Prepare to be whisked away to realms where shadows dance with the unknown, and eerie whispers linger in the air. As the nights grow longer, we invite you to delve into the spine-chilling world of horror fantasy books – a genre that melds the fantastical with the macabre, creating tales that send shivers down your spine while igniting the imagination.
In this curated collection, we unveil 20 masterpieces that traverse the realms of horror and fantasy, weaving narratives that blur the lines between dreams and nightmares. From haunted castles and ancient curses to creatures that defy the laws of nature, each book holds the promise of a thrilling adventure into the realms of the supernatural and the paranormal.
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Horror Fantasy Books
As we approach the darkness with trepidation, these stories beckon us to confront our deepest fears, providing an escape into worlds where the fantastical and the horrifying collide. Whether you are a seasoned aficionado of horror fantasy or a curious newcomer eager to explore the eerie unknown, join us on this literary journey as we unearth the 20 Horror Fantasy Books that promise to keep you turning pages long into the night.
Buckle up as we venture into the realms where fantasy meets fear, and the only certainty is the uncertainty that lurks in the shadows. Let the journey into the dark commence!
A #1 national bestseller, The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations. Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Two starcrossed magicians engage in a deadly game of cunning in the spellbinding novel that captured the world’s imagination. • “Part love story, part fable … defies both genres and expectations.” —The Boston Globe
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Dracula is a classic and genre-defining tale of horror from famed author Bram Stoker. This novel contains the chilling tales of those that encountered the monster Dracula on his quest to emigrate from Transylvania to England, as he seeks to consume blood and spread his undead curse to the innocent.
The Talisman – Stephen King & Peter Straub
The iconic, “extraordinary” (The Washington Post) collaboration between bestselling authors Stephen King and Peter Straub—an epic thriller about a young boy’s quest to save his mother’s life.
Jack Sawyer, twelve years old, is about to begin a most fantastic journey, an exalting, terrifying quest for the mystical Talisman—the only thing that can save Jack’s dying mother. But to reach his goal, Jack must make his way not only across the breadth of the United States but also through the wondrous and menacing parallel world of the Territories.
In the Territories, Jack finds another realm, where the air is so sweet and clear a man can smell a radish being pulled from the ground a mile away—and a life can be snuffed out instantly in the continuing struggle between good and evil. Here Jack discovers “Twinners,” reflections of the people he knows on earth—most notably Queen Laura, the Twinner of Jack’s own imperiled mother. As Jack “flips” between worlds, making his way westward toward the redemptive Talisman, a sequence of heart-stopping encounters challenges him at every step.
The Child Theif – Brom
The acclaimed artist Brom brilliantly displays his multiple extraordinary talents in The Child Thief—a spellbinding re-imagining of the beloved Peter Pan story that carries readers through the perilous mist separating our world from the realm of Faerie. As Gregory Maguire did with his New York Times bestselling Wicked novels, Brom takes a classic children’s tale and turns it inside-out, painting a Neverland that, like Maguire’s Oz, is darker, richer, more complex than innocent world J.M. Barrie originally conceived. An ingeniously executed literary feat, illustrated with Brom’s sumptuous artwork, The Child Thief is contemporary fantasy at its finest—casting Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, even Captain Hook and his crew in a breathtaking new light.
Lovecraft Country – Matt Ruff
The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.
The Library at Mount Char – Scott Hawkins
Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts.
After all, she was a normal American herself once.
That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.
In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.
Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.
As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.
But Carolyn has accounted for this.
And Carolyn has a plan.
The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.
The Terror – Dan Simmons
The “masterfully chilling” novel that inspired the hit AMC series (Entertainment Weekly).
The men on board the HMS Terror — part of the 1845 Franklin Expedition, the first steam-powered vessels ever to search for the legendary Northwest Passage — are entering a second summer in the Arctic Circle without a thaw, stranded in a nightmarish landscape of encroaching ice and darkness. Endlessly cold, they struggle to survive with poisonous rations, a dwindling coal supply, and ships buckling in the grip of crushing ice. But their real enemy is even more terrifying. There is something out there in the frigid darkness: an unseen predator stalking their ship, a monstrous terror clawing to get in.
Imajica – Clive Barker
Imajica is an epic beyond compare: vast in conception, obsessively detailed in execution, and apocalyptic in its resolution. At its heart lies the sensualist and master art forger, Gentle, whose life unravels when he encounters Judith Odell, whose power to influence the destinies of men is vaster than she knows, and Pie ‘oh’ pah, an alien assassin who comes from a hidden dimension.
That dimension is one of five in the great system called Imajica. They are worlds that are utterly unlike our own, but are ruled, peopled, and haunted by species whose lives are intricately connected with ours. As Gentle, Judith, and Pie ‘oh’ pah travel the Imajica, they uncover a trail of crimes and intimate betrayals, leading them to a revelation so startling that it changes reality forever.
Between Two Fires – Christopher Buehlman
And Lucifer said: “Let us rise against Him now in all our numbers, and pull the walls of heaven down…”
The year is 1348. Thomas, a disgraced knight, has found a young girl alone in a dead Norman village. An orphan of the Black Death, and an almost unnerving picture of innocence, she tells Thomas that plague is only part of a larger cataclysm. That the fallen angels under Lucifer are rising in a second war on heaven. And that the world of men has fallen behind the lines of conflict.
Is it delirium or is it faith? She believes she has seen the angels of God. She believes the righteous dead speak to her in dreams. And now she has convinced the faithless Thomas to shepherd her across a depraved landscape to Avignon. There, she tells Thomas, she will fulfill her mission. To confront the evil that has devastated the earth, and to restore to this betrayed, murderous knight the nobility and hope of salvation he long abandoned.
As hell unleashes its wrath, and as the true nature of the girl is revealed, Thomas will find himself on a macabre battleground of angels and demons, saints, and the risen dead, and in the midst of a desperate struggle for nothing less than the soul of man.
NOS4A2 – Joe Hill
Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be.
Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. The journey across the highway of Charlie’s twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers. Leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.
Then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble…and finds her way to Charlie. That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie’s evil is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx hasn’t stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won’t slow down until he’s taken his revenge. He’s after something very special—something Vic can never replace.
As a life-and-death battle of wills builds, Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all—or die trying.
Fevre Dream – George R.R. Martin
A Horror Fantasy Book from the author of A Game of Thrones!
Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer approaches him. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern. No matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare. And humankind’s most impossible dream.
The Monstrumologist – Rick Yancey
A monster-hunting doctor and his apprentice face off against a plague of monsters in the first book of a terrifying series. Publishers Weekly says “horror lovers will be rapt.”
These are the secrets I have kept. So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphan and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. In the short time he has lived with the doctor in nineteenth-century New England, Will has grown accustomed to his late-night callers and dangerous business. But when one visitor comes with the body of a young girl and the monster that was eating her, Will’s world changes forever. The doctor has discovered a baby Anthropophagus. A headless monster that feeds through a mouth in its chest, and it signals a growing number of Anthropophagi. Will and the doctor must face the horror threatening to overtake and consume the world…before it is too late.
Weaveworld – Clive Barker
Here is storytelling on a grand scale — the stuff of which a classic is made. Weaveworld begins with a rug — a wondrous, magnificent rug — into which a world has been woven. It is the world of the Seerkind, a people more ancient than man, who possesses raptures. The power to make magic. In the last century they were hunted down by an unspeakable horror known as the Scourge, and, threatened with annihilation, they worked their strongest raptures to weave themselves and their culture into a rug for safekeeping. Since then, the rug has been guarded by human caretakers.
The last of the caretakers has just died.
Vying for possession of the rug is a spectrum of unforgettable characters. Suzanna, granddaughter of the last caretaker, who feels the pull of the Weaveworld long before she knows the extent of her own powers. Calhoun Mooney, a pigeon-raising clerk who finds the world he’s always dreamed of in a fleeting glimpse of the rug. Immacolata, an exiled Seerkind witch intent on destroying her race even if it means calling back the Scourge. And her sidekick, Shadwell, the Salesman, who will sell the Weaveworld to the highest bidder.
Black House – Stephen King & Peter Straub
Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer traveled to a parallel universe called the Territories to save his mother and her Territories “Twinner” from an agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world. Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, Wisconsin. He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories. He was compelled to leave the police force when an odd, happenstance event threatened to awaken those memories.
When a series of gruesome murders occur in western Wisconsin that are reminiscent of those committed several decades ago by a madman named Albert Fish, the killer is dubbed “the Fishman”. Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help the inexperienced force find him. But are these new killings merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town? What causes Jack’s inexplicable waking dreams—if that is what they are—of robins’ eggs and red feathers? It’s almost as if someone is trying to tell him something. As this cryptic message becomes increasingly impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past. Where he may find the soul-strength to enter a terrifying house at the end of a deserted tract of forest, there to encounter the obscene and ferocious evils sheltered within it.
The Bone Witch – Rin Chupeco
A story of scorned witches, sinister curses, and resurrection, The Bone Witch is the start of a dark fantasy trilogy, perfect for fans of Serpent & Dove and The Cruel Prince.
Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother, Fox, from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch. A title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
Song of Kali – Dan Simmons
The World Fantasy Award winner by the author of the Hyperion Cantos and Carrion Comfort:.An American finds himself encircled by horrors in Calcutta.
Praised by Dean Koontz as “the best novel in the genre I can remember,” Song of Kali follows an American magazine editor who journeys to the brutally bleak, poverty-stricken Indian city in search of a manuscript by a mysterious poet. But instead is drawn into an encounter with the cult of Kali, goddess of death.
The Strain – Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.
In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .
So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city. A city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.
Faerie Tale – Raymond E. Feist
“A contemporary novel of masterful horror replete with magic, fantasy, and more than a little stylish sensuality.”—The Washington Post
Phil Hastings was a lucky man. He had money, a growing reputation as a screenwriter, a happy, loving family with three kids, and he’d just moved into the house of his dreams in rural of magic. And about to be altered irrevocably by a magic more real than any he dared imagine.
For with the Magic came the Bad Thing, and the Faerie, and then the Fool . . . and the resurrection of a primordial war with a forgotten People. A war that not only the Hastings but the whole human race could lose.
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
A family-friendly addition to our horror fantasy books!
When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.
But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.
Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.
Other Genres To Try if you like Horror Fantasy Books
If you enjoy horror fantasy books, there are several other genres that you might find interesting, as they often share some thematic elements or atmospheres. Here are a few genres you might want to explore:
Dark Fantasy: Dark fantasy combines elements of traditional fantasy with darker, more horror-themed elements. It often features grim settings, morally ambiguous characters, and supernatural elements that lean towards horror.
Urban Fantasy: This genre often blends fantasy elements with a contemporary or urban setting. It can include supernatural creatures, magic, and often has a darker or more mysterious tone. Making it a good choice for those who enjoy horror fantasy.
Paranormal Fantasy: Paranormal fantasy incorporates supernatural elements, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, or other paranormal entities. These stories often have a mysterious or eerie atmosphere that could appeal to fans of horror fantasy.
Historical Fantasy: Historical fantasy blends fantastical elements with real-world historical settings. Some historical fantasy works incorporate horror elements, especially when dealing with folklore, mythical creatures, or ancient curses.
Exploring these genres can offer a diverse range of stories while still maintaining the elements of darkness and the supernatural that you might enjoy in horror fantasy books.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is dark fantasy horror?
Dark fantasy horror is a subgenre that combines elements of dark fantasy and horror. It blends fantastical elements with darker, more ominous themes to create a narrative that is both eerie and supernatural.
What is the scariest book ever?
Determining the “scariest” book ever is highly subjective, as fear is a personal and complex emotion influenced by individual preferences and experiences. However, several books are widely regarded as some of the most terrifying in literature. Here are a few:
- “The Shining” by Stephen King. King is a master of horror, and “The Shining” is often considered one of his scariest works. The isolated and haunted Overlook Hotel, combined with the psychological unraveling of the main character, creates a deeply unsettling atmosphere.
- “The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty. This novel revolves around the demonic possession of a young girl and the attempts to exorcise the malevolent entity. The vivid and disturbing descriptions of the possession make it a classic in horror literature.
- “Psycho” by Robert Bloch. While perhaps more famous as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the novel “Psycho” is equally chilling. The psychological horror and the unpredictable nature of the narrative contribute to its frightening impact.
- “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski. This unconventional and experimental novel has a disorienting format and narrative structure. It explores the concept of a mysterious, ever-expanding house, creating an eerie and unsettling experience for readers.
- “IT” by Stephen King. Another entry from Stephen King, “IT” is a massive novel. IT weaves a tale of a malevolent entity that preys on the fears of a small town. The shapeshifting monster Pennywise and the psychological horror elements contribute to its scare factor.
Is Dark Urban Fantasy the same as Dark Fantasy?
While both dark urban fantasy and dark fantasy share common elements, they are distinct subgenres with some differences.
- Setting: Dark fantasy typically occurs in secondary worlds, often characterized by gothic, medieval, or otherworldly settings. It can involve magic, mythical creatures, and supernatural elements.
- Themes: Dark fantasy explores grim and macabre themes, often featuring morally ambiguous characters, twisted landscapes, and a pervasive sense of dread. It may include elements of horror but is not necessarily tied to a specific time or place.
Dark Urban Fantasy:
- Setting: Dark urban fantasy, on the other hand, contains contemporary, urban environments. It combines the magical or supernatural with the modern world, introducing fantastical elements into familiar cityscapes.
- Themes: While it shares the dark and ominous themes with dark fantasy, dark urban fantasy often incorporates urban legends, mythical beings, and magical elements seamlessly integrated into city life. It may explore themes of hidden magical societies, secret realms within cities, and the coexistence of magical and mundane aspects.
We conclude our exploration of the shadows and delve into the realms where fantasy meets the macabre. We’ve unearthed a collection of 20 horror fantasy books that promise to transport readers to spine-chilling worlds of magic, monsters, and malevolence. From haunted castles to dystopian landscapes. Each book in this curated selection serves as a gateway to the darkest corners of imagination.
Whether you’re a seasoned horror fantasy enthusiast or a daring newcomer ready to embrace the eerie unknown. These novels offer a symphony of terror and enchantment. As you turn the final pages, you’ll find yourself haunted by the lingering echoes of supernatural encounters, spellbinding twists, and characters who navigate the fine line between heroism and horror.