The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: This fourteen-book epic series features dark fantasy elements, complex characters, and a deep socio-political system. The story follows Rand Al’ Thor, a sheepherder-turned-messiah whose arrogance might save or destroy a world that requires his aid, but fears his power.
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss: This dark fantasy trilogy features a protagonist who firmly believes that the ends justify the means. Kvothe the Bloodless will do anything to find a way to destroy the Chandrian—ancient and powerful beings that killed his family and friends when he was young—including abusing his own powers to cheat, steal, and even kill. As he learns more about the world around him and the secrets that lie within, the question is: will he use his knowledge and power for good, or will he destroy those around him to exact his vengeance on the Chandrian?
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: This is the first book in what Sanderson expects to be a ten book series titled The Stormlight Archive. The story follows four main characters: Szeth, a disgraced Shinovari who is forced to use his powers and martial prowess to kill innocent people; Kaladin, a peasant soldier who is sold into slavery after refusing a gift from his commanding officer; Shallan, a minor noble’s daughter who decides thievery is the only way to restore her family’s fortunes; and Dalinar, uncle to the king, brilliant battlefield general, and seer of dark visions for his country’s future. Though they come from different classes in society, and even different parts of the world, they all come to find that the perpetual war that plagues their world is caused by something much more sinister than hate and greed.
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind: Like Game of Thrones, the good guys don’t always win in this dark fantasy series. The story follows Richard Cypher, a common woodsman who is thrust into a world of war, torture, and dark magic. He becomes a Seeker of Truth, not because he wants to, but because he must use this new-found power to stop the evil wizard Darken Rahl from attaining ultimate power over the world.
The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence: Much like the characters in Game of Thrones, the protagonist of this chilling series makes morally ambiguous choices (and many that are not so ambiguous). The story follows Jorg Ancrath, a young prince who uses the memory of his mother and brother being murdered to justify the thievery and murder that his band of outlaws commit. But when he must move back to his father’s castle to fulfill his destiny to become king, he finds that there is more to fear than just memories of death.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King: Of course any fantasy series written by the Master of Horror is going to be a dark fantasy! The Dark Tower follows Roland of Gilead, a Gunslinger (think medieval knight with two revolvers instead of a sword) whose kingdom is destroyed by treachery, and whose world is literally falling apart. Roland follows the Man in Black; the evil sorcerer who betrayed Gilead and put into motion the events that saw Roland’s family and friends dead. He hunts the Man in Black for vengeance as much as for the fact that he no longer has a place to call home. Roland walks through the barren wastelands, treacherous forests, and ruined cities of a world where time and space have stretched to the point of breaking. Through his journey, he finds companionship in other lost souls, and discovers a dark truth behind the breaking of his world; and, possibly, a way to save it.