Updated: Aug 26, 2021
I'm often asked what my favorite horror and dark fantasy novels are. While it's easy to name off authors such as Stephen King or Poppy Z. Brite, it isn't easy for me to list all of the great novels that I've read throughout the years. This is why I've decided to compile a list: to not only keep a visual record of what I've enjoyed, but to also share it with my readers as well.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite horror and dark fantasy novels (in no particular order.)
This list wouldn't be complete without Lord of the Flies. Though some would argue that it isn't technically a 'horror' novel (more than it is a contemporary story,) I feel the elements within the book are horrific enough to merit a mention on this list, especially since it's one of my favorite pieces of fiction period. With a marauding sense of unease that continuously builds until the very end, that scene with the pig, and increasing threat that something horrible will happen at any moment, it's a book that definitely makes your skin crawl.
What would this list be without some Stephen King? Bag of Bones starts simply enough, but amps up the tragedy factor after only just a few pages.This haunting tale--part love story, part ghost story--leaves you questioning yourself the more time goes on, and ultimately leaves you devastated and heartbroken near the end.
Set in a dystopian world reminiscent of the Civil War (but with magic,) Sabriel by Garth Nix was one of the defining books of my childhood. It tells the story of a young woman--aptly named Sabriel--whose father goes missing somewhere within a swath of territory known as the Old Kingdom, which is separated from the rest of the country by a great wall in order to keep back the undead. It's one of my favorite young adult novels, and while I've yet to finish the series in its entirety (given that a new book has recently come out after several years of supposed 'closure,') I can highly recommend it and its three primary sequels.
What if there was a monster that preyed on the most vulnerable people? And what if it focused on a small group of individuals in the same town? In The Hollower, Mary SanGiovanni created a monster just like that, and with gruesome and terrifying accuracy that makes this a standout horror novel.
All That Remains by Al Barrera is a book that seems innocent enough upon first impression, but once you start reading, you realize that this story is anything but innocent. Telling the story of a ragtag group of survivors some years after an apocalyptic event has struck the Earth, it follows their quest for answers--and, ultimately, salvation.
Bad Wolf by Tim McGregor is a hard book to describe without giving a whole lot away. Part police procedural, part horror novel, it follows a detective who's struggling to uncover the mystery behind a series of murders / maulings that are occurring in the town he lives in. It's a definite page-turner, with an ending that leaves you shockingly-satisfied.
If The Exorcist were to become the focus of a reality TV show, then A Head Full of Ghosts would probably be exactly how it played out. Dark, disturbing, told in pieces through varying sets of eyes and in different medias, it's a dark story of a family haunting, one that leaves you reeling and thinking long and hard after the very last page.
This list wouldn't be complete without something by Rhiannon Frater. In Dead Spots, a young mother suffers the loss of a child and inadvertently ends up trapped in a sinister alternate universe. It follows her struggle, both as a grieving parent and as a survivor of a wicked world, as she braves the landscape where dreams and nightmares can become real instantly.
Drawing Blood by horror master Poppy Z. Brite is an amazing and tragic tale. It tells the story of a young man who is haunted by his father's murder-suicide on his family, and features a dark, sinister landscape that resides within this world's most twisted passages.