If the whole spate of highly popular TV fantasy series like Game of Thrones and The Witcher weren’t a big enough clue, grimdark fantasy is quite the rage these days. It’s been going on even longer in the literary world, with authors like Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence embracing anti-heroes, bleak scenarios, bleaker endings, and all the wince-inducing violence that you cannot stomach.
And there is an understandable appeal for grimdark in that it upends the traditional rules of “Tolkien fantasy” and creates an anything-goes, more-realistic-while-still-having-blood-magic setting. There’s a whole lot of imagination that goes on in these books and shows, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t enjoyed some of them.
Yet I’ve also come to really dislike marinating in these settings. One memorable example was the Poppy War, which everyone was raving about as one of the best new fantasy books of recent years. Initially I…
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