Zombies. Drowning. Being chased through a magical forest by a jelly bean.
If you haven’t experienced a haunting, and perhaps weird, nightmare, you are one of the lucky ones.
Movies don’t need to try very hard to creep us out enough to give us bad dreams, but books need to try a little harder. When we’re creating the scary stuff ourselves in our brains, we have control of the fear factor. So it’s always impressive when a book becomes the focal point in our recurring nightmares.
Here are a few books you need to watch out for, if you want to avoid some late-night literary horror!
Poison by Chris Wooding
I reviewed this one a few weeks ago, and I’m stuck in a conundrum of wanting to read it again and really not wanting to.
Right from the start, Poison is dark, but once our protagonist leaves the safety of her home, the horrors really begin. Battling Spider Queens and Fairy Kings doesn’t sound too scary in theory, but Wooding brings them to life in such a way that they will infiltrate your thoughts for a long time after the book is back on the shelf.
FYI, while writing this, I’ve gone and bought a copy of the book on Amazon. I’m a sucker for punishment – but it really is that good!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood
I know this doesn’t fall into the fantasy category but dystopia and fantasy often go hand in hand.
In a world ruled by a religious (and all male) elite, the rights of women are hurled back into the dark ages where they could own nothing, and were only good for child-bearing. And perhaps looking pretty on the arm of a bloke.
The restrictions and rules that women have to follow in The Handmaid’s Tale are scary enough, but the consequences are scarier still. Rebelling means death, but complying leads to a lifetime of growing insanity. Wouldn’t we all go insane if we weren’t allowed to read or socialise?
This one kept me up at night because the society presented in this book could easily happen if we allow women’s rights to be stripped away. This dystopia has the potential to literally jump off the page. To this day, I still can’t watch the TV series. Wouldn’t want to tempt fate.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – by J.K. Rowling
If you grew up with the characters in Harry Potter, you will know what a slap in the face Order of the Phoenix was.
While Goblet of Fire ended on a particularly dark note, it wasn’t until Order of the Phoenix that we realised all the fluff and juvenile fun from the first four books were well and truly gone. Mischief managed. Avada Kedavra.
I still loved the series after Goblet of Fire but it took a while to adjust to the new, dark undertones and more perilous stakes of the last three books. And that adjustment period came with nightmares.
Our innocence was shattered when we realised the likes of Dolores Umbridge – the most malicious and detestable teacher we’ve ever read – was allowed to command authority, and was even rewarded for her evil antics. Facing off with Death Eaters who had so far been nothing but memories from darker times. The introduction of Bellatrix Lestrange. Let’s not even talk about what happens to Sirius. It still hurts too much.
While the next few books got darker still, Order of the Phoenix will always stand out for being the book that lost us – and the characters – our literary innocence.
It’s so hard to hate books that make you feel, and it’s harder still to hate books that scarred you, but are absolutely fantastic. Call me a masochist, but I’ve got an urge to read all these books again!
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