Topics/Discussion

Going Over to the Gritty Dark Side / Grimdark // #WyrdandWonder

One of the things that I threw onto my fantasy bingo card for my reading challenge was grimdark. The reason for that was that I didn’t quite hear a lot about this subgenre before last year I think, even though I am a big fantasy reader. So it was about time that I dived into this subgenre.

As I was looking for recommendations for the list to post it I realized that I had actually read some books and series that were considered grimdark and that I had interest in plenty of them. One of the bigger ones I had read was A Song of Ice and Fire.

Linking this up with the month long fun Wyrd and Wonder fantasy event.

What Is Grimdark? And What is the Difference with Dark Fantasy? Is There One?

Grimdark is a subgenre people seem hard to define but it comes down to how much shit happens to the main characters. If you can think of the bad thing, it is bound to happen. That shining beacon of light? Not coming. Other clear characteristics of grimdark is a lot of blood, a lot of fighting and dare I say, a lot of death. The characters are often morally ambigous with a good dose of snark and sarcasm that generally don’t care too much about other people. And you have your grimdark. Your grit.

This sounds bleak. I know. Grimdark is grim and dark as the name clearly suggests and there is a roughness to everything. If you want a beacon of light throughout the whole story I don’t think grimdark is the place for you.

Dark fantasy is another hard to define subgenre. Both certainly have the doom and gloom going for them. Dark fantasy seems to be more attached to horror settings and supernatural beings. However I have also seen people mention that Grimdark has internal darkness where dark fantasy has an external darkness. Where exactly the line seems to be is not something that is clear to a lot of readers and even authors.

Why Hadn’t I Heard of It Before?

To be honest, as I look at myself, I wasn’t looking for stories that were as dark as Grimdark.ย  It takes a whole lot out of you and not everyone is cut out for that. Younger me certainly wasn’t.

But it also seems that grimdark was uses as an insulting term to books that were considered to be too explicit, dark and gritty. It is a term that a lot of readers and even some authors seem to have taken back, using it to describe the books they like to read. Trying to turn their back on the judgment.

The problem is that not everyone seems to be quite agreeing on what grimdark really is. As I pointed out above, grimdark seems to be a hard subgenre to pinpoint down. If you look closely at what I described there is certainly a lot of overlap with other subgenres. All books have those overlaps as do all subgenres. A book is never one thing. But that can make it hard to pinpoint things and make a new subgenre, what grimdark is essentially, stand out from the crowd.

It doesn’t help when authors who are seen as being a huge influence on the subgenre, like Joe Abercrombie, don’t seem to see the need for the subgenre.

Time to Add Some Grimdark to Your TBR

Dedication in A Crown for Cold Silver: For all my fellow barbarians

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie / Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence / Gardens of the Moon by Erik Stevinson / A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin / A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall / The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch / The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Stavely

How do you feel about Grimdark? Have you read any? Do you feel like it deserves to be its own subgenre or are you on board with Joe Abercrombie?

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32 thoughts on “Going Over to the Gritty Dark Side / Grimdark // #WyrdandWonder

  1. So thank you for introducing me to another genre I want to read haha. I haven’t read grim dark books yet but I’m sure I’m going to now haha

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I try not to worry about genre tags when I’m choosing books, but I’m definitely not a big lover of grimdark. I really love that “light at the end of the tunnel” that’s missing from most grimdark.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! I dabble in the lighter side of grimdark. There are times when I’m in the mood for a certain amount of bleakness or the kind of high stakes that the grimdark genre entails. The fact that many grimdark books are balanced with a level of sarcasm or humor helps my willingness to read them a lot. THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA is one of my favorite books and has some very quippy heroes – but the book also goes to some DARK places with some characters fates. I like the subgenre as a flag of what I might be getting into, but it doesn’t make or break my decision to read.

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  4. Hallo, Hallo Annemieke,

    For me personally, I am the reader who prefers the Light to be threading through all the stories she’s reading – which is why #GrimDark is not my cuppa but why there are select works of #DarkFantasy which I have found are my cuppa interest. The first darker Fantasy I read was BEARSKIN by Jamie Robyn Wood. This led me to re-consider my stance of NOT reading Dark Fantasy – since then, I’ve continued to keep an open mind and have made my way into this hidden genre as for me, it wasn’t even something I considered of being a plausible choice to explore.

    I just didn’t want to ‘go too dark’ into the stories where there was zero to nil illumination of Light – that’s just a personal preference. When it comes to gore and the more gritty aspects of literature – it doesn’t matter if its in SpecFic or any other genre of personal interest those stories are seriously NEVER my cuppa and I avoid them like the plague!

    I’m even taking a chance on the *new!* release by Ms Czerneda which is a darker Fantasy release called “The Gossamer’s Mage”. I loved her #theclanchronicles and despite this is a darker story arc, I truly trust her instincts. To be fair, there are some rather darkly lit undertones to the Clan, too, and I survived that previous series with a true admiration for the collective work which became the Clan as much as I did for the author who penned it. Thereby, I found as I continued to wander and explore literature – there are certain exceptions to my personal ‘rules’ of literary explorations.

    As an aside, I do read Cosy Horror (my own term I’ve coined and passed along) but again, I have certain perimeters and if I can find a writer who can give me a wicked good reading within the perimeters I can handle *but!* also feel suspended within their world-building and the arc of a journey their character(s) endure – I feel wicked blessed!

    I have a few that fall under this category too this #WyrdAndWonder – stay tuned! Great topic to pick to discuss!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can totally imagine taking more of a chance with an author who already has your trust with these subgenres. For me I am trusting a lot with those around me who have similair taste who have liked some of these grimdark books I have on my TBR.

      Bearskin looks really interesting by the way. I like when there is a lot of inner turmoil. And its a retelling too. I’ll have to remember it.

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have read a fair amount of horror, including some pretty violent stuff (when Iโ€™m in the right mood for it) but *usually* I prefer to avoid really explicit violence. I can handle thematic darkness, though — unhappy endings and unsympathetic characters — if I like the book otherwise. But I haven’t really looked into epic fantasy. I had a hard time getting into A Game of Thrones, but not because it was too dark; I read the first half or so and just had a hard time getting invested in it. I have not heard of the others on your list.

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    1. Oh yes I am not always in the mood for explicit violence either. It can be so hard to swallow. GOT is also not the easiest book to get into so I totally understand that.

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  6. “….Grimdark has internal darkness where dark fantasy has an external darkness.” << I agree with that definition of two, and I believe grimdark deserves a sub category because, to me, many of the usual sword and sorcery fantasy are pretty optimistic or aren't as gritty.
    But grimdark is new to me and so far, I think I may have only read 2 of those sort of books: the Game of Thrones books and Brent Weeks's Night Angel trilogy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. I think labeling books as grimdark is a good way for readers to see what overal vibe they will be getting with a book, especially for those that do not like the explicit violence bit.
      Oh good point. Brent Weeks is pretty grimdark too! I read The Night Angel trilogy years and years ago and loved it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I find it so interesting how people react to various subgenres! I love that Grimdark has been reclaimed by those who read and write it, and to be honest I’ve never been 100% clear what the difference between Grimdark and Dark Fantasy is? I’ve always assumed that Dark Fantasy is likely to be a bit more hopeful than Grimdark is, whereas Grimdark is just kind of unpleasant which is great when you’re in the mood for it but I mostly enjoying reading more hopeful stories. I finally read Red Sister this year and was quite disappointed, so I think I need to give another author a try to see if there are parts of Grimdark I like or if it’s just not a subgenre for me. Great discussion! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. It is hard point to define. Judging from what some have said I guess grimdark is more within the person and dark fantasy is just more the darkness around them? But really that line blurs as those things influence eachother.
      Joe Abercrombie is said to be the master of Grimdark and personally I have enjoyed Brent Weeks so I’d suggest those. But then again I liked Red Sister haha.

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  8. Great post!
    I don’t read Grimdark very often mostly because I like my fantasy with an optimistic side. But I also don’t really mind darkness – but for me unnecessary sexualized violence is something I really don’t want to read and thus I often err on the side of caution and don’t read grimdark at all.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Trigger warnings can be a life-saver. I have decided to add them to my reviews going forward. I was always a bit scared of taking the plunge because I don’t want to do anything wrong, but I figured that isn’t a good enough reason to not include something that might help other readers.

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  9. Hmmm I’ve never really heard of Grimdark before so this was super helpful! I like happy ending so I am not a huge fan of these stories in general, but I do love Game of Thrones, so I am not immune to the genre either ๐Ÿ˜€ Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hoe leuk ik het ook vind om nieuwe (sub)genres te blijven ontdekken deze ga ik waarschijnlijk aan me voorbij laten gaan. Ik vermoed immers dat ik het er te moeilijk mee zou hebben wanneer personages in de miserie blijven zitten en er geen beterschap in het vooruitzicht ligt voor hen. Zo’n zaken trek ik me dan weer te erg aan waardoor ik zelf ook moedeloos zou worden.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah, ik had het precies nog duisterder verwacht als Alex Marshall. Valt Nimmernacht er dan ook onder? Want die zijn eigenlijk vrijwel even gruwelijk qua bloederige scรจnes.

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  11. Great post! Some of my favorite fantasy novels could be considered grimdark (The Lies of Locke Lamora, ASoIaF…), so I obviously don’t mind the genre. I even like characters that are morally a bit grey. However, as with every genre, there are good examples and bad examples. A Court of Broken Knives is an example of a grim dark book I didn’t enjoy. It had VERY unlikable characters and I wanted to fling it into a corner before I even reached 100 pages. Other people seem to love it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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