During the early 2000s, the fantasy genre underwent something of a revolution. After decades of heroic epic fantasy, headlined by the likes of Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and David Eddings, a new subgenre erupted in popularity. The era of grimdark arrived, spearheaded by George R. R. Martin’s opus, A Song of Ice and Fire.
Martin’s as-yet-unfinished series was praised for its “realism” and low-level perspective. Instead of prophesied heroes and farmboys fighting Dark Lords, A Song of Ice and Fire focused on family drama, political meddling, and the gritty, depressing realities of war. It was a hit, to say the least, and reached stratospheric levels with the development of HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation.
But Martin’s work (and subsequent authors like Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, and—especially—Steven Erikson) did not form the foundation of grimdark. No, it is the relatively unheralded Glen Cook who can properly be ascribed the title of “Godfather of Grimdark.”