Dark Fantasy: The 20 Best Horror Books Like The Sandman

Whether you may have just finished the Netflix adaptation or the original comics by Neil Gaiman, The Sandman probably left you wanting more. The surreal dreamworlds, fantasy powers, universe hopping, and deep characters are some of the best in comic history, not much could measure up with that, right?

Best Horror Books Like The Sandman

There’s a lot out there left to dig into though! Whether it be elements of horror in a fantasy story or a full-on terror in a fantasy setting, these novels and comics will give that same connection and worldbuilding The Sandman exceeded at, with amazing characters and development put into each one.

Books Like The Sandman For the Novel Reader

Some people don’t like comics, and that’s cool, they’re not for everyone. So, with that in mind here are ten novels that will bring the same scares and worldbuilding.

The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (Dark Tower, The)

No way there could be a list of horror fantasy books without The Dark Tower. King’s opus that ties his entire universe together almost went unfinished when the author was struck by a car in 1999, but thankfully he survived and it motivated him even more to finish the series.

What resulted was a beautiful, dark, touching saga of the life and death cycle. Sure, it got a little weird at the end but getting a complete and finished story as opposed to a never finished story like the first entry under comics on this list. 

Buy it on Amazon

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman: A Novel

Yes, that’s Stephen King again, but this time co-authored by late horror legend Peter Straub. Together they make The Talisman, a coming-of-age story about a child venturing across parallel realities to find a cure for his mother’s cancer.

It’s the worldbuilding that stands out, making a reality just under the surface of our own that’s both fantastical and terrifying. The coming-of-age story is touching too and has some real tear-jerker moments.

Buy it on Amazon

The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman: A Novel

Last of the King-related novels, I promise. The Fireman was one of Joe Hills’ takes on the apocalypse, using a fungus as opposed to a virus like his father’s benchmark, The Stand, but with the twist that it causes the infected to spontaneously burst into flame.

It becomes a surreal survival story in what ends up as a fantasy road trip as survivors evolve, learning to control the fire in strange ways while fighting off evil. Hill has a knack for worldbuilding and likable characters, and The Fireman is chock full of it all.

Buy it on Amazon

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman

Between Two Fires

What could be worse than living during The Black Plague? Living through The Black Plague while the armies of Hell descend on earth to torture humanity and go to war with God. That’s just the background setting in Between Two Fires, as it takes on the “disillusioned old survivor transports miracle child” trope. Pedro Pascal is somewhere scheming to get the television rights for himself.

Buy it on Amazon

No Gods For Drowning by Hailey Piper

No Gods For Drowning

There’s no description I can give No Gods For Drowning that can do it justice. There’s a city abandoned by gods, monsters closing in with a flooding ocean, and a ritualistic serial killer in a cat-and-mouse detective/love story. Even that doesn’t cover half of it. There’s cosmic horror on a personal level here, and it stays terrifying, even at the happiest points.

Buy it on Amazon

The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black

Part (fictional) biography of a crazed Doctor Moreau-type scientist determined to perform terrifying experiments, part anatomical guide to a strange and terrifying bestiary of creatures, with comments by the good doctor himself.

The anatomical charts of humanlike organisms as mythological creatures are grotesque, but so focused on detail they seem like they could be real. The doctor’s biography meanwhile, is a terrifying tale of grave-robbing and human experimentation. Do not make the mistake of reading this on an airplane (personal experience) because you will get weird looks from people nearby.

Buy it on Amazon

Cabal by Clive Barker

Cabal

Barker has enough horror fantasy to fill a list of its own, it was his specialty. Cabal is one of his definitive masterpieces though, inspiring the film Nightbreed which Barker also directed. There’s an underground city of monsters and a resurrected protagonist with supernatural powers mixed in with Barker’s supernatural, grotesque descriptions. 

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The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char

Weird, dark, and entirely original, The Library at Mount Char is so many things, but overall it’s a dark fantasy about a dead god and the battle to succeed him by his children. The book has a huge cast that manages to be fleshed out despite the undertaking it must have been. There’s incredible cosmic horror at play in the setting and the questions about god and existence make for great character interactions.

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The Lost Level by Brian Keene

The Lost Level

There’s a slight bias because Brian Keene was one of my big introductions to horror lit, but The Lost Level sees him breaking out of the indie horror kingdom he ruled over and reaching into fantasy with his equivalent to King’s Dark Tower series.

The Lost Level beefs the pulp up though, with robots and dinosaurs fighting cowboys and every manner of ridiculous matchup. It’s a fun fantasy tribute to pulp novels while bringing Keene’s scares with zombies and whatever other horrors he comes up with (there are a lot).

Buy it on Amazon

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A Novel

Maybe it’s cheating to give a Neil Gaiman recommendation when this is all based on The Sandman, but American Gods can’t be passed up. Shadow goes on an odyssey across America, interacting with mythical characters and creatures as he goes. 

The book has Gaiman’s signature magical surrealist outlook on the regular world, showing the supernatural just below the surface while exploring some of the horrifying aspects of the gods along with it.

Buy it on Amazon

Books Like The Sandman For The Comic Fan

Sometimes you just want a good comic to read. Maybe you’re a manga fan like me and want some good horror mixed in with your sword and superpowered fantasy. Either way, these graphic novels, and manga have some fantastical worlds and art that will scare your socks off.

Berserk by Kentaro Miura

Berserk Deluxe Volume 1

The unfinished series mentioned earlier. Berserk isn’t just one of the best manga ever made, but one of the best dark fantasy stories ever made – period. Giant swords, demonic creatures, and a love triangle torn apart for power. 

Berserk is gruesome, and Kentaro Miura’s art makes every detail of the bloody battles come to life as Guts fights both with and against his former friend Griffith. Sadly, Miura passed away in 2021, leaving the manga seemingly unfinished. Thankfully one of his close assistants, along with the rest of his team finishing the series now based on his notes and plans left behind.

Buy it on Amazon

Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Chainsaw Man, Vol. 1 (1)

It’s probably weird to say Chainsaw Man changed my life but this story is so much more than scary devils and wacky characters. When Denji, an orphan who inherited a massive debt to the mafia, is killed by said mafia, his devil friend Pochita makes a deal with him, becoming his heart and making him into Chainsaw Man.

Tense action, terrifying moments of horror, beautifully bloody art, and a touching story with characters you will cry over. Chainsaw Man moves from a Shonen action story to a meditation on loss, life, and free will that’s lovingly and tragically portrayed.

Buy it on Amazon

Dark Nights: Metal by Scott Snyder

Dark Nights Metal

Not just like The Sandman but featuring Dream of the Endless himself. Dark Nights: Metal is one of the critical darlings of DC’s recent years, bringing Batman against his most dangerous enemy- himself. Metal brings in evil Multiverse variants of Batman inspired by villains and his own Justice League comrades to break the bat, led by The Batman Who Laughs.

DC used Metal to bring some confusing canon and plot holes together while making one of the coolest and bloodiest Batman stories in recent memory.

Buy it on Amazon

Swamp Thing by Alan Moore

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One

Another DC horror flagship, Swamp Thing has been an off-and-on recurring character throughout the publisher’s history. Nothing quite got the protector of nature right like Alan Moore’s run on the comic though, giving a new Swamp Thing that wasn’t just a gross creature but a former human struggling to come to terms with the monster he is now. 

The series went all sorts of weird directions, probing environmentalist issues and bringing in every supernatural threat possible while Moore juggles it all and reinvigorates the character.

Buy it on Amazon

Spawn by Todd McFarlane

Spawn Compendium, Color Edition, Volume 1

Spawn has had one of the weirdest and most comprehensive histories in comics, being the avenger of Hell, sent to track down loose demons and damned souls. The series has ranged from the present day to the medieval past, giving some of the darkest, most violent runs in fantasy comics.

McFarlane’s designs set the horror, as his creatures and creations are nearly always grotesque and twisted beyond humanity and his creature design is just top-notch as usual.

Buy it on Amazon

Hellboy by Mike Mignola

Hellboy Omnibus Volume 1: Seed of Destruction

The cigar-chomping son of Satan takes on every supernatural threat possible along with amphibian friend Abe Sabien. The comics are terrifying Lovecraftian and demon-fighting romps with enough fun, blood, and monsters thrown in to overflow the jaws of hell and then some.

Buy it on Amazon

Godzilla: Unnatural Disasters by James Stokoe

Godzilla: Unnatural Disasters

Unnatural Disasters brings together three different Godzilla miniseries in one collection, but the one we’re after is Godzilla in Hell. If that title isn’t enough to bring you in, the King of the Monsters gets dragged into the depths of hell and undergoes a massive journey to claw his way back out.

Take all the kaiju destruction of Godzilla then place him against some of his greatest foes, but now with the supernatural strength of Hell fueling them. Godzilla in Hell is inventive, breakneck, and wildly inventive for Japan’s resident protector.

Buy it on Amazon

Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Uzumaki (3-in-1 Deluxe Edition) (Junji Ito)

Nothing has made me afraid of patterns and shapes quite like Uzumaki. Junji Ito takes his bizarre art style and makes a tale of the fantastical about a town being drawn into the curse of spirals. Some of these images will still appear in your dreams months later.

Everything becomes twisted as the town slowly becomes overtaken, with people and places spiraling in gruesome and horrifying ways. Ito’s art makes everything more horrifying, depicting a man turning into a slug among other things.

Buy it on Amazon

Attack On Titan by Hajime Isayama

Attack on Titan 1

Attack on Titan is a worldwide name at this point, and almost anyone can probably recognize the Colossal Titan from the hit manga. A fantasy about humanity trapped behind walls to protect them from giant, twisted humans called Titans that only desire to eat people.

That’s just the start, with Attack on Titan becoming a story about defying fate, the horrors of war, and the radicalization of youth into traumatized killers. The story is rich, and the characters will get you attached before some new horror befalls them. The action is high-flying and fun too, with some amazing setpieces.

Buy it on Amazon

Ajin: Demi-Human by Gamon Sakurai

Ajin 1: Demi-Human (Ajin: Demi-Human)

Finding out you’re part of an immortal race of beings that can summon supernatural beings to fight for you probably isn’t a normal occurrence for most people. In the world of Ajin, it’s normal though, with main character Kei dealing with the realization of who he is while also running from government agents that want to use him as a guinea pig.

Ajin delves into the supernatural and fantastical while debating who the real monsters are in a war of supernatural versus human and what makes us meet in between. The art is beautiful while being grotesque at the same time, and the characters are deep and well-developed for a read that seems shorter than it is.

Buy it on Amazon

These may not be for every audience, but hopefully, there’s something here that can give those same feelings of wonder and horror that The Sandman fills nearly every page with. There’s always plenty more to discover, and even more dreams- or nightmares- yet to be written.

Best Neil Gaiman Books Like The Sandman

  1. Norse Mythology
  2. Anansi Boys
  3. The Graveyard Book
  4. Neverwhere
  5. Good Omens
  6. Stardust

Horror Manga To Check Out

  1. Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
  2. Gyo by Junji Ito
  3. Fire Punch by Tatsuki Fujimoto
  4. The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu
  5. The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai

FAQs

What is dark fantasy?

Take a typical fantasy world, whether it be swords and sorcery, steampunk, or whatever imaginative setting you may have, and add some element of horror or terror to it. The horror of it can be outright, like the creatures of Berserk, or just atmospheric like The Library at Mount Char. As with anything fantasy, the only limit is your imagination.

I’m not good with scares, does all dark fantasy have horror?

Not necessarily. While yes, there are dark fantasy stories that will dive headfirst into the horror aspects of things, there are others that just use it as a setting for mystery, like many of Neil Gaiman’s works which feature fantastical worlds with small tinges of darkness lurking around the corner.

Is The Sandman a DC Comics character?

Yes! Though they don’t cross over very often, The Sandman is a part of the larger DC universe and has been published by DC’s Vertigo and Black Label imprints, aimed at more mature stories. While Dream only appears spontaneously in times of great danger, characters like John Constantine and Lucifer have their run of comics.

Has Neil Gaiman written any other comics?

Do I have good news for you! Gaiman doesn’t stay still for long, and in between the constant short stories, novels, and shows he works on he’s put out multiple comic runs over the years. Writing across DC and Marvel, Gaiman has taken on characters like Lucifer, Man-Thing, and even The Dark Knight himself.

Is there a sequel to The Sandman?

Gaiman is continuously adding to the story through spinoffs and other comics under DC’s Black Label imprint. In the meantime, there’s also the Audible narration with a full cast, and an anthology of short stories edited by Gaiman involving the Sandman universe.

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Ross Tyson