Last Updated on June 12, 2023 by Jella Erhard
Explore the most beguiling dark academia books for adults and YA readers from beloved classics to the most popular new releases. Read the best Ya, mystery, romance, fiction, and fantasy dark academia books.
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Must-Read Dark Academia Books
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Are you a fan of mysteries, academia, and a touch of the macabre? Then you’re at the right place because we collected some of the most bewitching dark academia books of all time. You’ll find here classic dark academia books as well as new releases in both fiction and fantasy genre.
The dark academia sub-genre has been gaining popularity in recent years, thanks to its focus on dark mysteries as well as the darker side of human nature. What makes these thrilling reads so special is that they’re highly enjoyable for anyone who loves a good mystery or psychological thriller, regardless of age.
RELATED: Best Dark Fantasy Books For Adults
Dark academia books can be just as enjoyable for adults as they are for young adults, as long as you have an interest in dark mysteries and secrets, twisty stories, dark horror romance books, and unique stories about serial killers and want to read about thrilling but dark stories.
These atmospheric and entertaining books never fail to challenge readers’ intellect while also deepening their understanding of human nature, and offering a thrilling escape from everyday life.
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine
Maddalena and the Dark is one of the most atmospheric new dark academia books of 2023 with an absolutely spellbinding story. This Venetian fairytale is lush with magic and music, immersing readers in a decadent world that is both alluring and perilous.
The story is beautifully written and explores themes of friendship, desire, and the consequences of our actions.
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine is a stunning novel that takes place in 18th-century Venice, set in a prestigious music school. Luisa, a talented violinist, dreams of becoming the best at her craft and joining the highest ranks of the girls’ orchestra.
However, she feels isolated and lacks companionship until she meets Maddalena, who has been sent to the school to preserve her marriage prospects. Together, they forge a deep friendship, and Maddalena invites Luisa into a dangerous plot to rescue her future on her own terms.
Maddalena and the Dark is a feast for the senses and is a great choice for adults and YA readers who are looking for addicting new dark academia books.
The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland
The God of Endings is a captivating and suspenseful debut novel that masterfully blends elements of fantasy, romance, and mystery. Collette LeSange, the main character, is an immortal woman who runs an elite fine arts school for children in upstate New York.
However, her immortality is not a blessing, but rather a curse that has brought her centuries of turmoil and heartache. The story is set in 1984 and follows Collette as she deals with a troubled child, a stalking presence from her past, and a growing hunger that she can’t explain.
This novel is not just about vampires, but about the human condition and the question of whether life is a gift or a curse. With elements of romance, suspense, and fantasy, this book is perfect for fans who are looking for new vampire books as well as for those who love classic vampire books like Interview with a Vampire.
The God of Endings is one of the most breathtaking new dark academia books for vampire and fantasy fans.
Promise Boys by Nick Brooks
Promise Boys one of the most gripping and intense dark academia books of 2023 with a mystery story that will keep you guessing until the very end.
This page-turner follows three teenagers of color, J.B., Ramón, and Trey, who become the prime suspects in their principal’s murder at the prestigious Urban Promise Prep school. To clear their names, they must band together to uncover the truth behind the deadly secrets that lurk within the school’s walls.
Nick Brooks delivers a heart-pounding tale of murder, betrayal, and loyalty that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The writing is sharp and captivating, with a strong sense of atmosphere and tension that makes the story feel real and impactful.
The characters are well-developed and relatable, with their own distinct voices and personalities that add depth and complexity to the narrative. Meaningful themes of identity, justice, and the price of truth are explored with sensitivity and nuance, and is a great choice for anyone who loves thought-provoking YA fiction/fantasy books for teens.
Promise Boys is one of the best YA dark academia books that’s a must-read for readers of all ages who love murder mysteries, coming-of-age stories, or socially conscious fiction.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo is a thrilling and chilling addition to the dark academia genre that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. With its unique blend of magic, murder, and Ivy League politics, this book is a must-read for fans of dark, twisted tales set in academia.
The story follows Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a young woman with a troubled past who is given a second chance to attend Yale University on a full scholarship.
But Alex’s scholarship comes with a catch: she must use her unique ability to see ghosts to monitor the secret societies that operate within the university’s hallowed halls. As she delves deeper into the world of the elite and the occult, Alex uncovers a sinister plot that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.
The story follows Galaxy “Alex” Stern, a young woman with a troubled past who is given a second chance to attend Yale University on a full scholarship. But Alex’s scholarship comes with a catch: she must use her unique ability to see ghosts to monitor the secret societies that operate within the university’s hallowed halls.
As she delves deeper into the world of the elite and the occult, Alex uncovers a sinister plot that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.
Leigh Bardugo’s writing is both captivating and atmospheric, with vivid descriptions that will transport you to the gothic buildings and shadowy corners of Yale’s campus.
The characters are all complex and layered, with their own secrets and motivations that drive the plot forward. And the themes of power, corruption, and the dangers of knowledge all come together to create a truly unforgettable reading experience.
Ninth House is one of the most thrilling dark academia books with its unforgettable characters, intricate plot, and haunting setting, and will surely stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Boys is a captivating and atmospheric read that will transport you to the hidden world of Aglionby Academy, a private school for the wealthy and privileged.
With its intricate plot, complex characters, and eerie setting, this book is a perfect example of the dark academia genre.
At its core, The Raven Boys is a story about obsession, destiny, and the power of knowledge. The characters are all driven by a desire to uncover the secrets of the ancient Welsh king, Glendower, and the magical ley lines that run beneath their town.
Their quest takes them deep into the woods, where they encounter ghosts, psychics, and other supernatural beings.
The writing style in this book is gorgeous, with lyrical descriptions that will transport you to the misty mountains and enchanted forests of Virginia. The characters are all deeply flawed and complex, with hidden depths that slowly unravel as the story progresses.
Its plot is filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end and is a great choice for those who love dark fantasy ya books.
The Raven Boys is one of the best books to read for adults and YA readers who are fans of dark academia or simply looking for a gripping and atmospheric read that will captivate and enthrall them from start to finish.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Secret History is an absolute must-read for anyone who loves dark academia books and is an especially great choice for those who prefer fiction over fantasy novels.
The story follows a group of five elite college students who become entangled in a dangerous game of secrets and lies. As they delve deeper into their studies of Greek literature, they find themselves drawn into a world of obsession and murder.
What makes this book a great dark academia read is its exploration of themes like academia, friendship, and morality. Tartt’s writing is absolutely captivating, and she creates a world that is both beautiful and haunting. The characters are complex and well-developed, with motivations that are both relatable and terrifying.
One of the things that sets The Secret History apart from other dark academia books is its focus on Greek literature.
The book is full of references to ancient myths and legends, which adds an extra layer of depth to the story. It’s a book that will make you appreciate the power of literature, while also showing you the darker side of human nature.
The Secret History is one of the most twisted dark academia books that transports its readers into a world of dark secrets and murder.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
We Were Villains is an absolute must-read for anyone who loves dark academia books.
The story follows a group of seven theater students at an elite conservatory who become entangled in a deadly game of obsession and betrayal.
As they prepare for their final performance, the lines between reality and fiction begin to blur, and the students find themselves drawn into a world of violence and secrets.
What makes this book a great dark academia read is its exploration of themes like art, obsession, and the blurred lines between reality and fiction.
Rio’s writing is absolutely captivating, and she creates a world that is both beautiful and terrifying. The characters are complex and well-developed, with motivations that are both relatable and disturbing.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Vicious is a book that’s perfect for adults and YA readers who love a good dark academia read set in a lush fantasy world.
The story follows two brilliant college students, Victor and Eli, who become obsessed with the idea of gaining superhuman abilities. But when their experiment goes wrong, they end up with deadly powers that set them on a collision course with each other.
What makes Vicious a great dark academia book is its exploration of themes like power, morality, and revenge.
The characters are complex and well-developed, with motivations that are both relatable and terrifying. Schwab’s writing style is sharp and atmospheric, creating a world that is both intriguing and dangerous.
But what really sets this book apart is its non-linear narrative structure. The story jumps back and forth in time, allowing the reader to piece together the events that led to the present-day conflict between Victor and Eli.
This structure keeps the reader engaged and on their toes, as they try to figure out what happened and who to root for. It’s a book that will make you question the nature of power and morality, while also delivering plenty of action and suspense. So if you’re looking for a book that will keep you up all night, this is the one for you
Vicious is one of the most thrilling and thought-provoking dark academia books that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Shadow of the Wind is an amazing dark academia book that both fantasy and fiction readers love.
Firstly, the book is set in Barcelona during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, which gives it a hauntingly beautiful backdrop.
The story follows the adventures of a young boy named Daniel Sempere, who discovers a mysterious book called “The Shadow of the Wind” by an obscure author named Julian Carax. As Daniel tries to uncover the author’s past, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous web of secrets and lies.
What makes this book a great dark academia read is its exploration of themes like the power of literature, the quest for knowledge, and the complexities of human relationships. The book also has a Gothic feel, with its creepy atmosphere, hidden passages, and spooky characters.
Zafon’s writing style is absolutely captivating, and he creates a world that is both beautiful and haunting. He also incorporates elements of magical realism, which add an extra layer of intrigue to the story.
It also has a beautifully crafted world, fascinating characters, and an intricate plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. So grab a cup of tea, curl up with this book, and get lost in its pages.
The Shadow of the Wind is one of the most atmospheric dark academia books that’s packed with mystery, romance, and adventure and is a must-read for everyone.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest classic dark academia books that’s loved for its exploration of the darker aspects of human nature.
The story follows the character of Dorian Gray, a young man who becomes obsessed with beauty and pleasure, and who makes a wish that his portrait would bear the burden of his sins, while he remains forever young and handsome.
As Dorian falls into a life of sin and corruption, his portrait shows the true ugliness of his soul, while he stays outwardly charming.
The novel also touches on the world of art, aesthetics, and philosophy, which are common themes in dark academia literature. Through the character of Basil Hallward, the novel explores the power of art and questions the morality of artistic creation.
The book also raises the idea of the duality of man, and the struggle between the noble and the base instincts within human nature. Wilde’s classic dark academia novel has been captivating people for decades thanks to its profound story that explores the darker side of human nature which makes it a great choice for those readers too who love classic monster books.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a fascinating read that delves into complex themes and has compelling characters.
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