creature they come to know as the Darkstar.

A Song for the Void is a haunting, terrifying historical horror novel that will keep you turning the pages and jumping at the shadows.

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Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman

SaturnaliaThe slow-motion collapse of modern civilization is reason to party in Saturnalia, the new sci-fi horror by Stephanie Feldman, which takes place in a near-future Philadelphia amid growing climate disaster. As the world gradually succumbs to increasingly severe hurricanes, droughts, and killer mosquitos, the newly paganized City of Brotherly Love lets loose with Saturnalia, the riotous multi-day celebration of the winter solstice honoring the Roman god of abundance.

Saturnalia offers a unique take on an apocalyptic future, striking a good balance between elements of sci-fi and horror while warning of the social impact of our impending ecological disaster.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Saturnalia carnival marks three years since Nina walked away from Philadelphia’s elite Saturn Club—with its genteel debauchery, arcane pecking order, and winking interest in alchemy and the occult. In doing so, she abandoned her closest friends and her chance to climb the social ladder. Since then, she’s eked out a living by telling fortunes with her Saturn Club tarot deck, a solemn initiation gift that Nina always considered a gag but has turned out to be more useful than she could have ever imagined.

For most, the Saturnalia carnival marks a brief winter reprieve for the beleaguered people of the historic city, which is being eroded by extreme weather, a collapsing economy, and feverish summers—whose disease carrying mosquitos are perhaps the only thing one can count on. Like Thanksgiving or Halloween, Saturnalia has become a purely American holiday despite its pagan roots; and nearly everyone, rich or poor, forgets their troubles for a moment.

For Nina, Saturnalia is simply a cruel reminder of the night that changed everything for her. But when she gets a chance call from Max, one of the Saturn Club’s best-connected members and her last remaining friend, the favor he asks will plunge her back into the Club’s wild solstice masquerade, on a mysterious errand she cannot say no to.

Tonight, Nina will put on a dress of blackest black, and attend the biggest party of the year. Before it’s over, she will discover secret societies battling for power in an increasingly precarious world and become custodian of a horrifying secret—and the target of a mysterious hunter. As Nina runs across an alternate Philadelphia balanced on a knife’s edge between celebration and catastrophe, through parades, worship houses, museums, hidden mansions, and the place she once called home, she’s forced to confront her past in order to take charge of her own—and perhaps everyone’s—future.

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The Two Doctors Górski by Isaac Fellman

The two doctors gorski The Two Doctors Górski by Isaac Fellman is an introspective masterpiece of low fantasy and horror, exploring questions of identity, mental illness, and toxic relationships in higher education.

The main character, Annae Hofstader, is a 27-year-old Ph.D. student who escapes an abusive relationship with her thesis advisor at the University of California by transferring to Brandford University in England. As the only female graduate student in her program, Annae feels self- conscious and isolated.

Annae’s field of study is magic, which is viewed as both a science and an art. While her peers focus primarily on botanical applications of magic, Annae hopes to use her magical skills to cure mental illness. To aid in this endeavor, Annae has acquired the ability to enter the consciousness of other people, reading their innermost thoughts. Although she seeks to help others, she often finds herself slipping into nearby minds to escape her own troubles and insecurities.

The Two Doctors Górski is literary fantasy at its finest, a deeply contemplative and multilayered novel that explores the real psychological struggles of identity, imposter syndrome, and the trials of academic life.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Annae, a brilliant graduate student in psychiatric magic and survivor of academic abuse, can’t stop reading people’s minds. This is how she protects herself, by using her abilities to give her colleagues what they each want out of their relationship with her.

When Annae moves to the UK to rebuild her life and finds herself studying under the infamous, misanthropic magician Marec Górski, she sees inside his head a dangerous path to her redemption. Annae now faces two choices—follow in Dr. Górski’s lead, or break free of a lifetime of conditioning to follow her own path.

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Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silver NitrateSilvia Moreno-Garcia reinvents herself once more with Silver Nitrate, an ode to classic horror films and the darker parts of twentieth century history. Silver Nitrate is set in Mexico City’s film industry in the 1990s. Centered around Montserrat, a dark-skinned sound editor in her late thirties, and her friend, Tristán, a soap opera star whose time in the limelight had long since faded, this story weaves occultist tales, fugitive Nazi occultists, and the making of horror films into an unforgettable story.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Mexican Gothic comes a fabulous meld of Mexican horror movies and Nazi occultism: a dark thriller about the curse that haunts a legendary lost film—and awakens one woman’s hidden powers.

Montserrat has always been overlooked. She’s a talented sound editor, but she’s left out of the boys’ club running the film industry in ’90s Mexico City. And she’s all but invisible to her best friend, Tristán, a charming if faded soap opera star, though she’s been in love with him since childhood.

Then Tristán discovers his new neighbor is the cult horror director Abel Urueta, and the legendary auteur claims he can change their lives—even if his tale of a Nazi occultist imbuing magic into highly volatile silver nitrate stock sounds like sheer fantasy. The magic film was never finished, which is why, Urueta swears, his career vanished overnight. He is cursed.

Now the director wants Montserrat and Tristán to help him shoot the missing scene and lift the curse . . . but Montserrat soon notices a dark presence following her, and Tristán begins seeing the ghost of his ex-girlfriend.

As they work together to unravel the mystery of the film and the obscure occultist who once roamed their city, Montserrat and Tristán may find that sorcerers and magic are not only the stuff of movies.

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Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

With Nettle & Bone, T. Kingfisher has created a twisted mix of morbid horror and sweet delight. Nettle & Bone is a gorgeously written dark fantasy, with a heavy dose of wit and humor. Although it is not a retelling of a typical fairy tale, there are clear fairy tale traits such as a godmother, a prince, and a nearly impossible heroic quest. Although T. Kingfisher deals with some very dark themes, she does so in a delicate and charming way.

Read the full review here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

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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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