5 Chilling Fantasy Horror Books To Make Your Flesh Crawl

What are fantasy horror books? Do they exist and if so, how are they different from either supernatural horror or dark fantasy books?

Alright, I admit: as far as I know, ‘fantasy horror’ isn’t really a sub-genre and I’ve invented the term to better describe this list. What I had in mind were fantasy books that created an atmosphere of uncanniness, dread and fright as opposed to action-style adrenaline. These are stories whose foes are more unnerving than enraging. 

If you’re in the mood for exactly that, look no further.

Here are five fantasy horror books to read:

Each one of these novels are ones that readers say will have the right atmosphere. For a side-by-side comparison, here is a chart.

The Aching God by Mike Shel


“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

Book cover of "The Aching God"

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. That is, until old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, heralding an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, Auric must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands.

With only a few inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization.

Auric has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.29

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

First on our list of fantasy horror books is The Aching God. Fans loved the fact that the main character, Auric, was not just an older protagonist, but one coming out of retirement and courageously battling his inner demons to do so.

While this makes Auric a recognizable character type, these readers praised the story’s portrayal of him. Yes, he’s tortured by brutal memories, but his severe PTSD struck these readers as realistic and engrossing.

Moreover, they praised the book’s world-building. The world was full of history, secrets and mystery. But in particular, an atmosphere of slowly increasing dread and fright haunted its pages. 

Negative Comments

If The Aching God wasn’t to a reader’s taste, what did they say? 

It turns out that there wasn’t a clear common thread between their feedback. If I had to pick one, though, it would be that some readers found the characters’ types overly familiar types. 

I got the sense that while the book’s fans recognized Auric, for instance, as a ‘tortured hero’ type, they found these features fleshed out and real. Readers who weren’t as enthusiastic about the story, however, thought this was cliche.

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub


On a brisk autumn day, a twelve-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra.

Book cover of "The Talisman"

The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America–and into another realm.

One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written, The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery.

Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother’s life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more.

Let the quest begin…

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Next on our list of fantasy horror books is a novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub!

Readers delighted by The Talisman remarked that it was a wonderful hero’s journey story. Jack, they said, was an enjoyable and convincing child protagonist. They rooted for him as he faced his fears and struggles, while also enjoying his growth and bravery.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t find the story enjoyable, though, their comments were generally consistent: these readers said that the novel stretched for too long, particularly in the middle.

I, Strahd: Memoirs of a Vampire by P.N Elrod


Some of the parchment pages were the color of cream, thick and substantial, made to last many, many lifetimes. Other pages were thin and desiccated, positively yellow from age, and crackled alarmingly as Van Richten turned them over.

Book cover of "I, Strahd"

There were no ornate illuminations, no fussy borders, only lines of plain text in hard black ink. The flowing handwriting was a bit difficult to follow at first; the writer’s style of calligraphy had not been in common use for 300 years.

No table of contents, but from the dates it looked to be some kind of history. He turned to the first page and read:

I, Strahd, Lord of Barovia, well aware certain events of my reign have been desperately misunderstood by those who are better at garbling history than recording it, hereby set down an exact record of those events, that the truth may at last be known….

He caught his breath. By all the good gods, a personal journal?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.91

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Readers described I, Strahd as a riveting tale of an honorable and once-mortal war hero’s transformation into a ruthless vampire lord. While the novel is set within the larger Ravenloft book series, readers mentioned that I, Strahd is a standalone story. Fortunately, that means it’s unnecessary to be familiar with the other books before diving into this one!

Fans who enjoyed I, Strahd often remarked that the story’s characterization and pacing were excellent. The first half of the story especially riveted them.

They also praised how realistic and three-dimensional the characters were. These readers found themselves invested in Straud’s story and intrigued throughout his descent into darkness.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy the novel, they often said that they found Strahd’s love for Tatyana unconvincing.

Some of them said that his feelings seemed to sprout too suddenly, while others said that Tatyana’s portrayal dissatisfied them. She’s described as physically beautiful, but these readers wanted to see what aspect of her character made him fall in love with her.

Vampire of the Mists by Christie Golden


Jander Sunstar is a gold elf, a native of magical Evermeet in the Forgotten Realms. He is also a five-hundred-year-old vampire.

Book cover of "Vampire of the Mists"

Torn by rage and grief, Jander is transported into the nightmare realm of Ravenloft, where he gains the attention of the demiplane’s master, Count Strand Von Zarovich.

But can Jander trust this elegant fellow vampire once he discovers that his own quest for revenge is linked to the dark heritage of the count’s domain?

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.86

Most Common Rating: 4

Positive Comments

Vampire of the Mists is another story set within the Ravenloft book series. Like I, Strahd however, it doesn’t require familiarity with it to understand. It’s a standalone novel but one that could also be seen as a sequel. After all, the villain in Vampire of the Mists is I, Strahd’s protagonist!

If readers enjoyed the novel, they mentioned how interesting they found the contrast between Jander, a tragic hero vampire, and Count Strand Von Zarovich, a villainous vampire.

Jander loathes by his vampire impulses, whereas Strand fully embraces them. In this sense, the novel pits two popular vampire ‘types’ against each other and the result is a resounding clash. 

Others also added how much they enjoyed that the story committed to its dark fantasy horror premise: vampires kill people and hunt mortals as if they were cattle. Strahd is definitely a villain. And Jandar, while tormented about his actions, doesn’t come across as self-righteous or theatrical.

Negative Comments

What about readers who didn’t enjoy the book?

These readers usually interpreted the story’s classic portrayal of vampires as cliches. For instance, as per the traditional portrayal, garlic repels vampires and mortals have to invite them inside their house before these denizens of the night can enter.

Others said that they wanted the story to have a higher fright factor: while the story might be dark or tragic, it didn’t frighten them.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King


In the first book of this brilliant series, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil.

Book cover of "The Gunslinger"

In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake.

Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

What Do Readers Say?

Goodreads Rating: 3.96

Most Common Rating: 5

Positive Comments

Last on our list of fantasy horror books is The Gunslinger by Stephen King. Readers who raved about this novel frequently mentioned the beautiful, poetic prose.

They also enthused over how intriguing Roland was as a character. While Roland starts off as the classic ‘strong and silent type’ so common in Westerns, he’s reveals a unique and multifaceted character.

Other readers mentioned how much they appreciated the distinctiveness of the world itself: it’s part Western, fantasy and post-apocalyptic.

Negative Comments

If readers didn’t enjoy The Gunslinger, they often said that there wasn’t much background information in the beginning of the book. Because of this, the story confused them until they progressed through a good portion of the novel.

Chilling Fantasy Horror Books To Make Your Flesh Crawl

How Do These Fantasy Horror Novels Compare?

5 Chilling Fantasy Horror Books To Make Your Flesh Crawl

N.S. Mirage

I'm Natalie, an avid fantasy reader here to help readers find exciting, otherworldly books.

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