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dark academia aesthetic art

41+ Dark Academia aesthetic books with a rich boarding school vibe (fantasy magic schools)

What is dark academia and why is it trending? It’s basically a classical gothic aesthetic, with a classic university vibe – often but not necessarily blended with magic and suspense. Inspired by Oxford and Ivy League schools, YA dark academic books are kind of a reboot of the “magic academy” trope from a few years ago, just darker – they may include school uniforms, rich handsome bullies, classes and lectures, eccentric professors and mystery.

Netflix’s new “Wednesday” fits, along with some other uber popular media like Harry Potter (hogwarts vibes) or a Discovery of Witches or Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. A Golden Compass kind of fits too.



As defined by Reddit,
“It’s an aesthetic, think classical piano and violin music, dark shades of brown, plaid, old books, brown leather satchels, libraries, antique chess boards, etc. there’s a focus on learning in it too.”

“In terms of books precisely, they are moody and mysterious narratives that take place within an academic environment such as universities and/or boarding schools that are held to a certain upper standard. The elements of arts (which can be anything: painting, theatre, music, classic literature etc) are throughly present combined with a touch of Gothic-feel to the atmosphere overall. The books tend to fall on the darker side since sometimes there will be a plot about deaths/murders/mysteries/pursuit of something that could be considered twisted and odd in an everyday sitting.”

Here’s a nice youtube aesthetic with rain and classical music so you can feel the vibes.


Dark academia wallpapers

I do have a book list down below, but just for fun I made these dark academia artwork you can use as desktop wallpapers (they’re a little messy actually, I’ll make some cleaner high-res versions soon).


Best Dark Academia Books with a brooding vibe (YA/NA)

Kind of funny story, I was putting this list together and trying to remember a book I read decades ago that had a really strong impact on me. I thought it was some lesser known author that only appealed to me because of the focus on Greek studies and mythology (I studied greek in malta and italy, at classic ancient universities…) but the book also connected with me as an introvert and loner, desperate for belonging.

Turns out it’s the #1 book recommendation, a defining piece in dark academia literature:

Here are 40+ more dark academia books –

I’ll go through and add reviews and links soon!

  1. The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino Review: A thrilling tale of dark magic and ancient secrets hidden within the walls of a prestigious academy. Pros: Gripping plot, well-developed characters, atmospheric setting. Cons: May be too dark for some readers. Hook: When Tess uncovers a forbidden grimoire in her school library, she unwittingly unleashes a dangerous demon that threatens everyone around her.
  2. Killing November by Adriana Mather Review: A suspenseful and thrilling story of secrets, lies, and murder set in an elite boarding school. Pros: Compelling mystery, intriguing characters, fast-paced plot. Cons: Some readers may find the protagonist’s decisions frustrating. Hook: November is sent to a secluded boarding school with deadly secrets, where she must uncover the truth behind the murders or become the next victim.
  3. Truly Devious Series by Maureen Johnson Review: A captivating murder mystery series filled with twists, turns, and fascinating characters. Pros: Engaging plot, well-developed characters, excellent balance of past and present narratives. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow at times. Hook: Aspiring detective Stevie Bell is determined to solve the infamous cold case at her prestigious boarding school, but a new murder threatens her investigation and her life.
  4. The Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo Review: A richly-imagined, dark fantasy world filled with magic, romance, and adventure. Pros: Complex world-building, compelling characters, intricate plotlines. Cons: Some readers may find the multiple storylines overwhelming. Hook: In a world divided by darkness and power, young Alina Starkov discovers her own dormant magical abilities and must navigate a treacherous world of politics, war, and deceit.
  5. Circe by Madeline Miller Review: A captivating and beautifully-written retelling of the story of the witch Circe from Greek mythology. Pros: Lush prose, strong character development, unique perspective on mythology. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow. Hook: Banished to an isolated island, the goddess Circe hones her powers and faces gods, mortals, and monsters in a quest for her own destiny.
  6. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo Review: A gritty and dark urban fantasy set in the secret societies of Yale University. Pros: Engrossing plot, strong world-building, complex characters. Cons: Some readers may find the graphic content unsettling. Hook: Alex Stern, the newest member of Yale’s secret society Lethe, must uncover the truth behind a series of murders on campus while navigating the sinister world of the occult.
  7. Atlas Six by Olivie Blake Review: A character-driven, dark academia novel filled with magic, power, and secrets. Pros: Intricate character development, atmospheric setting, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the narrative dense. Hook: Six of the world’s most powerful magicians are selected to compete for a place in the secretive Alexandrian Society, where knowledge and power are the ultimate prizes.
  8. A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Review: A dark and twisted tale set in a magical school where survival is a daily struggle. Pros: Unique world-building, compelling characters, intense action. Cons: Some readers may find the protagonist unlikable. Hook: At the deadly Scholomance, El must navigate a treacherous world of monsters and rival students to survive and unlock the secrets of her own dark powers.
  9. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling Review: An iconic, magical coming-of-age story set in the enchanting world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Pros: Immersive world-building, lovable characters, compelling plot. Cons: Some readers may find certain plot elements predictable. Hook: Young orphan Harry Potter discovers he’s a wizard and embarks on a thrilling adventure, filled with friendship, danger, and mystery, while uncovering his true destiny.

  1. Vicious duology by V.E. Schwab Review: A gripping and morally complex story of ambition, power, and revenge. Pros: Well-developed characters, unique plot, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the non-linear narrative structure confusing. Hook: Victor and Eli, once best friends, now bitter enemies with extraordinary abilities, engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse, with the lines between hero and villain blurred.
  2. Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab Review: A captivating and imaginative fantasy series set across parallel Londons. Pros: Rich world-building, engaging characters, intricate plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow in places. Hook: Kell, a rare magician with the ability to travel between parallel Londons, must navigate treacherous politics and dark magic to protect his world from a powerful and dangerous force.
  3. Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko Review: A dark and philosophical tale of magic, transformation, and the nature of power. Pros: Unique magical system, thought-provoking themes, compelling characters. Cons: Dense writing style and slow pacing may not be for everyone. Hook: Sasha, a gifted student, is forced to attend a mysterious and dangerous school, where she must confront the terrifying secrets that lie within her own soul.
  4. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio Review: A suspenseful and atmospheric dark academia novel set in the world of theater. Pros: Well-drawn characters, engaging writing style, intricate plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow. Hook: At an elite conservatory, a group of acting students are entangled in a web of secrets, jealousy, and betrayal, culminating in a tragic murder that echoes the very plays they study.
  5. A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1) by Libba Bray Review: A haunting and atmospheric Victorian-era tale of magic, mystery, and sisterhood. Pros: Rich historical setting, strong female characters, intriguing supernatural elements. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the protagonist unsympathetic. Hook: After the tragic death of her mother, Gemma Doyle is sent to a prestigious boarding school, where she discovers her own supernatural powers and a dark secret hidden beneath the school’s genteel facade.
  6. Conversion by Katherine Howe Review: A tense and chilling story of hysteria, secrets, and power set in an elite girls’ school. Pros: Engaging mystery, strong character development, unique blend of historical and contemporary narratives. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: As a mysterious illness spreads through a prestigious girls’ school, Colleen must uncover the truth behind the outbreak while navigating the treacherous world of adolescence and power.
  7. Alone with You in the Ether by Olivie Blake Review: A romantic and haunting dark academia novel with a touch of the supernatural. Pros: Beautiful prose, captivating characters, atmospheric setting. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the plot predictable. Hook: As a gifted student at a prestigious academy, Emery must confront her own fears, desires, and the supernatural presence that haunts her dreams, all while navigating the treacherous world of academia and love.

  1. A Lesson In Vengeance by Victoria Lee Review: A dark and twisted tale of obsession, secrets, and the power of the past set in an elite boarding school. Pros: Atmospheric setting, strong character development, compelling mystery. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: Felicity returns to the prestigious Dalloway School, where she is drawn into a dangerous game of obsession and deception with a new roommate, as they uncover the dark truth behind the school’s infamous history.
  2. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell Review: A thrilling and intricate tale of time travel, magic, and betrayal set in historical New York City. Pros: Rich world-building, complex characters, engaging plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the narrative dense. Hook: Esta, a talented thief with the ability to manipulate time, must travel back to 1902 New York City to retrieve a magical artifact that could change the course of history and save her world.
  3. Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella Review: A haunting and suspenseful story of grief, mental illness, and the search for truth set in the hallowed halls of Harvard University. Pros: Engaging mystery, strong character development, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the supernatural elements unconvincing. Hook: After her brother’s suicide at Harvard, Cady searches for answers about his final days, only to be confronted with mysterious voices that may hold the key to the truth or lead her to madness.
  4. The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky Review: A thrilling and suspenseful story of obsession, fear, and the dark side of fandom set in a prestigious New York City high school. Pros: Engaging plot, strong character development, unique premise. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing uneven and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: Rachel, a new student at a prestigious high school, is drawn into the secretive Mary Shelley Club, where she must confront her own fears and obsessions as the group’s twisted games escalate to dangerous levels.
  5. The Magisterium Series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare Review: A captivating and action-packed middle-grade fantasy series set in a magical school. Pros: Engaging plot, well-developed characters, unique magical system. Cons: Some readers may find the series derivative of other popular fantasy series. Hook: Twelve-year-old Callum Hunt is reluctantly drawn into the magical world of the Magisterium, where he must confront his own destiny, dark secrets, and the forces of evil that threaten his world.
  6. Zodiac Academy by Caroline Peckham and Suzanne Valenti Review: A fast-paced and steamy dark academia series set in a magical academy, filled with romance, intrigue, and betrayal. Pros: Engaging plot, compelling characters, unique magical system. Cons: Some readers may find the series too focused on romance and interpersonal drama. Hook: Twins Tori and Darcy are thrust into the dangerous world of Zodiac Academy, where they must navigate treacherous politics, dark magic, and the passions of the supernatural creatures that surround them.The Scholomance Series by Naomi Novik Review: A dark and twisted tale set in a magical school where survival is a daily struggle. Pros: Unique world-building, compelling characters, intense action. Cons: Some readers may find the protagonist unlikable. Hook: At the deadly Scholomance, El must navigate a treacherous world of monsters and rival students to survive and unlock the secrets of her own dark powers.

  1. Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide Review: A suspenseful and thrilling dark academia novel that tackles themes of racism, classism, and the price of success. Pros: Engaging mystery, well-developed characters, timely themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: When an anonymous texter begins to reveal the darkest secrets of two Black students at an elite private school, they must work together to uncover the truth and protect their futures.
  2. Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson Review: A charming and enchanting middle-grade fantasy series set in a magical school that trains princesses and knights. Pros: Engaging plot, likable characters, unique world-building. Cons: Some readers may find the story predictable and the pacing slow. Hook: A young girl with no memory of her past joins the prestigious Pennyroyal Academy, where she must navigate a world of magic, adventure, and friendship to discover her true identity.
  3. Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger Review: An action-packed and heartwarming middle-grade fantasy series filled with magic, adventure, and friendship. Pros: Engaging plot, well-developed characters, immersive world-building. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the storylines repetitive. Hook: Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster discovers she’s an elf with incredible powers and is whisked away to a magical world, where she must uncover the truth about her past and save her new friends from a dangerous enemy.
  4. The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl Review: A dark and atmospheric modern-day retelling of classic fairytales set in a prestigious boarding school. Pros: Unique premise, engaging mystery, strong character development. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the plot confusing. Hook: Four girls at the mysterious Grimrose Académie for Elite Students must unravel the secrets of their school and their own pasts while navigating a web of lies, betrayal, and danger.
  5. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Review: A haunting and beautifully-written novel set in an infinite labyrinth filled with wonders and mysteries. Pros: Lyrical prose, intricate world-building, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the narrative confusing. Hook: Piranesi, the sole inhabitant of an endless, mysterious House, must confront the truth about his world and himself when a stranger arrives, bringing chaos and danger.
  6. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova Review: A sweeping and atmospheric historical novel that weaves together the stories of three generations in search of the truth about Vlad the Impaler. Pros: Rich historical detail, engaging mystery, intricate plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the narrative dense. Hook: A young woman discovers a cache of ancient letters and sets off on a dangerous journey across Europe to uncover the truth about her family’s connection to the infamous Dracula.
  7. These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever Review: A dark and unsettling story of obsession, love, and betrayal set in the world of academia. Pros: Engaging characters, atmospheric setting, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the subject matter disturbing. Hook: In 1970s Pittsburgh, two young men with a shared passion for art and intellect embark on a twisted and dangerous journey into obsession, pushing the boundaries of morality and sanity.

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke Review: A richly detailed and enchanting historical fantasy set in an alternate 19th-century England filled with magic and intrigue. Pros: Immersive world-building, complex characters, engaging plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the narrative dense. Hook: In a world where magic has all but disappeared, two very different magicians emerge, challenging the status quo and setting off a rivalry that will change the course of history.
  2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt Review: A beautifully written and compelling coming-of-age story that explores themes of grief, identity, and the power of art. Pros: Engaging characters, lush prose, intricate plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the book overly long. Hook: After surviving a tragic accident that kills his mother, young Theo Decker is drawn into the dark and dangerous world of art theft and crime, all while grappling with his own grief and identity.
  3. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Review: A poignant and beautifully written retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus, exploring themes of love, loyalty, and the cost of war. Pros: Lyrical prose, compelling characters, fresh take on a classic myth. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the focus on romance unappealing. Hook: In this reimagining of the Iliad, Achilles and Patroclus forge an unbreakable bond, navigating the treacherous world of gods and heroes while facing the ultimate test of their love and loyalty.
  4. The Truants by Kate Weinberg Review: A suspenseful and atmospheric dark academia novel that explores themes of obsession, desire, and the search for truth. Pros: Engaging mystery, well-drawn characters, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: At a prestigious university, a group of students become entangled in a web of secrets, obsession, and betrayal, culminating in a shocking tragedy that forces them to confront the truth about themselves and their relationships.
  5. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides Review: A chilling and suspenseful thriller set in the hallowed halls of Cambridge University, exploring themes of obsession, grief, and the dark side of academia. Pros: Engaging mystery, strong character development, atmospheric setting. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution predictable. Hook: When a series of murders rocks the Cambridge University community, a grieving therapist becomes obsessed with proving the guilt of a charismatic professor, only to find herself drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
  6. In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead Review: A gripping and suspenseful dark academia novel that explores themes of friendship, secrets, and the price of ambition. Pros: Engaging mystery, well-developed characters, atmospheric setting. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: At an elite university, a group of friends is haunted by a tragedy from their past, as a mysterious killer begins to expose their darkest secrets and force them to confront the truth about themselves and their relationships.
  7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro Review: A haunting and thought-provoking dystopian novel that explores themes of love, loss, and what it means to be human. Pros: Engaging characters, compelling narrative, powerful themes. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the subject matter depressing. Hook: In a dystopian world where human clones are raised for organ harvesting, three friends struggle with their feelings for each other and grapple with the harsh reality of their existence as they search for the truth about their purpose and the meaning of their lives.

  1. My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham Review: A dark and atmospheric Gothic novel that explores themes of obsession, love, and the thin line between life and death. Pros: Engaging characters, eerie setting, compelling mystery. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the narrative confusing. Hook: In an isolated boarding school shrouded in secrets and darkness, a young woman becomes entangled in a deadly love triangle as she navigates the treacherous world of the living and the dead, seeking the truth about her own past and her connection to a tragic accident.
  2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt Review: A mesmerizing and suspenseful dark academia novel that delves into themes of obsession, morality, and the dangerous allure of the intellectual elite. Pros: Engaging characters, atmospheric setting, intricate plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the subject matter disturbing. Hook: A group of classics students at an elite New England college become entangled in a web of secrets, obsession, and betrayal, culminating in a shocking act of violence that forces them to confront the consequences of their actions and the limits of their own morality.

  1. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman Review: A haunting and atmospheric dark academia novel that explores themes of memory, secrets, and the power of language. Pros: Engaging mystery, well-developed characters, immersive setting. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the resolution unsatisfying. Hook: A Latin teacher returns to her alma mater, an isolated boarding school in the Adirondacks, only to find herself drawn into a dangerous game of secrets and betrayal that echoes a tragedy from her own past.
  2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater Review: A captivating and atmospheric young adult novel that weaves together elements of dark academia, magic, and romance. Pros: Engaging characters, intriguing mystery, unique world-building. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the plot confusing. Hook: Blue Sargent, the daughter of a psychic, becomes entangled with a group of private school boys who are searching for a long-lost Welsh king, leading them on a dangerous journey into the world of magic, dreams, and destiny.
  3. The Likeness by Tana French Review: A gripping and atmospheric dark academia thriller that explores themes of identity, friendship, and the weight of the past. Pros: Engaging mystery, complex characters, immersive setting. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the premise implausible. Hook: Detective Cassie Maddox goes undercover as a murdered young woman to infiltrate an enigmatic group of students at an elite university, only to find herself drawn into a dangerous web of secrets, lies, and betrayal.
  4. The Magpies by Mark Edwards Review: A suspenseful and chilling psychological thriller that delves into themes of obsession, revenge, and the dark side of suburban life. Pros: Engaging mystery, well-drawn characters, gripping plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the subject matter disturbing. Hook: A young couple’s idyllic new home becomes a nightmare when they are targeted by their sinister neighbors, leading them on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth and protect their lives.
  5. Bunny by Mona Awad Review: A dark and surreal satire of academia, privilege, and the power of imagination, blending elements of dark academia, horror, and humor. Pros: Unique premise, engaging characters, thought-provoking themes. Cons: Some readers may find the narrative confusing and the tone uneven. Hook: At an elite New England college, a lonely graduate student is drawn into a bizarre and dangerous world when she is invited to join a secret society of young women who call themselves “Bunnies.”
  6. The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler Review: A darkly humorous and satirical dark academia novel that explores themes of obsession, friendship, and the consequences of our actions. Pros: Engaging characters, witty prose, clever plot. Cons: Some readers may find the pacing slow and the subject matter disturbing. Hook: A group of high school friends, known as “The Basic Eight,” find themselves at the center of a media frenzy when their obsession with a charismatic teacher leads to a shocking act of violence and a desperate attempt to cover up the truth.

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