Sam Hamilton is the former Web Content Administrator at the Edmonton Public Library.
So, we’re recommending modern sword and sorcery stories by nine other authors that will fulfill your need for a new-to-you dark fantasy series.
1. First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie
A barbarian, a nobleman, an inquisitor and a wizard walk into a dark sword and sorcery story, The Blade Itself. It’s practically a Dungeons & Dragons party in here!
From the Publisher: “Longen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he's on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian.”
2. Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron
Medieval Europe? Check. Monster-fighting? Check. Intrigue? Check. The first installment of this series, The Red Knight, has all the hallmarks of a Witcher read-alike.
From the Publisher: “When the Red Knight hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it's seems just another job. But it's not just a job, it's going to be a war.”
3. Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson
If you’re looking for a short series, this isn’t it. If you’re looking to get swept up in a gritty world full of intrigue, gods and sorcery, then the first book by this Canadian fantasy author, Gardens of the Moon, is worth a read!
From the Publisher: “The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen's rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.”
4. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
A little more on the young adult (YA) side, the first installment of this series follows an orphan who gets caught up in an inter-dimensional battle between warring magicians in Magician: Apprentice.
From the Publisher: “To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. But though his courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, he was ill at ease with the normal ways of wizardry.”
5. The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
With characters named “King Shrewd” and “Prince Chivalry,” how can you not be delighted by this multi-part fantasy story? Assassin’s Apprentice begins The Farseer Trilogy with the coming-of-age story of a king’s illegitimate son who receives an unconventional education.
From the Publisher: “Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father's gruff stableman. He is treated as an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz's blood runs the magic Skill—and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family.”
6. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
As much a western as it is fantasy, King’s series made it to this list for fans of the Witcher himself, Geralt of Rivia. The titular character in The Gunslinger is also a lone wolf who ventures through a dark world.
From the Publisher: “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.”
7. Broken Empire Series by Mark Lawrence
If you’re a fan of violent protagonists with tragic backstories who live in grimdark fantasy worlds, you won't want to miss the first book in this trilogy, Prince of Thorns.
From the Publisher: “It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him—and he has nothing left to lose.”
8. Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch
Fantasy meets crime novel in the first title of this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora. Follow a colourful band of ne’er-do-wells on a medieval heist through Lynch’s vivid cityscape.
From the Publisher: “Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich—they're the only ones worth stealing from—but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.”
9. Riyria Revelations Series by Michael J. Sullivan
The first title in this series, Theft of Swords, was originally self-published as two eBooks, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, which went on to become bestsellers.
From the Publisher: “Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles—until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.”
BONUS: The Book of Swords edited by Gardner Dozois
Still not sure which titles to check out? Dip your toes into the genre of sword and sorcery with this bonus recommendation—a collection of short stories by modern fantasy authors that’ll help you find your next favourite series.
From the Publisher: “Now, in The Book of Swords, acclaimed editor and bestselling author Gardner Dozois presents an all-new anthology of original epic tales by a stellar cast of award-winning modern masters—many of them set in their authors' best-loved worlds. Join today's finest tellers of fantastic tales, including George R. R. Martin, K. J. Parker, Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch, Ken Liu, C. J. Cherryh, Daniel Abraham, Lavie Tidhar, Ellen Kushner, and more on action-packed journeys into the outer realms of dark enchantment and intrepid derring-do, featuring a stunning assortment of fearless swordsmen and warrior women who face down danger and death at every turn with courage, cunning, and cold steel.”
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