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Darker And Edgier / Literature

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  • 2666: The Part about the Crimes is notably the darkest, bleakest and violent of the five Parts. Perhaps Bolaño’s darkest and bleakest work. While there are some heartwarming moments in it, they are glossed over and/or underplayed.
  • The Alex Rider series was always reasonably dark when it needed to be, but it started to become far more emotionally brutal by the fifth book, Scorpia where it's revealed (and then subverted) that Alex's father was an assassin working for a criminal organisation (Scorpia), and was killed by Mrs Jones, a character who was reasonably close and caring to Alex. Even further, this almost sways Alex into becoming a killer himself, to the point where — after he agrees to join Scorpia — he actually visits Mrs Jones' flat with a gun to assassinate her!
    • As the series progresses, it becomes less quippier and starts to focus more on how MI6 forcing Alex into missions is affecting him personally. As each book passes, it has a further emotional impact on Alex's life, slowly affecting his school life and his interaction with friends. The book Crocodile Tears even ends with Alex and Jack contemplating about his future in hospital (after Alex is badly burned following his final encounter with Desmond Mc-Cain).
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    • The ninth — and from 2011 to 2017, the final book in the series Scorpia Rising is by far the darkest, most emotional, and most violent of them all.
      • From the start of the novel to the finish, Alex is being led into a trap by his enemies who are constantly watching him and manipulating him. Everything that Alex and MI6 think they're doing right is unknowingly all part of Scorpia's master plan, so the villains have Alex in their clutches before the mission even begins!
      • In a misunderstanding, Alex is captured by the CIA who interrogate him about things he genuinely doesn't know about. When he can't answer their questions, they try to force the non-existent answers from him — by torturing him using waterboarding! It's only the timely arrival of Joe Byrne that saves him!
      • Two of the book's multiple villains consist of; Julius Grief, an old enemy from the second book with a particularly personal hatred towards Alex; and Abdul-Aziz al-Razim, a sadistic, emotionless scientist who tortures innocent people for the sake of creating a measurement system for pain. When Alex is forced into their clutches, Razim performs a nightmarish torture experiment on him, using Alex's best friend and caregiver, Jack Starbright as bait. Alex is forced to watch as Julius and Razim purposefully lure Jack into a vehicle full of explosives, which Julius detonates, apparently killing Jack and emotionally crippling Alex for the remainder of the book. This is without a doubt, the darkest and most painful moment to read in the entire series.
      • Still not enough? When Alex finally confronts Julius near the end of the book, he is instinctively forced to fatally shoot him in self defense — the only time Alex has ever purposefully used a gun to kill someone in the series. It doesn't help that Julius Grief was surgically altered to be a literal carbon copy of Alex's appearance, making it appear to Alex as though he shot himself (and is supposed to be a metaphor for Alex killing a darker part of himself "that should never have been born", in the words of Mrs Jones).
      • Almost as if to add insult to multiple injuries, it's revealed at the very end of the book that Alan Blunt, the head of MI6, actually staged the attack on Alex near the start of the book to simply get him out of school and go on the ill-fated mission to Cairo. Poor Alex can't trust anyone — even those who claim to be on "his side"! It's also important to note that the attack on Alex was at his own school, nearly killing Alex and injuring his friend, Tom.
      • Understandably, by the end of Scorpia Rising, Alex is broken, traumatized and changed, a mere shadow of who he was at the start of the series in Stormbreaker. The book ends with him heading off to the USA for a better life, away from the memories of his past. Keep in mind that for readers of the series from 2011 to 2017, this was initially supposed to be the final book in the series! However the newer books, Never Say Die in 2017 and the still-unreleased Nightshade, are appearing to veer back to the original spirit and tone of the first four books.
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  • All of the installments of The Anderssons by Solveig Olsson-Hultgren touch some social injustices and other tougher issues. Nevertheless though, "Skärvor av kristall" takes the cake with its portrayal of domestic abuse, suicide, antisemitism and an upcoming second world war.
  • The Beka Cooper trilogy of Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe has a less clear-cut morality than the previous series, with the good guys forced to pick and choose which injustice to fight because they don't always have the resources. The poverty-ridden neighborhoods Beka walks her beat in are full of everyday cruelty, evictions and murder and brawls, with its residents somewhat Conditioned to Accept Horror. The cops employ actual torturers, slavery is legal, and there's no Improbable Infant Survival. It's mentioned that at least five Dogs (cops) a year commit suicide because the place grinds their soul down so much.
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  • The Berenstain Bears books normally come in the form of small short books that deal with small family issues like being afraid of the dark at night and way too much junk food. But they also had mini-chapter books that dealt with slightly darker themes like shoplifting, friendships going sour, political controversy, and the destruction of natural habitats.
  • Many of the original Brothers Grimm fairytales were this before Disneyfication.
    • They were even Darker before the Grimm brothers got a hold of them, too.
  • Cahills vs. Vespers, the second series of The 39 Clues, takes some noticeable liberties with language, violence, and romantic relationships as compared to its preceding series.
  • The California Diaries series, compared to The Baby-Sitters Club. However, the use of this trope surprisingly didn't come off as cheesy or overdone. It allowed for more character development and exploration of realistic adolescent themes, like depression, drifting away from childhood friends, and (arguably) closeted homosexuality.
  • Weirdly enough, the Cambridge Latin Course textbooks. The first book were mostly just fairly light-hearted stories about Caecilius and his family, all of whom come across as genuinely nice people... until the last chapter, when Vesuvius erupts, killing almost the entire cast (even the dog!) The next book moves to Roman Britain, where a new main character, Salvius, is introduced. In his very first story, he executes one of his slaves for the heinous crime of being too sick to work, and things mostly go downhill from there. The final book ends with Salvius being taken to court for fraud and attempting to commit suicide to keep his honour intact.
    • Caecilius was a real person, and he did probably die in either the eruption of Vesuvius or an earlier earthquake. They had to stay true to history if they wanted to use someone who had actually lived...
  • Jim Butcher's other series Codex Alera does this as the series progresses. In the first novel, we have Tavi undergoing a personal challenge. By the end, there is a empire-wide war going on against the Vord where the very existence of the empire is threatened.
  • A number of later takes on the Cthulhu Mythos suffer from this. Granted, Lovecraft's original work is already not exactly kid-friendly...but it's certainly also not relentless doom and gloom about the imminent End of the World as We Know It, and the number of characters who actually die or Go Mad from the Revelation in his works (an aspect that's sometimes played up to the point of Flanderization) can be considered almost conservative by horror standards.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel series (1991-7), initially conceived as the main Doctor Who continuity following the 1989 cancellation of the TV series, is one of the most notoriously Darker and Edgier sub-sections of the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, concentrating on and intensifying the theme (introduced in the last two TV seasons) of the Seventh Doctor as a ruthless big-picture Manipulative Bastard who callously uses everyone around him as tools, including his closest friends, causing them genuine suffering and, when they work things out, outrage and disgust. There's an essay in which Kate Orman, one of the regular writers on the line, talks about researching domestic abuse in order to realistically depict it in a novel, as her most defining experience of what the series was about.
  • The Dresden Files, while never sparkles, rainbows, and kittens, is getting darker. Genocide being the most recent inclusion...
    • And that's the protagonist's doing. The villains have gotten considerably larger-scale as well, but the constant character development justifies all of this. The turning point seems to be post-Grave Peril (book three), then changes again post-Dead Beat (book 7). The series, already far from fluffy saccharine, got a fair bit darker with Ghost Story (book thirteen). Murphy's withdrawn and hostile, Molly is a few fries short of a happy meal, and the Fomor are a lot like the Red Court without the love and sense of fair play. In Cold Days the tone lightened slightly from the previous novel, although it is still very dark and edgy.
    • At one point, Harry implicitly uses this trope when he needs to get himself past a truly horrifying thing he saw with his Sight. He reminds himself of all the darker and edgier (and painfully beautiful) things he's seen, and eventually can deal with this as just the next in a long line of darker and edgier increments. For those who haven't read the books, anything seen with a Wizard's Sight is unforgettable — they can never see it with any less clarity for the rest of their very long lives.
    • Sometimes, oddly enough, justified in universe. Harry's behavior for a few books was due to him being possessed by a Fallen Angel. Molly's demeanor in Ghost Stories is actually in some part an act that she's using to try and be as scary to bad guys as Harry was.
    • Harry occasionally mentions this, either to the readers or to Ebenezer McCoy. It's part of how he reasons out that the Black Council has to exist.
  • Some books in The Fairy Chronicles have darker subject matter than others, going from a mission to restore laughter to a mission to stop every creature on Earth from becoming extinct.
  • The Gone books. Each book seems to get progressively darker, except for Lies, which was about on the same level as Hunger. Not that it started out on a light note, though. Fear is this on a very literal level.
  • The Goosebumps books are horror stories starring preteen children who get into many types of macabre predicaments. However, special mention goes to Welcome To Dead House, Stay Out of the Basement, A Night in Terror Tower, The Headless Ghost, and I Live in Your Basement, all of which are far darker and gorier than many of the other novels of the series. The 2000s series takes this to a much more gruesome level as well.
    • R. L. Stine followed up Goosebumps with The Nightmare Room which was generally darker, featuring books like Don't Forget Me! and They Call Me Creature that had a more somber tone, less humor, and far gorier content.
  • The Harry Potter books tended to get darker as they went along, which was no accident. Rowling set out to write a series that would grow up with its audience, and it was published over a decade — so the same 10-year-olds expected to read Philosopher's Stone were expected to be about 20 when they read Deathly Hallows, and ready for more mature fare. Naturally, this was entirely lost on a lot of concerned parents, leading to oodles of Fan Dumb and What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?. It started with a noticeable difference between the first two books and The Prisoner of Azkaban, which continued through The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, which were much grittier.
  • While not exactly grimdark, the How to Train Your Dragon series gets darker as it progresses, starting with a silly, lighthearted adventure and ending with some incredibly grim and hopeless situations including war, grievous injury, and the depiction of a child being tortured.
  • The Hunger Games: The whole series is pretty dark to begin with, but the series finale, Mockingjay, is much more hopeless than even the first two.
  • I Shall Wear Midnight is much, MUCH darker than any previous Tiffany book, involving teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and the Cunning Man, a truly terrifying Anthropomorphic Personification of violent persecution of "outsiders".
  • The Kharkanas Trilogy: Due to the much reduced amount of comedic relief compared to its main series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the — per Word of God intentional — Shakespearean slant of the story, the prequel trilogy's heavy themes and horrible things that happen leave no time to catch a breath. It also dials up the Unreliable Narrator and use of In Medias Res compared to the main series, which already is known for both.
  • The Lorax is this compared to the other Dr. Seuss books. It teaches about the consequences of not acknowledging natural resources until they are gone.
    • Even more so, The Butter Battle Book is a parable about the nuclear arms race between the US and the USSR, represented by two tribes living on opposite sides of a wall analogous to the Berlin Wall, concluding with a Bolivian Army Ending as the two sides are about to drop their bombs.
  • Diana Gabaldon's Lord John Grey series, historical mysteries concerning a secondary character from her main set of historicals, come across as an attempt to be both Darker and Edgier and Hotter and Sexier, using the seedy aspects of the protagonist's forbidden love affairs, him being gay and the setting being the 18th century, for all the shock they're worth. They may or may not have managed it. (Her main books are themselves essentially Darker and Edgier versions of the 'roguish Scots in kilts' type of historical romance, though significantly better written- there's still smoldering glances, kilts, time travels and duels, but the male love interest's the one who suffers all the traumatic villain-initiated rape scenes and Gabaldon doesn't hold back on the gore or inequality much.)
  • The Lord of the Rings. It was a Darker and Edgier sequel to The Hobbit due to a mixture of Cerebus Syndrome, The Moorcock Effect of retconning the Shire into The Silmarillion setting, and Tolkien's increasing dissatisfaction with fantasy being marketed to children.
  • Rick Riordan's other series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is much, much darker than his standard fantasy fare, including the aforementioned PJO and THO series. While those series and The Kane Chronicles, even with their darker stories, mostly keep low on profanities, MCGA isn't shy from having curses and (mild) profanities from being thrown, including "damn", "hell", "gosh", etc. Then there's the fact that, ascension aside, the main protagonist is disposed in a heavily horrific manner ( being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, with a gaping hole in his abdomen) And it's still a certifiably children's series.
  • The thriller Master of the World is often held up as an example of how Jules Verne, in his later years, became more and more pessimistic about humanity's use of science and technology.
  • Another Gregory Maguire novel, Mirror, Mirror, about Snow White has lots of kink. (Menstruation does not work that way!)
  • The Mouse Watch, a Spin-Off of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, is this compared to both the original cartoon and competing children's book series such as Geronimo Stilton. Some scenes are surprisingly intense, and the R.A.T.S. villains are scarier and more threatening than the likes of Fat Cat or Norton Nimnul. In particular, Big Bad Dr. Thornpaw is a rat who became a Cyborg Mad Scientist after being subjected to horrific Animal Testing. He's willing to kill or maim anyone to get what he wants, whether animal or human, adult or child.
  • The Nancy Drew Files and The Hardy Boys Casefiles spin-offs weren't really an attempt to go Darker and Edgier, but a switch to a new publisher removed most of their previous roadblocks, namely Never Say "Die", No Hugging, No Kissing, and the like (however, they were an attempt to skew older, hoping that maybe young readers might graduate up to them after aging out of the original series intended demographic.) In doing so, they also got better written as a side effect, and fans of both series consider them some of the better books in their respective franchises.
  • A Pearl for My Mistress was supposed to be this in relation to popular period dramas a lá Downton Abbey. It deals with economic problems, unsavory politics and racist attitudes of the "glamorous" 1930s in a more forthright fashion.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians and its sequel, The Heroes of Olympus take a darker turn with every book released. The first indication of a dark turn is during the third book, The Titan's Curse, which sees a 12-year-old suffering a Cruel and Unusual Death. And it's almost swept aside, with only minor repercussions that got resolved in the next book. The sequel series, though, takes the cake, what with featuring Dysfunction Junction plaguing the entire main cast, with the exception of Percy himself, who's really a lucky bastard among the demigods by having Good Parents who take care of him, and even he has to endure being separated from his friends for half a year.
  • The Power of Five was pretty dark from the very start, but Oblivion is notably even moreso.
  • After the success of her second novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra that she felt it was "too light, and bright, and sparkling" and planned to write something different next time. The result was her most realistic and controversial novel, Mansfield Park.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, the movie is this when compared to the books. It calls Kirsty and Rachel's friendship into question, has a gang of bullies pick on the girls, and has Jack Frost aiming to conquer the world. It also has Jack Frost acting much nastier than in the books, to the point of firing his loyal goblins and considering his army of snowmen to be weak and easily replaced.
    • Lucy the Diamond Fairy's book was a bit darker than others, as it dealt with the fairies' flying magic fading, causing them to lose their wings. It also had Jack Frost trying to impale the girls with icicles at one point.
    • Juliet the Valentine Fairy's book is more serious than others, as Rachel and Kirsty are compelled to argue for almost all of it, and it shows the consequences when items that make everyone loving are stolen.
    • Autumn the Falling Leaves Fairy's book has the girls experiencing a heat wave thanks to Jack Frost. All of the animals and plants are thirsty, leaves and food won't grow, and the finale of the book has the Ice Castle in danger of completely melting and flooding all of Fairyland.
  • With its relentlessly dark tone, heavily implied sex, constant violence, and creatures, The Mirrorworld Series is not your average children's novel.
  • The Red Room series to The X-Files, as Word of God says "Because we've moved from being the kind of country where we seek to uncover the truth to making it disappear." The protagonists are a pair of agents who exist as The Men in Black. Played with as the series has some Refuge in Audacity and Snark-to-Snark Combat and Pop-Cultured Badass moments to go along with the depressing setting.
  • Redwall:
    • According to this SPOILER LADEN Review of Doomwyte, the series went this way with the later novels.
    • Outcast of Redwall has a more mature and tragic tone than what came before it. The Big Bad, Swartt Sixclaw, is a disturbingly realistic sociopath whose only motive is to kill the book's hero for revenge, because the latter wounded him escaping enslavement. Much of the focus is on how Sunflash and Veil both had their lives ruined by Swartt's actions. Sunflash's need for revenge makes it impossible for him to have a normal life, and in the end he loses his best friend Skarlath. Veil's storyline shows how his life was ruined by Swartt abandoning him, and Bryony's mission to bring him back ends with Veil dying in her arms after taking a hit for her.
    • If any of the later books, Rakkety Tam. The book itself isn't exactly darker or edgier (since the series already has loads of Family-Unfriendly Violence), but the Big Bad is. He and his army are all cannibalistic and (relatively) competent villains. But like every other Redwall book, the amount of Sacrificial Lions only ranges between one and five, and the book still has a rather light-hearted feeling to it.
  • Darke of the Septimus Heap series is noticeably darker than the preceding books, what with the existence of the Castle being on play and lots of people dying in the end.
  • Shaman Blues: while its progenitor series takes place in World of Badass and the heroine has a whole lot of allies, this books starts with the villain targeting newborn children and the hero having very little know-how regarding the supernatural and a much bleaker outlook on life.
  • A Simple Survey is a two-part series. The first part, A Simple Survey, is mainly a collection of bizarre short stories with no apparent underlying theme. The second, A Simple Monitoring, is also a collection of short stories... that are all games in which the losers (if they survive) are executed.
  • Neil Gaiman gave Snow White a similar treatment in his short story "Snow, Glass, Apples."
  • Many of the poems in Songs of Experience are darker counterparts to poems in Songs of Innocence, for example "THE Chimney Sweeper" to "The Chimney Sweeper", "Infant Sorrow" to "Infant Joy", and both "The Human Abstract" and the cut poem "A DIVINE IMAGE" to "The Divine Image".
  • The Star Shards Chronicles trilogy starts out with some fairly dark horror themes, but stays PG-13. The final book, however, turns up the sex-and-profanity dial quite a bit.
  • Stuck starts off fair enough, though in its final episode the themes get darker and there's a bit more violence and black humor. Not surprising, considering that the main characters become fugitives.
  • The Cinderella adaptation Sunny Ella casts Cinderella as a deluded murderer and Rapunzel as a soulless half-vampire.
  • Survivors is this amongst the Erin Hunter series. The series is about groups of dogs who must survive after earthquakes cause all the humans in the area to evacuate. It has less overall violence than Warriors, however it has much more human violence than Warriors. The characters even come across the decaying bodies of humans, including a child. In contrast, Warriors goes out of its way to make sure cats help humans in danger.
  • The Ties That Bind by Rob J. Hayes describes itself as a Grimdark Sword & Sorcery novel. Played with as it's fairly squarely in the genre, albeit very-very cynical.
  • A series of original novels based upon the Tomb Raider games was published in the mid-2000s. While the games themselves had become darker and edgier over time, the novels fully recast Lara as a killer more than an explorer and archeologist. One novel, The Man of Bronze, is particularly violent, with Lara describing in first person how she mercilessly kills a group of thugs (in the process recalling how she once killed a man while kissing him). Later, she attempts to kill a man in cold blood for apparently no other reason than he was painting a sexy portrait of her (she is unsuccessful).
  • Being a Warhammer 40,000 series, Gaunt's Ghosts was never sunshine and rainbows, but starting with The Guns of Tanith things got noticeably more brutal and grim, with beloved characters dying off, the battles getting even more desperate. Compare series starter First & Only with Book 8, Traitor General, and you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were reading two entirely different series.
  • What The Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror: John and Dave have already spent two books as irreverent losers whose lives are perpetually complicated by Cosmic Horror. This book continues the trend of showing the great toll this lifestyle takes on them. Dave now has clinical depression and John is addicted to hard drugs.
  • Wicked Lovely was, on its own, dark, due to being an Urban Fantasy novel about The Fair Folk. Ink Exchange was much, much, much more so. Then came fragile eternity, the Lightest and Softest of the series. Then came Radiant Shadows, which was similar in tone to Ink Exchange, with the additions of Tish being Killed Off for Real, and Irial being wounded to the extent that he'll die within a fortnight. So, it's Darker and Edgier And Deader.
  • The Wicked Years and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a fluffy, heartwarming story of a few friends in a magical country (albeit with a lot of Family-Unfriendly Violence). Wicked, the novel, doesn't go more than a few pages without some swear word or mention of sex, or just sex. Gregory Maguire had a pretty dirty mind... there is a lot of weird romance in it, like Elphaba's father and mother were both in love with the same man, Elphaba's roommate was in love with her (but married a older rich guy, who all Gelphie shippers insist is an abusive ass), Elphaba's guy friend and his friend may have had a hint of romance... it never ends. And yet this isn't the actual thrust of the plot. The Wizard is a tyrant, using a secret police and assassination to suppress dissension and many ethnic groups. Conscious, sapient Animals are sent to farms and stripped of their rights, resulting in many Animals going into hiding. Elphaba herself is willing to commit murder to help her cause, and works for what can only be called a terrorist group at one point. Her mentor, Doctor Dillamond, is brutally murdered for coming close to proving the minor point that Animals (the sapient kind) and animals (the normal kind) and humans are made from the same stuff. Religious tensions between Tick-tokism (straw-man science), Lurline (straw man paganism), and the Unionists worshiping the Unnamed God tears apart society. The Wizard's projects come at severe cost in life, such as the destruction of the Quadlings' country for ruby mines. Racism between humans — especially towards Winkies and Quadlings, is common (though Munchkinlanders of means always "marry into height)." The land is caught in a terrible drought. The Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City are both wasteful boondoggles. Witch sex is hardly the 'darker and edgier' in Wicked.


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