While I was sitting innocuously in my research class, my mind on books, I decided it was high-time to borrow a bunch at the library to distract me from my schoolwork stress, and voila, this October book-list was born! (Is this not a good coping tactic? To fight books with more books? Weigh in below!)
After conducting a meta-analysis (nope, I can’t admit confidently that I have used that word correctly, perhaps I should pay attention in class) and a systematic review (does this mean “reading the reviews on Goodreads”?), I noted that all the books I had excitedly placed on hold seemed to share a bit of a dark theme, making me think October got to me more than I realized.
I’ve never been sure why adults go crazy for fall, but here I am mid-October with caramel apples and pumpkin cheesecake in my own house, so go figure. It’s time for us to get a little crazy about themed decorations and desserts, but also time to settle down with a book that gives you some good chills! (While you drink your cinnamon spice tea.)
If you’ve read Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone trilogy, then you probably know that there’s a lot of good in a little dark. (That sounded like an ad for dark chocolate but was an unclear reference of her character the Darkling, a very swoony guy. And like Mr. Rochester. Who doesn’t love that acerbic wit…Ooh, it might be fun to re-watch Jane Eyre in the fall with all that scenery…let me not get off track.)
Anyway, the book that best captures the feeling I’m going for in this list would be the wonderfully dark and creepy Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Alas, I can’t spend my life just rereading that every year, and thus we have this list.
13 Dark and Spooky Books To Read This October
1. Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis
I barely know a lick about this book but it’s at the top because of that title! Features: a stubborn, brilliant girl fighting to learn medicinal alchemy to cure her family and possible necromancy?!?!?!
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: “giving darkness love”
2. Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
I solemnly do swear that if you have not yet read a Marillier novel, and you love fantasy, you will likely be blown away by the quality of her novels. I myself haven’t yet read all of her books, but reading her Daughter of the Forest was such an exquisite experience that I remain riveted. It was a transfixing mix of a unique, deep love story entrenched in Celtic folklore.
Shadowfell is about a young girl journeying to the land of the Good Folk – fairies – to escape from an oppressive king. It looked good to me because it included the keywords “journey,” “mysterious young man named Flint traveling with protagonist,” and “dangerous trials to prove self.” Plus, Marillier is Australian, and Australian YA books will literally never fail you. (They’re all so good!)
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: There seem to be “shadows” following our young heroine. Shadows perhaps causing her to fall, even. Very dark indeed.
Note: While I wrote this list I deleted Instagram and used that time to then read Shadowfell on overdrive. And it was romantic, harrowing, and beautiful. I loved the endless journey fueled by a small spark of hope, complete with near starvation and not knowing who you can trust besides whimsical Irish mystical creatures. I even felt some excellent dark LOTR vibes of being hunted. Now I’m on the second book, Raven Flight, which really continues to serve my dark themed-list for being aptly named.
3. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
I’ve written about White’s novels before, and she is a superb author especially since her books are thoughtfully diverse and boundary-breaking (historical fiction set in the Ottoman Empire? Muslim characters? Heroine who is kind of scary?). Historical fiction is always a win with me, and I’m excited for a retelling about the orphan who goes to live with the Frankensteins and uses her wits to manipulate and survive. I also am excited to finish the remaining two books in her agonizing Ottoman-era fantasy, And I Darken.
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Scary things here include: “Dark Descent,” “Frankenstein,” “Being A Woman in the 1800s”
4. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray
Many will agree that Bray’s trilogy, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and her other works, display the mind of a hilarious, creepy genius. This is the third in her Diviners series, which, if you haven’t read it, you should do it now to get some delicious historical fiction/fantasy chills paired perfectly with Halloween time. (I actually have it at my house but am a little afraid to open it?)
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Libba Bray revels in creepiness. Also, see the title. Plus, the Diviners (really, you’ve got to read it if you haven’t) is about supernatural murders in 192os New York so…
Strange the Dreamer continues in this sequel, after our sweet librarian and fantasy historian boy wonder is proven right about his lost city of Weep…but of course, Laini Taylor can never make things nice for people, so, monsters and dreams mix together as he and Sarai work to find the answers about their city and the gods.
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: “Nightmares” suffices. Plus, Strange was so good that I’ll gladly mention it in any list I can.
6. Poison Study (Magic Study & Fire Study)
Chances are, you’ve read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. It’s a refreshingly well-written book that earns every bit of five-stars from almost everyone on Goodreads, including me. Yelena is living life on the edge as a food taster screening royal food for poison. Very chill, right? The only reason she’s sticking around is because she’s been poisoned herself and her employer holds the antidote. Definitely makes for an interesting power struggle and an even more interesting romance…
It’s included here because I intend to continue the series with the next two studies and this book is overall amazing in quality (even as a stand-alone).
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Poison, eating poison, studying poison, resulting possible death
7. Children of Blood & Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Ooh, talk about diversity. A vengeful heroine is out to reclaim the magic for her land, and she’s got a rogue princess with her and what seems like a hot prince against her. I’ve heard this is as good as the cover looks and the title sounds, which is to say awesome. Also, it’s by a debut author, and I’m excited!
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: I feel like the title alone has stirred up some blood-boiling adrenaline-rushed feeling within myself? I’m just sitting here very peacefully, reading about it and I’m already in the fantasy revenge zone.
8. Iron & Magic by Ilona Andrews
Ahhhhhhhhh! If I could only explain in detail…..I just finished Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series, and I feel like I’ve said goodbye to a good friend after ten books of excellent plotting and my favorite couple relationship. (Note: that was definitely a plug…please comment if you’ve read them, I’m starved for book friends!)
Luckily, I still have Iron & Magic to read, so all is not lost. This novel follows the possible redemption of an intriguing character in the urban fantasy series, which features different global mythology in every book, vamps, shapeshifters, egoistical gods, great characters…and Kate Daniels, your wisecracking-can-never-shut-up mercenary who can mostly handle it all. Except for emotions and romance. She’s not that great with those.
Maybe I’m going into this hoping there is enough Kate & Curran to go around as well, but even if they aren’t featured, you can literally never lose with an Ilona Andrews book. Can I be her when I grow up?
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Hugh D’Ambray was kind of bad/evil for a while in the series so I’m guessing this might include an angsty glimpse into his past. Was he being mind-controlled the whole time?! That would explain a lot.
Content note: This book does contain one sex scene.
9. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
I’ve heard great things about her Regency romances and can’t wait to get into this! Apparently, Kitty will inherit a fortune if she marries the right cousin. But her heart (as a heart does) is set on the rakish Jack Westruther. What can a girl do except pretend her cousin is her fiance to make him jealous?
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Potentially not marrying the rake of your dreams does terrify one so.
10. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo is reigning queen of the twisty darkness. She’s also brilliant in general, of course. If you’re reading this, you’ve read Six of Crows so you know what I’m talking about. King of Scars is about our wily Nikolai, who featured in both of her Grisha book series’ as a very hot and heroic captain. But he now has a “terrible legacy” and “dark magic” rising in him?!? AHHH! I am eagerly awaiting its release this November. (In the meanwhile, I must soothe myself by reading my other favorite authors’ new releases like Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas and A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi.)
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Anything by Leigh fits this category since one of her main characters from the Grisha world is literally named “The Darkling.” Go see her Instagram! It’s full of October-themed vegetables, “witchy” accessories and a love of silver and black…she lives and writes like it’s October all year, and I love it.
11. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
A short book about where “troublesome” children go after returning from fantasy worlds and their parents don’t believe them. Firstly, that is an amateur mistake, parents, have you consumed no fantasy literature at all? And secondly, it seems like all of our favorite heroines/heroes would qualify to make an appearance in this book.
Reasons I included it in my “Dark” list: Seems like a dark children’s tale and that is very up my alley.
12. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I’ve heard lots of good things about this acclaimed book, and I would be a fool to not read it since I love Coraline (and all Neil books). Luckily I do have some presence of mind and I bought it at an airport, surprised at how thin of a book it was. I picked it up with the intention to leaf through as a reward for completing the harrowing task of doing laundry today, and I emerged from a dreamlike fog a few hours later and wondered how it was 3 pm.
It honestly felt like I fell down the ocean in this book – the vortex of his writing sucked me in completely. I don’t think I’ll write a synopsis, because I went into it really unsure of what it was. The initial character is an adult. I prefer his books featuring young ‘uns. But it was completely not what I expected and completely perfect, especially if you love a good entrancing, nostalgic Gaiman book.
Reasons I Included it on my “Dark” list: Isn’t a picture of Neil Gaiman next to the word “dark” in the dictionary?
13. A Reaper At the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
I’m excited to finish the last in Sabaa Tahir’s trilogy since I loved the last two and also follow her on Twitter/Instagram. Her talking vegetable tales are flat-out hilarious.
Reasons I Included it on my “Dark” list: Reapers…Plus, I think Helene has to kill her best friend. And Elias is maybe not alive? And Laia, well, she has dark hair?
Other books that would be in this list but aren’t because 13 is a decently spooky number:
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – futuristic paranormal/dystopian about clairvoyants that received a lot of hype?
Mirage by Somaiya Daud – a new author I’m looking forward to reading!
Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta – this is adult fiction, but she’s a great author and looking forward to it!
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi – If you’re not struck by the gorgeous title, then perhaps that this is about an American Muslim hijab-wearing, break-dancing girl finding romance in her new high school will grab your attention. (If only because it’s a more diverse premise!). I’m really, really excited to read this, because, minimal worldbuilding or not, I loved the Shatter Me series and Tahereh Mafi! She is so cool in person and isn’t it just your dreams to marry a fellow YA writer and have your best-selling YA books on the same shelf at the same time? (Saying this since she & her husband, Ransom Riggs, really have accomplished that!) Note: I also started reading this while writing the list and am savoring every single word – it’s so good – I now think I need to eat more Persian food.
Kingdom of Ashes – My sister and I bought 2 copies of this 992-page book because the journey here has been a long one. We love Sarah J. Maas and her fangirling ways. The arc of the main character in Throne of Glass is incredibly powerful and the romances are nothing but well-done (regardless of your feelings on WHICH OF HER 3 MAIN MEN SHE SHOULD’VE BEEN WITH). The series features some break-neck action that I find really enjoyable to read. My sister loves Aelin to death because she is kick-butt personified, and I do too. I’m sad to open the last book of the series…I almost don’t want the book to arrive. *Sobs uncontrollably*
Cruel Prince by Holly Black – This seems like it is about a cruel prince and therefore should have been on the list. At least it’s here, and I intend to read it!
Are authors really feeling the intense, scary fantasy these days? Or do fantasy books just always have a tinge of darkness?
I’m really not sure why all of the books I borrowed are so dark. Is this a reflection of my soul, or my feelings on grad school? Are you reading any of these or have you already? How much do you love Coraline? Why is it that adults get so excited about October? Did I miss any good dark books that you recommend? Comment below!Pin this article to read later! And make sure to follow us on Pinterest.