It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of dark fantasy. In fact, I believe I can even be quoted saying “the darker, the better”, as if I’m issuing a challenge to all you lovely authors out there. The past few years have seen a spike in the amount of published Grimdark Fantasy novels around the world, and the difficult-to-define subgenre has become my personal favorite to read. However, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading many Grimdark novels written by women – it’s time to correct this travesty.

What’s Grimdark?

In the grim darkness of the far future there is only WAR.

Nobody really knows. And that’s why it’s so wonderful. It can simply be viewed as the gritty polar opposite of heroic fantasy. Or we can (but we won’t) go into all the finer details. It has often been described as a grim and…dark, often nihilistic and misogynistic, subgenre of speculative fiction featuring dystopian environments, violent themes, and morally gray characters. While I can see the reasoning and evidence behind these allegations, I personally believe Grimdark allows authors to examine the atrocities that plague our world, and bring attention, albeit in a magnified manner, to the wrongness we try to pretend doesn’t exist.

Damien Walter of The Guardian has described Grimdark as “bigger swords, more fighting, bloodier blood, more fighting, axes, more fighting” – I mean, who doesn’t want bloodier blood? However, he also adds it’s a “commercial imperative to win adolescent male readers” – which I cannot necessarily agree with. My response: let’s show them this is a niche that should be revered by all, and we’ll begin by celebrating the incredibly talented Ladies of Grimdark.

The Plan

What initially began as a read-a-thon has evolved into a new Whispers & Wonder review series, because there are simply too many amazing books to cram into a single month. Each month I hope to read at least one Grimdark (or very dark fantasy) book written by a female author, and I already have a nice healthy stack to choose from. Each book will get a read and review, adorned with an extra special badge of honor, then get added to this central hub to be shared with you all.

Please feel free to add some recs in the comments below – I’m always looking for new great authors to read.
(Comments are moderated)

The Ladies

Interview with ML Spencer, and a review of Chains of Blood

Interview with Timandra Whitecastle, and a review of Touch of Iron

Ladies of Grimdark: The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
Interview with Anna Smith Spark, and a review of The Court of Broken Knives

Interview with Alicia Wanstall-Burke and a review of Blood of Heirs

Happy Reading!


  • Carole-Ann

    I’ve been reading fantasy for over 55 yrs & the number of lady writers has increased remarkably over that time
    Today’s writers are marvellously clever & astute, so this blog should be eye-opening to those other (gender differentiated) readers. Best wishes for the future

    • Justine Bergman

      Thank you so much, Carole-Ann. It’s definitely my goal to show love for authors from all walks of life here at Whispers & Wonder!

  • elizabeth tabler

    Love this idea! YAAAAAS I vote for The Warded Man. I love that book and it doesn’t get nearly the love it should.

    • Justine Bergman

      Thanks, Beth!

  • Ann T.

    Great idea Justine.

    I am looking forward to this sooo much!

    • Justine Bergman

      Thanks, Ann! I hope I don’t disappoint!

  • Swiff

    Anna Stephens – Godblind
    Anna Smith Spark – The Court of Broken Knives
    Rebecca Kuang – The Poppy War
    Alicia Wanstell-Burke – Blood of Heirs
    Devin Madson – We Ride the Storm
    Kay Villoso – The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
    M. L. Spencer – Darkmage
    Fonda Lee – Jade City
    T. L. Greylock – A Blood-Tainted Winter

    • Justine Bergman

      Excellent recs, Swiff. Thanks so much!

  • Caitlin G.

    This is a fantastic idea! Do you think you’ll announce a “book of the month” for any who might want to read in tandem, or are you just going to see where your mood and your TBR take you?

    • Justine Bergman

      Excellent idea, Caitlin! I’ll definitely announce at the beginning of each month to see if anyone would like to join in. Thanks so much!

  • A. J. Vrana

    I love, love, love this. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on these books and find recommendations for my own reading list. I also really hope you’ll consider The Hollow Gods for Ladies of Grim, if you think it fits within the boundaries of the genre!

    • Justine Bergman

      Absolutely, A.J.! Honestly, The Hollow Gods is one of my most anticipated of 2020 – I can’t wait!

      • A. J. Vrana

        WOEHGWOEUHGOWEUHGOWEHWSEDOVOWEHOEVHWDBW *melts into puddle* I can’t wait for you to read it!!

      • A. J. Vrana

        AHHH! *melts into puddle* I can’t wait for you to read it!!

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