Recommended gothic fiction books
Gothic fiction ordinarily combines fiction, horror, death, and romance. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Melmoth the Wanderer are good examples. Elements often found in gothic fiction include a virginal maiden, and older, foolish woman, a hero, the tyrant/villain, bandits/ruffians, clergy, a setting - usually a castle, an abbey, a monastery, or some other, usually religious edifice.
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk-that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh-a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.
"In such a short novel The Machine Stops holds more horror than any number of gothic ghost stories. Everybody should read it, and consider how far we may go ourselves down the road of technological ‘advancement’ and forget what it truly means to be alive." Cat Fitzpatrick, Fantasy Book Review
Handsome Dorian Gray has found the secret of eternal youth. As those around him age, Gray remains young and beautiful. Knowing his actions have no consequences he lives a wild life of pleasure, breaking heart after heart – including that of a young actress called Sybil Vane. Gray treats her so badly that she kills herself. But Gray has another secret – in his attic he hides a portrait of himself. While his own body remains fit and healthy, the image in the portrait becomes older and more disfigured with each debauched act he commits. When the portraits creator, Basil Hallward, discovers the horrific truth, Gray kills him in a fit of rage. While Hallward may no longer be a concern, Gray’s own life may be in danger from Sybil’s brother, James Vane, who still blames him for his sister’s suicide and begins vengefully stalking the young pleasure-seeker. Terrified that his life is spiralling out of control, Gray vows to give up his wanton ways, and especially not to mistreat his latest conquest, innocent Hetty Merton. As his behaviour improves Gray expects the painting to begin returning to its original state – so is horrified to find it even more grotesque. Can Gray find any way out of his nightmare?
"A key example of Gothic horror fiction, The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s only novel and a classic of modern literature. It was originally published in a shorter version in Lippinscott’s Monthly Magazine, an American literary journal, in 1890, then revised and published in book form in 1891. Upon publication, its portrayal of moral decadence and its strong homoerotic undertones caused controversy and ensured that the book was poorly received by readers at the time." Fantasy Book Review
"A gorgeous volcanic eruption... A work of extraordinary imagination" New Yorker
"The Gormenghast Trilogy is one of the most important works of the imagination to come out of this age" Spectator
"Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy has grown out of its reputation as a cult classic and into the mainstream of fantasy, as a book no reader interested in Gothic dare to miss. It is one of the most distinctive, absorbing and wonderfully strange books ever written" Adam Roberts
Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born: he stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that stand for Gormenghast Castle. Inside, all events are predetermined by a complex ritual, lost in history, understood only by Sourdust, Lord of the Library. There are tears and strange laughter; fierce births and deaths beneath umbrageous ceilings; dreams and violence and disenchantment contained within a labyrinth of stone.
When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman's neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his 'Master'.
"In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre. Dracula has been attributed to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. Structurally it is an epistolary novel, that is, told as a series of diary entries and letters. Literary critics have examined many themes in the novel, such as the role of women in Victorian culture, conventional and conservative sexuality, immigration, colonialism, postcolonialism and folklore. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, the novel's influence on the popularity of vampires has been singularly responsible for many theatrical and film interpretations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries." Fantasy Book Review
Murder and monstrosity on the streets of Victorian London. Nineteenth century London can be a very dangerous place. Beneath the prim and proper morals of Victorian society lurks a violent madman who emerges at night to commit the most cold-hearted of crimes. Nothing is known of him except his name: Mr Hyde. Just who is this evil man? A lawyer and a doctor beginning their own investigation are shocked to find that Mr Hyde is an acquaintance of their respectable friend Dr Henry Jekyll. Worse still, Dr Jekyll is unwilling to listen to stories of Hyde’s chilling behaviour, and retreats into his laboratory work when confronted. But as the months turn to years and the violence turns to ruthless murder on London’s streets, Dr Jekyll is finally forced to confront the chaos, and to admit that he can no longer hide from Mr Hyde.
"As would seem fitting for a tale as strange as this, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde comes with a number of literary legends attached. One states that gruesome scenes from the story first appeared to Stevenson as nightmares. Another suggests that the impetuous author torched the first full draft after criticism from his wife. Neither myth may be true. The only certainty is that Stevenson’s book very cleverly captured the clear contradictions of Victorian society, demonstrating the awful consequences of keeping man’s natural animal instincts locked away beneath the strict ideas of ‘decency’. Jekyll and Hyde is a terrifying glimpse into the dark depths of the mind."
Imagine the twisted evil twins of Holmes and Watson and you have the dangerous duo of Professor James Moriarty – wily, snake-like, fiercely intelligent, terrifyingly unpredictable – and Colonel Sebastian “Basher” Moran – violent, politically incorrect, debauched. Together they run London crime, owning police and criminals alike. A one-stop shop for all things illegal, from murder to high-class heists, Moriarty and Moran have a stream of nefarious visitors to their Conduit Street rooms, from the Christian zealots of the American West, to the bloodthirsty Si Fan and Les Vampires of Paris, as well as a certain Miss Irene Adler...
"Newman has once again produced a fantastically entertaining and fulfilling re-imagining of popular fictional characters, putting them into adventures of his own imagining, whilst succeeding in being both reverential as well as mischievous." Daniel Cann, Fantasy Book Review
A boy is put on a train by his stepmother to make his first journey on his own. But soon that journey turns out to be more of a challenge than anyone could have imagined as the train stalls at the mouth of a tunnel and a mysterious woman in white helps the boy while away the hours by telling him stories - stories with a difference.
"Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth will chill and thrill in equal measure and is the perfect kind of scary for children in that it will make the hairs on the back of their necks rise and send shivers down their spine but will not give them nightmares. Delectably dark, and with a beautiful gothic style (perfectly captured by David Robert’s illustrations), this is a book that will appeal to all ages." Fantasy Book Review
What you create can destroy you. One freezing morning, a lone man wandering across the Artic ice caps is rescued from starvation by a ship's captain. Victor Frankenstein's story is one of ambition, murder and revenge. As a young scientist he pushed moral boundaries in order to cross the final frontier and create life. But his creation is a monster stitched together from grave-robbed body parts who has no place in the world, and his life can only lead to tragedy.
"Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, generally known as Frankenstein, is a novel written by the British author Mary Shelley. The title of the novel refers to a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful. In popular culture, people have tended to refer to the Creature as "Frankenstein", despite this being the name of the scientist. Frankenstein is a novel infused with some elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. It was also a warning against the "over-reaching" of modern man and the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in the novel's subtitle, The Modern Prometheus. The story has had an influence across literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories and films."
Winterfold, a place of crumbling cliff paths, deserted churches and ruined graveyards, forms the backdrop for Marcus Sedgwick's latest work, White Crow, a contemporary gothic thriller for young-adults. Rebecca is an unwilling visitor to Winterfold during a long, hot, claustrophobic summer and, against her better judgement, befriends local resident Ferelith. The two girls discover more about each other (and about Winterfold) than either really want to, uncovering frightening secrets that would be best left long forgotten.
"White Crow is an intelligent and thoughtful book whose themes of afterlife, faith and death - both human mortality and the demise of a town itself – are explored delicately. Two strong female leads drive a story that is both chilling and memorable in equal measure. Highly recommended." Fantasy Book Review
In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn. Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love – and how much he is willing to sacrifice.
"My assessment of this book is that it is excellent, well written and true to the original. Oppel has captured Victor’s voice in such a way that his journey into the darkness of the original book is both believable and inevitable because of his character and the choices that he makes. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who has read and enjoyed the original." Fantasy Book Review
Bram Stoker's immortal Dracula told us about Count Dracula as an undead vampire. But how did this come to be? Who was Dracula in real life? There has always been speculation, but The Dracula Papers now offers the ultimate answer. It takes us back to the year 1576, to the wild land of Transylvania and to the early life of Prince Vladimir who came to be the horror known as Dracula.
"So, I've read Sookie Stackhouse, and I've read the Twilight Saga, I watched Buffy, Being Human, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. While I honestly admit to enjoying them, (except the Twilight movies, seriously people), it seems that the market is becoming oversaturated with angst-ridden, over-sexed vampires, and there’s only so much crazy eyed Vampness a girl can take (yes, Damon Salvatore, I mean you). So, let’s get back to where it all started - old school Gothic tales set during the early years of everyone’s favourite Vampire, Count Dracula. This is a chunky book, 470 pages to be precise, and I was a little daunted at first, but, from the moment I started reading I literally could not put the book down." Helen Greenwood, Fantasy Book Review
What good is a toy that will wind down? What if you could put a heart in one? A real heart. One that beat and beat and didn't stop. What couldn't you do if you could make a toy like that? From the moment Mathias becomes the owner of a mysterious piece of paper, he is in terrible danger. Entangled in devious plots and pursued by the sinister Doctor Leiter and his devilish toys, Mathias finds himself on a quest to uncover a deadly secret.
"The Toymaker is an excellent book, one of very few that I wish were longer, and the book’s ending is as chilling as it is unexpected. A superb debut in which everything fits together like a jigsaw." Floresiensis, Fantasy Book Review
A small, quiet Midwestern town, unremarkable save for one fact: when the local teenagers reach a certain age, they run wild. When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she is surprised that she became a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact, she never thought she would escape her home town. When We Were Animals is Lumen's confessional: as a teenager, she fell beneath the sway of her community's darkest, strangest secret. For one year, beginning at puberty, every resident breaches during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path. For as long as she can, Lumen resists. Promising her father she will never breach, she investigates the mystery of her community's traditions and the stories erased from the town record. But the more we learn about the town's past, the more we realize that Lumen's memories are harbouring secrets of their own.
"The writing is beautiful: poetic and vivid and this includes the dialogue. This is a book you just need to sit down and read, allow the words to wash over you and experience Lumen’s extraordinarily eventful life. It will stay with you long after the last page is finished."
Pope Benignus is dying, and the man who takes his throne will hold the reins of an empire. Conspiracies swirl like shadows around Livia, the pope's daughter, who refuse...
Laura M Hughes
The dead beckon and the little girl obeys. Night after night she answers the graveyard’s call, though she dreads her encounters with the creature that dwells there. B...
Mark de Jager
Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, ...
When We Were Animals
A small, quiet Midwestern town, unremarkable save for one fact: when the local teenagers reach a certain age, they run wild. When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, ...
Melmoth the Wanderer
This violent, profound, baroque and blackly humorous novel is the story of Melmoth, who has sold his soul in exchange for immortality in a satanic bargain, and now preys on...
Harrison is a lonely teenager, afraid of water ever since a boating accident as a toddler. And he and his mother have just moved to the worst possible place: Dunnsmouth, a ...
The Monk, written by 19 year old Matthew Lewis in 1796, is one of the classic 18th Century gothic novels - famously mentioned in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey - and ...
Steven has a new job, with an important-sounding job title: Australia’s Regional Death. On a good day he thinks it has quite a ring to it, but on a bad day (that&rsqu...
Death Most Definite
Steve knew something was wrong as soon as he saw the dead girl in the Wintergarden food court. Nothing new - he saw dead people all the time - but this one was about to sav...
Recommended reads by sub-genre
Select a sub-genre below to see which books we highly recommend.
High / Epic fantasy
Secondary world with epic characters, themes, and plot
Heroic / Sword and Sorcery
Fantasy with heroic adventures
Fantasy narrative with an urban setting
Historical fantasy / fiction
Historical fiction with fantasy elements
Bleak subject matter and a dystopian setting
Fantasy set in parallel worlds
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Draws elements from both science fiction and fantasy
Fantasy for ages up to 12
Fantasy for ages 12+
Fantasy for ages 18+
Dystopian / Post-Apocalyptic
Fiction set in dark, nightmarish worlds
Monarchy / Empire
Fantasy books with empires at their core
Fiction with elements of fear, horror, death, gloom and romance
Fiction with vampiric characters
Fiction with werewolf characters
Fiction with steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology
Fiction with the legendary, scaled, fire-breathing creatures
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Fantasy with wizards, witches, magicians, sorceresses...
Lore, Legend and Mythology
Inspired by ancient folklore and mythology
Fantasy books focusing on mailtary life
Roman historical fiction
Explore the ancient Roman Empire
Books exploring the galaxy of the ever-popular franchise
Animal fantasy books
Fantasy with sentient animals
The Thief / Assassin
Fantasy books starring the thief or the assassin
Fiction exploring beyond the laws of nature
Japanese comic books and graphic novels
Liked to be scared? These books will do that...
For the reader who loves to laugh
Inspired by Tolkien
Love Lord of the Rings? Now try these...
The best science fiction and fantasy anthlogies