Listening After Dark: Savour These Fantasy Titles for Grown-Ups

A young redheaded woman is dressed as a medieval archer, and crouches in the reeds holding a bow
07/16/2020

Dim the Lights and Cozy Up to These Fantasy Titles

Not all fantasy stories are for kids… find your favourite grown-up fantasy titles at Audible.ca

Everyone remembers the fanfare and excitement surrounding the series finale of HBO’s fantasy juggernaut, “Game of Thrones.” A series record 19.3 million viewers tuned in to witness how the stories of Danaerys, Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister would end. It dominated the 2010s and has been named HBO’s most popular show of all time.

But how did a show about magic and dragons win over the hearts of so many?

Because fantasy doesn’t have to be just for kids. When the genre is injected with adult themes and issues, it speaks to adult audiences. HBO’s giant hit proved adult fantasy television could be successful, but for those in the know, fantasy had already been catering to adults in the audiobook world for some time.

Fantasy audiobooks for adults offer a great escape into the unreal, without losing the juicy bits. Fantasy is a diverse genre with so many branching and winding paths. Let us take you on a guided tour of the most popular adult fantasy sub-genres and the titles that define them.

Welcome to the World of Grimdark

Before the excitement surrounding the “Game of Thrones” TV show reached a fever pitch, the audiobook series was drawing in a rabid fanbase of listeners chomping at the bit for the next title in the series.

George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire, has come to represent a new subgenre called grimdark, which has set a new bar for realism and political murkiness, where it is difficult to sort the bad guys from the good and nothing is what it seems. Martin’s series puts aside destiny, chosen ones and other high fantasy tropes to focus on crumbling family dynasties and the stark, gritty realities of war.

A wizard with a crystal staff on a craggy hill reaches out to a large dragon perched above

Indulge with these Dark Fantasy Darlings

Dark fantasy titles give us delectable secondary worlds we’re more than happy to get lost in. A shadowy reflection of the people and places we recognize, these worlds are hidden away in the dark or on the fringe, accessible only by those eager enough to go looking.

They might be dreamscapes or parallel dimensions. Some titles in this subgenre might take place entirely in a character’s mind. Like gothic fantasy, dark fantasy might flirt with horror tropes. But where a gothic horror title might give us a hero stalked and victimized by dark, magical forces, the protagonists of dark fantasy are often themselves deeply connected to the supernatural world.

One of dark fantasy’s most famous writers is Stephen King — and The Dark Tower series is considered by many to be his masterpiece.

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.” So begins this incredible nine-title saga that offers us a dark reflection of the classic fantasy story, turning it on its head. It’s an epic of Arthurian proportions, but its modern-day duelling knights are nothing like what you’d expect. They are lost souls in search of a holy grail they can never obtain. The series remains so powerful with listeners because of its evocative setting, its enigmatic characters and its reversal of typical fantasy stereotypes.

In the world of dark fantasy, it’s impossible to mention Stephen King without also mentioning another master of the form, Neil Gaiman, who King himself has called “a treasure house” of fantasy literature. A master of weaving the surreal and dreamlike with the everyday, Gaiman excels at creating worlds that seem eerily similar to our own, but hide a dark side.

Gaiman has written a number of dark fantasy staples in his career, including his ambitious take on world mythology, American Gods.

American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition (A Full Cast Production)

Author:
Neil Gaiman
Narrator:
Ron McLarty, Daniel Oreskes, full cast
Length:
19:39
Series:
American Gods
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

And now an Audible Original production of his wildly popular graphic novel, The Sandman.

The Sandman

Author:
Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs
Narrator:
Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen
Length:
10:54
Type:

Equal parts a subversion of classic comic book tropes and a deep exploration of mythological structures, this Audible Original production features a cast of more than 30 voice actors, including James McAvoy and Kat Dennings and is the first time this incredible work has been told in the audio medium.

A classic updated for modern enjoyment, this new foray into audio storytelling is the perfect title to indulge in. And if you like what you hear, there are so many more dark fantasy titles to discover at Audible.

Embrace the Shadows with Gothic Fantasy

Gothic fantasy contains classic fantasy tropes of monsters and castles but adds a sophisticated yet sinister twist, offering up anti-heroes whose actions we might find distasteful, but who nevertheless draw us in with their charm.

The subgenre has been around since the days of Count Dracula, but more recent explorations — such as Anne Rice’s wildly popular series The Vampire Chronicles — trade in the castle for the penthouse and dress the vampires in tight jeans and leather jackets.

Gothic fantasy is about the fear of decay, the dread of watching things crumble into ruin. Ancient cities and family dynasties can turn to rubble, but for the vampires and other monsters in these contemporary gothic stories, that dread is even more real as their bodies often decay and die if they can’t find sustenance.

If you’re looking for a partner in the dance macabre, you can do no better than Lestat — Anne Rice’s favourite protagonist, who first appeared in Interview with the Vampire. Start there and see where the shadows take you.

Interview with the Vampire

Author:
Anne Rice
Narrator:
Simon Vance
Length:
14:24
Series:
The Vampire Chronicles
Type:
Unabridged Audiobook

So, if you’ve just put the kids down and are looking for a little adult escapism, or you want some company on a quiet night in, why not dim the lights, pour a glass of red and enjoy some of the best in grown-up fantasy titles available from Audible.

With our library of more than 450,000 titles, you can feed your fantasy craving or find the best sci-fi audiobooks if you’re looking for something a little different.

Are there other great titles we missed? Share your favourite fantasy series with us and tag us on Instagram Stories.

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