Where did the year go? It’s October and the leaves are turning golden brown, conkers are aplenty and here in England, the rain is neverending. With All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) and Dias De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) almost here, it’s a perfect time to pick up a book, settle in by candlelight and listen to the rain patter on the windowpanes. Or was that noise – footsteps? If you’re like me and find horror films or books utterly terrifying, but want something a little spookier to read I’ve got you covered. With strong heroines, haunted houses, deadly schools and dark magic, here are 5 Spooky Reads That Aren’t Too Scary. Grab a pumpkin spice latte and settle in to find your next spoooky read.
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The first of 5 Spooky Reads That Aren’t Too Scary is Mexican Gothic. An opulent gothic horror that oozes character, literally. Set in 1950’s Mexico in the misty hidalgo mountains, there’s a haunted house, creepy men with ulterior motives and a feisty, glamorous heroine. There are also hallucinations, suspected poisoning and hidden secrets with Mexican culture woven throughout.
Inspired by Mexican filmmaker Carlos Enrique Taboada, Mexican Gothic is Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s first horror novel and it has serious style and bite. Eerie and unnerving with layers of tension.
HOME BEFORE DARK
by Riley Sager
Another haunted house, or is it? Set in modern-day Vermont, Maggie Holt returns to Banebury Hall, the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror novel. As a child, she spent three weeks there before her family fled. She’s convinced the ghosts in the book aren’t real and the story is just that – a story – but when she returns to renovate the house, strange things start happening…
Home Before Dark is one of the best ‘scary’ thrillers I’ve ever read. Gripping from its premise to the very last page, with more twists and turns than a helter-skelter. Best read with all the lights on.
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Published by: Dutton Books
Scare meter: 🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃
A DEADLY EDUCATION
by Naomi Novik
The third of 5 Spooky Reads That Aren’t Too Scary features a deadly school, where if you don’t graduate – you die. And not every student graduates. It’s Hogwarts – but every class is Defence Against the Dark Arts – and there are monsters everywhere. Follow snarky Welsh-Indian sixteen-year-old Galadriel, as she finds friendships, allies, dark magic and maybe even a love interest.
A Deadly Education is a frighteningly fun adventure that has a detailed world in and outside of the school, so it has monstrous depth and is rich in history and lore. Did I mention the monsters?
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Published by: Del Rey Books
Scare meter: 🎃🎃🎃
THE CHALICE AND THE CROWN
by Kassandra Flamouri
My fourth pick is dark ballet fantasy The Chalice and the Crown. Russian ballerina Sasha Nikolayeva prepares to take the stage in her biggest role yet: as the prima ballerina in a performance of Swan Lake. And then the nightmares start. Nightmarish hallucinations that take her out of her body, and mind, into a beautiful but dark-edged world she’s never seen before.
Blurring the line between magic and madness, The Chalice and the Crown is beautiful and magical but also dark with violence, assault, slavery and death. See the content warnings here.
THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER
by Andrea Stewart
The fifth of 5 Spooky Books That Aren’t Too Scary is The Bone Shard Daughter. An unusual choice perhaps but this modern fantasy is spooky in a subtle way. Set in an Asian-inspired world, the Emperor of the Sukai Dynasty removes bone shards from his subjects against their will and uses them to power constructs. There are sinking islands, missing memories, lives and people.
Narrated through multiple points of view, including numerous strong heroines The Bone Shard Daughter is diverse, feminist and unapologetically magnificent in its execution. A great alternative fantasy read if you’re looking for something spooky, but not too scary.
Genre: Fiction, Epic Fantasy, LGBT+
Published by: Orbit Books
Scare meter: 🎃
What other spooky reads would you recommend? Let us know in the comments!
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