I find this an interesting question particularly about the fantasy genre because often the conflict in a fantasy story is good versus evil, light over dark and that implies that some nasty things happen in the story. A fantasy world or setting can be light and bright and inspiring and yet threatened by something that will destroy it all. It wouldn’t necessarily be called dark fantasy because bad things happen. I’m thinking here of Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or Mordant’s Need ot McMaster Bujould’s The Curse of Challion and Paladin of Souls would also fit into this light and bright fantasy even though there is some nastiness in them.
I’m thinking this dark fantasy label has to do with the tone of the story as well as the degree of nastiness in the content. George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is in the dark category. It doesn’t start off too pretty and devolves from there. Your favourite characters aren’t safe from execution. Darkness can be in the setting, dark gritty streets, dark gritty battles, anti-heroes like Abercrombie and Laurence. In recent years, dark fantasy has become a bit of thing. I’m not sure it’s a new thing but it’s a bit more out there and talked about.
My fantasy series, Dragon Wine, definitely fits into the dark fantasy space. One reviewer labelled it ‘grim dark.’ A tad more nasty that your every day dark fantasy, perhaps. I believe the grim dark label is more related to Warhammer 40K. There is a bleakness to the 40K worlds and a lack of optimism. In my readings in 40K sphere the thing that lifts these stories up from their dark, desperate universe is the camaraderie amoung the space marines, or the other characters. While it’s a dark future setting, human relationships count for the most part.
I’m not sure why Dragon Wine came out so dark, but I think it does reflect some aspects of our current society-fear of terrorism, the reality of terrorism and the darker side of human nature. I think the premise of a post-apocalyptic world, no law and order and humankind at a low ebb feed into that darkness very well. At the get go, it’s not going to be light, bright and shining. Yet, there is hope there and a layer of light which I think brings it back out of the grim dark and into the dark fantasy realm.
The dragons too are not run of the mill, or so I’ve been told. No good luck dragons here. They are pretty feral and scary.
There is violence, torture, sexual violence and depictions of humans doing awful things to each other. Something I’ve coped flak for. I can only say that’s how the story came, that’s what the world inspired in me to write. Luckily not everything I write is this dark.
If this has piqued your interest here is the blurb for the amazing (yes, it's brutal and beautiful at the same time!) Shatterwing -
Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.
Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.
The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.
There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.
Currently, Dragon Wine: Shatterwing is free in ebook for a short time. As part of spreading the word about Shatterwing being available for free Donna is doing a blog tour and offering a give away of a hard copy of Shatterwing. Winners will be drawn from people who comment during the blog tour. So leave a comment to be in to win people!
Dragon Wine Book 2: Skywatcher, the follow on book is also available in ebook and print. This one is on my TBR for the holidays... I am buzzing with anticipation to dive in! Remember to click this link to get your FREE copy of Shatterwing. Trust me, it's great!