So you're looking for dark academia books. But you're also after fantasy recommendations. And most of the Dark academia recommendations seem to be thrillers.
I've got you. Here are 12+ Captivating Dark Academia Fantasy books to lose yourself in.
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Want to find some dark academia fantasy books?
Maybe it’s after binge-watching Wednesday on Netflix. Maybe it’s after reading Atlas Six. Or maybe it’s just because the weather has been so miserable. But I have been craving dark academia books recently.
Problem is, many dark academia books are thrillers or mysteries.
There are actually tons of awesome dark academia fantasy books. Whether you’re after magic, friendship groups or dark fantasy, I’ve got you covered.
Here are the top Dark Academia Fantasy books.
What is the Dark Academia Aesthetic?
Dark academia is a subculture with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing and learning. It’s the romanticization of learning.
I’ve heard it described as vintage with a gothic edge.
Think tweed, oxfords and plaid skirts but also dark photos and brooding poetry.
There have been some criticisms of Dark Academia. One important criticism is the lack of diversity in Dark Academia. Many people have commented on how eurocentric and white-dominated this aesthetic is because it’s linked to old universities such as Oxford. I think it’s really important we change that stereotype of academia. Below I’ve linked some wonderful posts and creators you can look at:
Dark Academia Reading List for Black People/Allies (Including Queer Black Authors) by Persephone Anasi
How to dress Dark Academia and POC Book Recs
R C Waldrun – Incredible Youtuber who posts about Dark Academia
Golden Lanni – Has many Dark Academic related videos
What are the best dark academia fantasy books?
1. The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
If you've been on BookTok, then you've probably heard of The Atlas Six.
At one point, I couldn't go on Booktok, without seeing a recommendation for The Atlas Six. It has approximately 11 million mentions on TikTok.
In Atlas Six, a secret society of academics look after lost known. They're known as The Alexandrian Society. And they secure a life of awe-inspiring wealth, power and prestige.
Each decade, the world's six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation.
The Atlas Six follows six characters competing for entry into the society - Libby Rhodes, Nicolás Ferrer de Varona, Reina Mori, Parisa Kamali, Tristan Caine and Callum Nova.
Dark academia fans will fall in love with this book. Set in a library, it has tons of academic references. From lectures to classes and academic theories.
So what's my point?
If you're after Dark academia fantasy books, I highly recommend picking this up.
If you're looking for books like The Atlas Six, I have a lots of recommendations. Check out my article on books like The Atlas Six here.
2. Babel by R.F. Kuang
Did you like A Secret History, The Atlas Six or Jonathon Strange and Dr Norrell. Then you will love Babel. A dark fantasy set in an academic setting. It discusses the power of language and the evils of authoritarianism.
It follows Robin Swift. Orphaned by cholera, The mysterious Professor Lovell brings him to London.
He trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek and Chinese. All to prepare for the day he'll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation. Known as Babel.
Babel is the world's centre for translation and magic.
Silver working is the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation. And it uses enchanted silver bars.
So what's the point?
Well it has made the British unparalleled in power. Likewise, its knowledge serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.
For Robin, Oxford is a utopia.
Dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power. The problem is, as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland.
If you're after dark academia fantasy books, then you NEED to read this.
3. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
I couldn't pass up an opportunity to recommend Legendborn. If you're after Dark Academia fantasy books you need to read it.
Let me walk you through why.
Legendborn is a King Arthur retelling with a secret society in an academic setting. This fast paced ya fantasy book is full of action, mind-blowing plot twists and awesome characters.
It follows Bree Mathews. After the death of her mother, she wants to avoid family memories. The result? She joins a residential program for gifted high school students.
But then she witnesses a magical attack on her first night.
A flying demon feeding on human energy. A Mage tries to wipe her memory. But he fails. And instead Bree unlocks new memories of her mother’s death.
If you're looking for a mysterious, dark haired and morally grey main character then this is a great choice.
It also has a diverse cast, an amazing female lead and dark academia vibes. Similarly, the commentary on slavery and racism is excellent.
Everyone needs to read Legendborn.
But if you're after Dark Academia Fantasy books, then I highly recommend picking it up
4. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Magicians is a great pick if you're looking for books like Dark Academia fantasy books. A fantasy with characters you love to hate and an academic setting.
It follows Quentin. He's brilliant but also miserable.
He's a senior in high school and is obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory.
Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There, he receives an education in modern sorcery.
But magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness he dreamed it would.
After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined.
An excellent read if you're after Dark Academia Fantasy books.
If you enjoyed Atlas Six, then you need to read The Magicians. They both feature academic references, magic and a group of intelligent friends.
5. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
If you're looking for dark academia fantasy books with great characters you should check out The Raven Boys.
It has a chaotic friendship group, fantasy and dark academia worldbuilding.
The Raven Boys follows Blue. Each year in the churchyard, Blue watches her psychic mother see those who will die that year. Blue never actually sees them herself. Until this year. When she speaks directly to a boy.
He is called Gansey and is a student at Aglionby school. The students are known locally as Raven Boys.
Raven Boys has such dark academia vibes.
Set in a local private school. Gansey is also obsessed with researching Welsh mythology. And it even references Latin.
The characters are what make this book. On the surface, it seems like a quirky loner meeting rich boys. But it’s so much more than that!
The characters are all fully developed with fleshed-out (and tragic) backstories. The relationships between them are some of the best I’ve read in YA Fiction
6. A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
There is so much to love about A Marvellous Light.
An mlm romance about magic, a mystery to solve and a secret magical society. A Marvellous Light is a Dark Academia fantasy with lots of references to books/libraries.
It follows Robin Blyth. Due to an administrative error, he is named liaison to a secret magical society. So, he is forced to contend with magic's dangers and a deadly curse while he searches for his missing predecessor.
To do this, he'll need the help of Edwin Courcey. Edwin Courcey is his prickly magical society counterpart.
The problem is, he clearly wishes Robin were anyone else.
I love the secret society of magicians. And the Edwardian setting and mlm romance sets it apart from other books including secret magical societies.
If you like historical fiction or dark academia then you need to read this one. It's fantastic to read about gay men in an Edwardian setting. And the dark academia setting makes it perfect if you're looking for books like The Atlas Six.
There are so many incredible mlm books.
Suppose you're after books with mlm romance. I have a whole blog post full of recommendations. Check out my blog post on mlm book here
7. We set the dark on fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
I've included this book because it includes great dark academia worldbuilding.
Plus it has one of the best wlw enemies to lovers romances. A Ya dystopian urban fantasy novel featuring a wlw romance and Latine representation.
We Set The Dark On Fire follows Daniela Vargas. She lives in a dystopian world where each man is entitled to 2 wives. A Primera and a Segunda. The Primera is intelligent, calm and analytical. The Segunda is the mother figure.
Outside the wall, the people go hungry. Dani started life outside of the wall.
And she must use her wits to survive illegally in the capital. She is also married to one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.
The premise was intriguing. And the main character was instantly likeable. She also grows a lot through the book. But the romance is what makes this so perfect. Two badass women marry a Straight man but fall in love with each other.
The world-building is compelling and mysterious. And the book has such dark academia vibes.
It opens in a prep school for girls. But it discusses so many important issues such as immigration politics and forced marriage.
We set the Dark on Fire features an intriguing dystopian premise and a likeable, strong-minded main character. This YA LGBTQ+ Dystopian book explores immigration politics, toxic masculinity and feminism. A great choice if you're looking for fantasy books with dark academia vibes
8. If we were villains by M.I. Rio
If you're looking for a dark academia read, a secret society of a smart group of friends then you should check out If We Were Villains.
It follows Oliver Marks. He's just served ten years in jail - for a murder he may or may not have committed.
But on the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison.
Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off. But the casting changes and the secondary characters usurp the stars.
The play spills dangerously over into life and one of them is found dead.
If you enjoyed the characters in The Atlas Six, then this is the book for you. It features a secret society with pretentious members who end up doing morally questionable things. The perfect choice if you're after dark academia fantasy books.
9. Ruinsong by Julia Ember
This is yet another seriously underrated book.
I don't see this recommended nearly enough online. Ruinsong is an ya lesbian book set in a dystopian world. It has lush world-building, a twisty plot and feisty main characters.
In this world, singers have magic powers when they sing certain songs. And they are able to heal, cause pain and heat people.
Cadence is an incredibly strong mage. She was born in poverty in an orphanage and rises to success. But she works for the evil Queen Elene. And Elene forces Cadence to use her power to torture others.
But when she is reunited with her childhood friend she must make a choice. Does she take a stand or follow the queen.
This book is like a dystopian and queer phantom of the opera. The world building is so unique. Full of strong willed women wearing beautiful ball gowns taking down evil.
A dark fantasy where girls take down their enemies while wearing beautiful pink ballgowns.
It also has one of the most unique magic systems with singing as a vehicle for magic.
It was really well developed. And the magic system and well developed characters really hook you into this story.
If you're after LGBTQ+ YA Fantasy books, you need to read this. It's such an underrated read. For even more LGBTQ+ YA Fantasy books, I have tons of recommendations. Check out my article on LGBTQ+ YA Fantasy books here.
10. Air Awakens by Elise Kova
It follows Vhalla, a library apprentice. She lives in The Solaris Empire. They're one conquest away from uniting the continent.
Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers - a mysterious magic society. She's been happy in her quiet world of books (same). But she unknowingly saves the life of a powerful sorcerer and the crown prince.
Vhalla discovers a powerful elemental magic lurking within her. A magic that could shift the tides of war. Now she must decide her future, embrace sorcery and leave the life she's known. Or remain as she's always been.I can understand why book lovers enjoyed this series. It has a great enemies to lovers romance. Vhalla is a great female character and she has fantastic character development throughout the book.
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