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How grimdark is TDTCB?

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Updated list November 2020, it seems to be updated infrequently with new books and new votes:

Beyond Redemption - by Michael R Fletcher, Grimdark Rating 4.66
The Darkness That Comes Before - by R. Scott Bakker, Grimdark Rating 4.52
Prince of Thorns - by Mark Lawrence, Grimdark Rating 4.42
The Court of Broken Knives - by Anna Spark Smith, Grimdark Rating 4.18
Godblind - by Anna Stephens, Grimdark Rating 4.15
The Steel Remains - by Richard K. Morgan, Grimdark Rating 4.10
The Blade Itself - by Joe Abercrombie, Grimdark Rating 4.10
Heroes Die - by Matthew Woodring Stover, Grimdark Rating 3.97 (*)
Devices and Desires - by K.J Parker, Grimdark Rating 3.89 (*)
The Black Company - by Glen Cook, Grimdark Rating 3.81
Low Town - by Daniel Polansky, Grimdark Rating 3.80
A Little Hatred - by Joe Abercombie, Grimdark Rating 3.77 (*)
Blackwing - by Ed McDonald, Grimdark Rating 3.73
The Left Hand of God - by Paul Hoffman, Grimdark Rating 3.69 (*)
Priest of Bones - by Peter McLean, Grimdark Rating 3.63 (*)
Horus Rising - by Dan Abnet, Grimdark Rating 3.60 (*)
The Grim Company - by Luke Scull, Grimdark Rating 3.55
The Mirror Empire - by Kameron Hurley, Grimdark Rating 3.49 (*)
The Poppy War - by R.F. Kuang, Grimdark Rating 3.48 (*)
Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes,  Grimdark Rating 3.45 (*)
A Game of Thrones - by George RR Martin, Grimdark Rating 3.43
Gardens of the Moon - by Steven Erikson, Grimdark Rating 3.43
Elric of Melnibone - by Michael Moorcock, Grimdark Rating 3.41
Scourge of the Betrayer - by Jeff Salyards, Grimdark Rating 3.31 (*)
The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Grimdark Rating 3.29 (*)
Prince of Fools - by Mark Lawrence, Grimdark Rating 3.27
Lord Foul's Bane - by Stephen R Donaldson, Grimdark Rating 3.19
The Vagrant - by Peter Newman, Grimdark Rating 3.11
The Emperor's Blades - by Brian Staveley, Grimdark Rating 3.11 (*)
Red Sister - by Mark Lawrence, Grimdark Rating 3.08
The Library at Mount Char - by Scott Hawkins, Grimdark Rating 2.89 (*)
The Grey Bastards - by Jonathan French, Grimdark Rating 2.89 (*)
Shadow of the Torturer - by Gene Wolfe, Grimdark Rating 2.88 (*)
Bloodsong - by Anthony Ryan, Grimdark Rating 2.88 (*)
The Girl And The Stars - by Mark Lawrence, Grimdark Rating 2.84 (*)
The Last Wish - by Andrzej Sapkowski, Grimdark Rating 2.82
The Way of Shadows - by Brent Weeks, Grimdark Rating 2.78
Traitor's Blade - by Sebastian de Castell, Grimdark Rating 2.74 (*)
Conan - by Howard, Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter, Grimdark Rating 2.68
Half a King - by Joe Abercrombie, Grimdark Rating 2.67
The Gunslinger - by Stephen King, Grimdark Rating 2.66
The Red Knight - by Miles Cameron, Grimdark Rating 2.66 (*)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - by Seth Dickinson, Grimdark Rating 2.62 (*)
Ember In The Ashes - by Sabaa Tahir, Grimdark Rating 2.60 (*)
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, Grimdark Rating 2.56
The Lies of Locke Lamora - by Scott Lynch, Grimdark Rating 2.32
Legend - by David Gemmell, Grimdark Rating 2.27
The Fifth Season - by N.K. Jemisin, Grimdark Rating 2.26 (*)
Malice - by John Gwynne, Grimdark Rating 2.23
The Final Empire - by Brandon Sanderson, Grimdark Rating 1.97
Assassin's Apprentice - by Robin Hobb, Grimdark Rating 1.96
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, Grimdark Rating 1.79 (*)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - by N.K. Jemisin, Grimdark Rating 1.75 (*)
The Innocent Mage - by Karen Miller, Grimdark Rating 1.54 (*)
The Sword of Truth - by Terry Goodkind, Grimdark Rating 1.51
Magician - by Raymond E Feist, Grimdark Rating 1.46
One Word Kill  - by Mark Lawrence,  Grimdark rating 1.42 (*)
The Pawn of Prophecy - by David Eddings, Grimdark Rating 1.26
The Sword of Shannara - by Terry Brooks, Grimdark Rating 1.16

(*) Average based on fewer than 100 votes

I went back and checked... 8months later. The more I happen to read the books on this list, the more I realize that whatever it is I might think "grimdark" actually is does not appear to be what the general consensus is.

Though, given how varied each individual book's votes are, I suspect there's not much of a consensus.

Like, for example, Poppy War having the same rating as Elric, and Library at Mount Char being so low. Or Fifth Season, Legend, and Lamora being basically the same rating.

I'm so disappointed by voted book lists that I stopped considering them a thing long time ago. The problem with them is people not being familiar with all the available options, often not actually being that well-read, and even if they somehow are, not really having any noticeable critical thinking.

Like, The Library at Mount Char, while fairly dark, is made laughable by the stupidity of what's happening there (basically, the whole plot is pointless because the author just simply doesn't understand emotional growth, thinking it can only be achieved through horrible adversity), essentially being grimdark for the sake of being grimdark. The latter can be said about many other books on the list, too. And it's not even in the same universe as TSA, which isn't trying to be dark, it simply is because there is no escaping it and because what happens in the series has actual weight instead of being just a stylized cartoon.

And then there are people who just don't read anything disturbing, so their mileage on grimdark varies, to say the least.

The whole exercise is all around pointless and quite annoying if you take it seriously.

That being out there, looking at it as just a list of new books is how to not get toxic in this situation, so props to Wilshire!

I personally really enjoyed Library at Mount Char, that it sits next to Shadow of the Torturer is somewhat telling to me. Though personally I'd place them at different ends, they do end up both being rather moody and have similar themes of emotional development during hard times... However I'm not really a fan of Shadow to begin with so maybe I "didnt get it".

And yes, that's why polls are pointless. The fellow that's not read any of the top 5 (for the sake of argument), might put Elric of Melnibone at a 5 if their other experiences of reading fantasy are Shannara, Sword of Truth, and LOTR.

A list like this is really only as valid as the number of people who have read every one and ranked them accordingly (edit, went back and read your comment - this is exactly what you said lol). Given a few hundred of those people and you might get a list that was at least consistent, but it is then impossible to generalize on a greater scale, as the whole list needs re-evaluated every time a new book is added.

But, I find the attempt enjoyable, and will continue to make up words and genres for "books that are dark" rather than using words other people have made up but don't have useful definitions :P .

Edit: Also, this makes me not want to read Fletcher - I'm pretty skeptical of a book thats "way more grimdark" than TDTCB.


--- Quote from: Wilshire on June 11, 2019, 07:25:08 pm ---And yes, that's why polls are pointless. The fellow that's not read any of the top 5 (for the sake of argument), might put Elric of Melnibone at a 5 if their other experiences of reading fantasy are Shannara, Sword of Truth, and LOTR.

--- End quote ---
Um, one of those things is not like the others! The Sword of Truth is actually quite rape-y, full of torture and a lot of killing, and is very harsh on everyone who disagrees with the main characters. But all of those things are a bit brushed off since the books are mostly centered on getting their simple moralizing - and, later, heavy-handed Objectivism message - across.

All that being said, the Chainfire trilogy (it's part of the Sword of Truth series) is still one of my all-time favorites. Goodkind's really great with explaining his magic, even though it's not very consistent from book to book. But he takes it seriously and has a lot of details and interesting interactions within his magic system that leave other writers far behind.


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