Fantasy Novels

Top-Notch Worldbuilding in ‘The Grand Dark’

The Grand Dark is a prime example of excellent worldbuilding, highlighting a dark and mysterious city whose residents are struggling to recover from a recent bloody war. Kadrey’s creation is brimming with creativity. While the central character and the general story are enthralling, the real beauty of the book lies in the delicate setting and its many surprises. There’s a lot to see in this impressive world, and it’s a real thrill to experience.


This is a society straight out of post-WWI Berlin. Parties rage for days on end, fueled by drugs and alcohol which are always in ample supply. Most are addicted to drugs which are casually available in most scenes throughout the book. Everyone is living like it’s their final day thanks to the horrifying reminders of the war. Nobody wants to miss a minute of fun and it has turned the city into more of a playground than a fully functioning metropolis. While it’s fun to experience, it’s also unsettling when you begin to realize how dangerous the city truly is. All of the partying is hiding the fact that machines are slowly taking over the city, that anarchists are on the verge of another war, and tensions are always startling high.


This was the most epic part of the book. The eponymous theater presents hilariously morbid plays every night, putting the most risqué soap operas to shame. It’s exciting to see the author’s creativity come to life with little details like the theater and the shocking plays. It’s definitely a unique plot point I haven’t seen in recent memory.


The many machines roaming the streets are a mixed bag. On the one hand, they represent the advancement of the city and their many technological advances. They make life easier, to a certain degree. On the other hand, they’re replacing the need for humans in many roles at a time when work is already scarce and the future isn’t bright. There’s an always looming hostility towards machines, adding to the general ominous cloud resting over the city. 


Imagining this city is a joy unto itself. It’s a mix between the dirty cities of the Victorian post-industrialist time period and the early technological advances of the early 20th century. There’s the opulence of the 1920s found in the book’s party society, mixed with the technologies prevalent in that era’s science fiction. Combined, it makes for an exciting mishmash of visuals.

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

Photo by Avi Agarwal on Unsplash

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