15 Halloween Reads Ranked by Scare Factor
Scare factor: 1/15 cursed warriors. Dark fantasy akin to The Witcher with some creepy monsters!
When I tell you this book is the only thing getting me through the wait for season two of The Witcher, believe me! This dark fantasy is perfect for people looking for Halloween-y vibes without the scares. Sure, there are some creepy creatures, but ultimately this is a fantasy adventure story with a swoony romance (of course!)
By night, the Ankou is a legendary, immortal mercenary – the most fearsome warrior in the Five Lands. But when the sun rises, a dark curse leaves him nothing but bones. Flora, handmaiden to the royal family, is assaulted and left for dead after the massacre of Kaer-Ise. She and the Ankou strike a deal. He will help Flora reunite with the princess she served and love, and she will help him break his curse. Together, they will solve mysteries and battle monsters in a race against time.
Scare factor: 2/15 sinful demon princes. Not too many scares, but the Halloween vibes are immaculate!
I mean, do I have to even say anything at this point? Kingdom of the Cursed, sequel to Kingdom of the Wicked, picks right where we last left off, with Emelia still trying to solve her sister’s murder and dealing with the sinful princes of Hell. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say, this book is even more spicy than book one and the aesthetic is perfect for Halloween! I mean, the setting is Hell. You know they’d just throw one hell of a Halloween party! See?! Look what I did there? Ah…
Scare factor: 3/15 bone goats. Some zombies but keep your baseball bat handy and you got this!
This dark fairy tale is perfect for fantasy fans who like a bit more of the undead in your folklore. Ryn is a gravedigger in the remote village of Colbren, sitting at the foot of harsh mountain range once home to the fae creatures known as the Otherfolk. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren? The dead don’t always stay that way. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker, arrives in town, the risen dead known as “bone houses” begin to attack with renewed purpose. Together they will have to embark on a journey to the heart of the mountains to face a curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. The bone houses deliver equal parts scares and ghostly allure to this magical, mythical tale based on Welsh folklore. But the best part? There’s a zombie goat.
Scare factor: 4/15 sharp, sexy fangs. Just enough blood to sate your thirst!
A brilliant twist on vampire lore, combining classic vampires with the modern world in a way only Queen Holly is capable of! Seriously, these are not your average vampires. But if you’re into blood-suckers for their equal parts terror and charm, you will not be disappointed! Oh, and there’s plenty of blood to sate your thirst! Coldtowns: quarantined walled cities in which vampires and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. Once you enter Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave. The morning after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes surrounded by corpses. With the only two survivors of the massacre being her ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy with a terrible secret, she will enter a race against the clock to save them all the only way she knows how. By going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
Scare factor: 5/15 sociopathic teens. The real frights come when you realize just what people are capable of.
This is classic thriller, capital C! From Lois Duncan, a woman who helped define the YA thriller genre, comes a story about peer pressure, guilt, and murder. When a group of jilted students concoct a plan to terrorize their strictest teacher, they think it will be the perfect revenge for his endless projects and penchant for humiliation. But what starts off as a prank soon goes sideways, and this group of teens will have to face the horrible truth. One of them is a killer.
Stalking Jack the Ripper
by Kerri Maniscalco
Foreword by James Patterson
Scare factor: 6/15 Victorian serial killers. Not too scary, but it is is about Jack the Ripper. What else could you expect?
From our girl Kerri Maniscalco, yes of Kingdom of the Wicked fame, comes a hunt for Jack the Ripper that will leave you breathless. Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no interest in social teas and silk dress fittings. What she loves is dissecting dead bodies, but it’s not exactly an ‘appropriate’ hobby for the daughter of a lord. Luckily, her uncle doesn’t mind teaching her the arts of forensic medicine. But when her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags her into the investigation of Jack the Ripper, Audrey’s search for answers bring her close to her own sheltered home. Victorian London, the early days of forensic science, and the hunt for a serial killer? Sign me up, please and thank you!
Scare factor: 7/15 vengeful spirits. Definitely not the scariest, but some of that imagery will haunt my dreams
Okay, okay, so I’m kind of cheating with this one. It’s technically not out yet, but if you can get your hands on an early review copy, I’m telling this is a hauntingly good read for Halloween! Two girls with the power to call to spirits will have to work together to fend off dangerous ghosts to save their New England town! Did I mention it features a queer friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance? Six years ago, three Long Island teenagers were murdered – their drowned bodies found with sand dollars over their eyes. The mystery was never solved, but Evelyn Mackenzie’s father was the prime suspect. Meanwhile, Mina Zanetti’s family has worked a mediums for generations, using the ocean’s power to guide the dead back to their final resting place. But as the ghosts grow more violent and dangerous, Mina is shut out of the family business. When Evelyn performs a summoning that goes horribly wrong, the two girls will have to work together to solve the mystery… before the line between life and death dissolves for good.
Scare factor: 8/15 eyeballs. Let there be blood! And lots of it!
This gorey gothic fantasy is perfect for people who like their Halloween reads bloody! With a villainous main character, a brutal world, and monstrous mysteries to be solved, this is the perfect read for anyone who wants to be taken on a wild ride with more “what just happened?!” moments than you can count! Emanuela Ragno always gets what she wants because she’ll do anything to get it. In her most ambitious move yet, she’s about to become queen bee of the social hierarchy by marrying her best friend and heir to the wealthiest house in Occhia, Alessandro Morandi. Who cares if they’re both gay? Emanuela wants power, and through Ale, she’s about to get it. Right up until the watercrea, a mysterious being who uses the blood of Occhia’s citizens to make their only source of water, interrupts the ceremony to take Emanuela away. Now, I won’t spoil any further than that! Just know that this is an absolutely insane thrill-ride that will leave you wondering who the real villain of the piece is.
Scare factor: 9/15 Ouija boards. Okay, I’m not saying I’m scared, but I will be cleansing my house with sage tonight.
1920’s New York City with a side of the supernatural? Yes, please! This book is spooky, filled with the occult and all things supernatural. Don’t let the glitter fool you, behind the glitz are some dark, dark secrets! Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of 1926 New York City! A dream come true except for one catch – she’ll be living with her uncle Will who has an unhealthy obsession with the occult. And she’s worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only ever brought her trouble. When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol, Will is called to the scene and Evie realizes her gift could help catch a murderer. As Evie jumps into a dance with a serial killer, the stories of more gifted teens unfurl throughout the city. And underneath it all, something dark and evil has awakened…
by Kylie Schachte
Foreword by James Patterson
Scare factor: 10/15 teenage sleuths! This thriller will keep you up at night and double checking you locked the doors!
Flora Calhoun has a reputation for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. She is haunted by the trauma of stumbling across a classmate’s body – and that the killer was never caught. After a midnight text from her ex-girlfriend, Flora arrives just in time to see her murdered. Sent on a quest for vengeance and fueled by rage, Flora is thrust into an investigation that will unearth a shocking conspiracy. That is, if she can survive the killer.
Scare factor: 11/15 ancient gods. Dark magic, Celtic gods, and serial killer at the heart of it all? Proof I don’t have what it takes to be a witch.
Dayna Walsh is struggling with her OCD, the after math of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town, and the return of her long-absent mother who barely seems like a parent. But all the really matters is finally, finally ascending and becoming a full witch. But when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death, Dayna’s plans are thrown for a loop and she finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, granddaughter of the coven leader. And when a witch winds up murdered at a sacred site with the symbol of an infamous serial killer, Dayna and Meiner will soon find themselves at the center of a battle between witches and gods.
Scare factor: 12/15 ghosts. A classic ghost story that will have you jumping at every odd creak! Yeah, no, I didn’t need to sleep tonight.
A classic, chilling ghost story that will guarantee you’ll be keeping the lights ON. Seriously, this will have you checking under your bed and hiding under the covers! Following her father’s death, Jane and her mother move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but North Manor hides a dark history. And as Jane settles into her new home, she tries to find solace in books and memories of her dad. But the secrets of North Manor refuse to remain buried. Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more… horrid?
Scare factor: 13/15 serial murderers. Ugh! I’m just gonna check if the doors and windows are locked. Also… where did I put my old baseball bat?
Do you love serial killer dramas a la Mindhunter of Silence of the Lambs? Well, I’ve found your new obsession! Reading this book left me breathless and a little disturbed. After the final page, I had to lay down. Literally. It’s 1982, and two teenagers – serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell – are recruited by the FBI to interview teenage killers to provide insight. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case, a serial killer who exclusively hunts teens, things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they will have to enlist the help of notorious incarcerated murderer and teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. But Simon’s playing the long game, and he’s got his eyes set on Emma.
Scare factor: 14/15 creeping trees. They can’t get you if you’re under the covers! That’s a rule, right?!
A creaky old house surrounded by woods? No thank you! But also, yes please. If you’re ready for some major scares, dive into this one! Just be prepared to not sleep a wink! When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt's home, it's immediately clear that the "blood manor" is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—the questions that Silla can't ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that's appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?
Scare factor: 15/15 puppet monsters. MOMMY! I NEED MY NIGHTLIGHT AND MY BLANKIE.
A haunting gothic mystery set in Barcelona that gave me heart palpitations. Seriously, I still get creeped out just thinking about this book. You have been warned. When fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai meets the strange Marina while he’s exploring an old quarter of Barcelona, she takes him to a cemetery to witness a strange ritual. The last Sunday of each month, at exactly ten o’clock in the morning, a woman shrouded in black velvet descends a carriage and places a single rose on an unmarked grave. When the two teens decide to follow her, they begin a journey that will reveal the dark history of a postwar Barcelona and darker secrets that lie in wait in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.