There are many subgenres within the Fantasy genre. Dark Fantasy is a small, but growing one. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy defines Dark Fantasy as a story that incorporates a sense of horror but is clearly fantasy(1). This definition does not include the supernatural or magic, but should. A book should have a fantasy element to come under this category. Dark Fantasy is growing because readers like stories with a dark edge or that scare them. Many authors have written good books that fall under this subgenre.
Some of Mercedes Lackey's titles come under this category. Her books about the romance writer and magic user Diana Tregarde and her partner, a vampire named Andre LeBrel have provided interesting tales. Children of the Night tells about how these characters meet and fight a psychic vampire. In Burning Water, Diana Tregarde combats a manifestation of Aztec magic. Jinx High takes place in a high school, combating a vicious teenage witch. Unfortunately for readers, there will not be any more of these books.
The fantasy novel, A Cavern of Black Ice, by J.V. Jones can be in this sub-genre as well as Epic Fantasy. This book is full of dark images and magic. The main character can kill by making heart shots with complete accuracy. There are brutal assassins and vile, evil characters. A Fortress of Grey Ice is the second book of the trilogy with more of the dark story unfolding.
Resurrection Man by Sean Stewart is a Dark Fantasy with its tale of spiders, dissections, open graves and such. It takes place in an alternate reality where angels and demons wage war in our time. There are many scenes on the edge of gruesome horror. It is a novel not to be missed.
British author Tanith Lee writes many books in this sub-genre. The Secret Books of Paradys are set in a huge city like Paris but full of demons and other nasty creatures. The Blood Opera is about a woman who undergoes torture in a hidden mansion in this tale of vampires. Many of Ms. Lee's short stories are very dark and scary.
Christopher Golden is an author of several books in this subgenre. One of his frightening books is Wildwood Road. One Halloween eve, Michael is driving home from a party and nearly hits a little girl. She draws him to a house filled with mystery. In the weeks that follow, Michael's life is turned upside down with terror from the supernatural. This is one of the many suspenseful books from this author of dark stories.
The books discussed above are just a few of the many available in this subgenre. In this modern day of cynicism there are a lot of authors who are infusing their works with frightening images and darkness. Readers feeling a need for something different, can check out Dark Fantasy for a touch of horror and fright.
(1) Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant