9 Romantic Dark Academia Books

Bramble, the new romantic imprint from Tor Publishing GroupGothikana Sprayed Edges

An outcast her entire life, Corvina Clemm is left adrift after losing her mother. When she receives the admission letter from the mysterious University of Verenmore, she accepts it as a sign from the universe. An enigma his entire life, Vad Deverell is a part-time professor, and he knows the moment his path crosses with Corvina, she’s dangerous to everything that he is. They shouldn’t have caught each other’s eye, but a century-old mystery forces them to collide. So begins a tale of the mysterious, the macabre, and a deep love that blossoms in the unlikeliest of places.

The dark academia trend shows no signs of fading away. The term was coined in 2015 to signify a particular subculture: an intense and all-consuming passion for learning, especially classic literature and ancient languages, observed in romanticized terms.

On the surface, dark academia draws a lot on gothic architecture (bonus points if it’s universities or libraries), dusty books, early to mid-century collegiate clothing, and a uniform color palette of blacks, whites, beiges, and browns. You will not find a glimmer of pink or yellow in the wardrobe of a dark academia aficionado.

As far as books go, dark academia also draws on (very often) delightfully pretentious people who, as Book Riot writer Zoe Robertson put it, “…can’t go a sentence without citing Shakespeare and spend their free periods retreating into the shadows of their secret cult.”

Dark academia books don’t always include romance. But that’s not the case for the books included in this list: whether they’re romance novels or simply novels with romantic elements, these books put rapidly beating hearts and star-crossed lovers side by side with murderers and students of ancient Greek. As one does.

Beware, though: some of the romance in these books might make you want to take a vow of chastity. It is still, after all, dark academia.

ace of spades book coverace of spades book cover

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

This YA novel is set at the prestigious Niveus Private Academy. Fellow students, Devon and Chiamaka team up in order to unveil Ace, an anonymous texter who threatens to reveal their secrets.

Book cover of Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. DanforthBook cover of Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

There are few things I love more than dual timelines in books, which is why this one is right up my alley. In 1902, the Brookhants School for Girls had to close after several mysterious deaths. But now, a book about the school is set to be adapted to film, so a cast is sent to the ruins of what was once all splendor.

cover of Never Let Me Go Ishigurocover of Never Let Me Go Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Only the most special students have a place at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school in ’90s England. But what makes them special? That’s what former student Kathy, newly reunited with her former classmates Ruth and Tommy, is going to find out years later.

the cover of Legendbornthe cover of Legendborn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Magical dark academia? Yes, please. At 16, Breen finds herself joining a residential program for gifted students. There, she learns about the existence of demons, and a secret society that hunts them down called the Legendborn. She also finds out that there’s more to her mother’s death than meets the eye.

Cover of A Great and Terrible BeautyCover of A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

The only thing I love as much as magical dark academia? Historical magical dark academia. Set in 1895, Gemma is sent from India to a boarding school in England after her mother dies by suicide. There, she develops visions, and discovers that she’s being followed by a young Indian man. But what does he want?

the cover of If We Were Villainsthe cover of If We Were Villains

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

One of the few non-romance romantic dark academia books in this list features Oliver, a man who is getting out after ten years in prison. The man who put him there, Detective Colborne, wants to know why — and what his former classmate James has to do with it.

Half Truths book coverHalf Truths book cover

Half Truths by Claire Contreras

Is it truly a dark academia book without a secret society? Mae doesn’t have cause to wonder, because upon transferring colleges, she finds The Eight. This society may hold the answers she needs to learn about her missing brother and friend.

Cover of These Violent Delights by Micah NemereverCover of These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

This book has been described as The Secret History meets Call Me By Your Name, in case you were wondering what you’re getting out of it. Paul meets Julian as a college freshman in the ’70s, and their bond quickly grows. But there’s a side to Julian that Paul is unprepared for.

Cover of Realm of AshCover of Realm of Ash

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri

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