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.
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.
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)
Change drifts on the wings of revolution in We Men of Ash and Shadow, HL Tinsley’s gritty and captivating Dark Fantasy debut. With flavors of mystery noir, this book tells of a city firmly crushed under the boot of tyranny, while the whispers of a uprising begin to emerge from the underground. A tale whose tone is built upon crippling misplaced guilt and the foreign concept of redemption, Tinsley crafts an investigation that takes its readers along a path paved with lies and blood. In order to attempt to restore a city to its former glory, one must choose a side. But doing so could lead to catastrophic consequences.
The Hollow Gods is budding author A. J. Vrana’s beautifully surreal, captivating, and genre-bending debut novel. At its heart, it’s a tale of suspending your disbelief and opening your heart to the mysteries the world has to offer, accepting what’s meant…
Blood of Heirs is Alicia Wanstall-Burke’s stunning Dark Epic Fantasy debut brimming with warring nations and abhorrent horrors lurking beneath the dense forest canopy. At its heart, it’s a tale of the everlasting battle between duty and forging your own path…
Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark is an unyielding and opulent tale of the balance of extremes: living and dying, darkness and light, truth and lies – all of life is a balancing act, and this book showcases the everlasting struggle of keeping the scales…
Touch of Iron is Timandra Whitecastle’s debut novel, and is a savagely alluring tale of the danger of beauty, and the beauty of danger. It’s an account of an epic quest for a magical artifact, conscious sacrifice, and the ties that bind; the bonds of family, the bonds of love…
Chains of Blood is the first installment in ML Spencer’s newest dark epic The Chaos Cycle, and is a tale of cunning demons, broken heroes, and the brutal and catastrophic realities of war. This book also marks my first descent into the war-torn lands…
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
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!
Love this idea! YAAAAAS I vote for The Warded Man. I love that book and it doesn’t get nearly the love it should.
Great idea Justine.
I am looking forward to this sooo much!
Thanks, Ann! I hope I don’t disappoint!
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
Excellent recs, Swiff. Thanks so much!
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?
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!
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!
Absolutely, A.J.! Honestly, The Hollow Gods is one of my most anticipated of 2020 – I can’t wait!
WOEHGWOEUHGOWEUHGOWEHWSEDOVOWEHOEVHWDBW *melts into puddle* I can’t wait for you to read it!!
AHHH! *melts into puddle* I can’t wait for you to read it!!