~posted by Carrie M.
What constitutes a work of “Dark Fantasy,” can be difficult to define. For our purposes, we will be looking at some works that are fantasy in the sense that they have the mandatory elements of other worlds and/or otherworldly beings, but that also contain a “dark” element such as (cue *gasps*) horror.
The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King, is one of my very favorites. The eight book magnum opus combines fantasy, horror, and western elements successfully for an epic series – both in written word and graphic novel form. The story follows “The Gunslinger,” Rolland Deschain, as he travels his world in order to reach the Dark Tower – the nexus point of all universes. Along the way Rolland encounters numerous enemies and monsters, many gruesome and bloody battles, and even traverses between his universe and ours while preparing to battle The Crimson King. Be warned that the action scenes in this series definitely fall into the “dark” aspect of this subgenre, but once you start with book one (The Gunslinger), you won’t be able to stop.
A newer Dark Fantasy book on the market is the sublime The Library at Mount Char. While the book has few traditional horror elements, it definitely falls squarely into the categories of “dark” and “fantasy.” The book follows Carolyn, who was long ago adopted with a dozen other children by a man they came to call “Father.” Father is a frightening man with a terrible temper who can raise people from the dead. Under his care, she and the other children study with him in his library to learn the secrets of his ancient power and enjoy a seemingly immortal life. But when Father goes missing, his children prepare for an epic melee to decide who will claim his library and the secrets within. Carolyn is sure she can win, but at a terrible cost – forgoing her own humanity.
A name that rings through the annals of both horror and fantasy writing is that of the incomparable Clive Barker. As of late Barker has been primarily exploring the world of young adult fiction, and the results have been wonderful. The Abarat series is currently scheduled to be a five book series, with book three (Absolute Midnight) just published, and book four to come out this year. The series follows young Candy Quackenbrush from Chickentown, Minnesota. After a big disagreement with her teacher, Candy goes for a walk and stumbles upon the ruins of an old lighthouse on the prairie. Inside she finds the horned being and master thief, John Mischief, who can call an entire sea from a parallel universe. Against her better judgement, Candy travels with Mischief across the sea to the archipelago of Arabat where they encounter more otherworldly beings, both benevolent and sinister. Even though this book is geared toward younger readers, you can count on Barker’s intricate plot structures, hauntingly vivid descriptions, chilling storytelling, and beautiful artwork, to round out his intricate fantasy world.