Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Horror Novels Without All the Gore

We received a special request here at HorrorAddicts.net. A listener asked for suggestions for “PG-13 Horror Novels”. Specifically, they wanted books that don’t feature a lot of gore. There’s nothing wrong with liking gore, but you don’t need it to make a horror novel worth reading. Since it’s not fun to sift through reviews to find the right book, I’ve done it for you!

Her Dark Inheritance by Meg Hafdahl

Do I take every opportunity to recommend Her Dark Inheritance? Yes, yes, I do. Why? Because it’s still one of the best horror books I’ve ever read.

On the day her mother died, Daphne Forrest learned the devastating truth. She’d never really known the woman who raised her, not even her real name. Fueled to unravel the tragic mystery behind her mother’s secrets, Daphne abandons all she knows, traveling to the bucolic yet sinister town of Willoughby, Minnesota.

Navigating through the memories of her own bloody legacy, Daphne throws herself into the insular and haunting small town of her ancestors. She investigates the murder that led to her mother’s shame, with the help of charming, yet tortured, local Edwin Monroe. Edwin has a unique understanding of the darkness in Willoughby, and how the town holds a lurking threat more foreboding than any unsolved murder.

As Daphne gets closer to the truth, Willoughby itself rebels against her. She bears witness to terrifying scenes from the past. Is her mother a murderer? Is this Daphne’s dark inheritance? Is she strong enough to battle an evil more frightening than her own past?

Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Nora Smith may be the best rat-catcher, pickpocket, and liar in gas-lit London, but her skills can’t help save her brother when he is killed in a fight. That’s when Aleister Blake appears, a man who offers to reclaim her sibling from death. For a price.

At Aleister’s bidding, Nora leaves her life in the streets and moves into his house, one brimming with secrets. There are servants she only sees from the corner of her eyes and an entire second story she can’t access. When Aleister challenges her to help him find what he values most in the world in exchange for keeping her brother alive, she must use all of her talents to follow the only hint he has given her: the ship christened Pandemonium. With the enigmatic Aleister at her heels, Nora chases Pandemonium’s trail right into London’s underbelly, where blackmailers and smugglers thrive. Right to the truth that will force her to finally confront who she is and what it really means to make bargains with the Devil.

A House by the Sea by Ambrose Ibsen

Something has always lived in Winthrop House…

After his book becomes a best-seller, novelist Jack Ripley moves into a house on the edge of Cutler Harbor with his wife and two daughters. Nearly a century old, Winthrop House is newly-restored and boasts a gorgeous oceanfront view.

But everything is not what it seems.

Though picturesque, Jack learns that the house has been shunned for decades by the locals, owing to a number of mysterious disappearances and inexplicable deaths on the grounds.

The Ripleys begin to grapple with the property’s vile reputation, learning more about its sordid history and experiencing strange things within its walls. What was once a dream home quickly becomes a nightmare for the family as they encounter the terrifying presence that has existed there since times immemorial.

The Occultists by Polly Schattel

Sssshhhhhhhh… For Edwardian-era spiritualists and illusionists, silence is more than a strategy; it’s a way of life. And when Max Grahame, a bullied small-town teen, discovers a secretive world of occultism and séances right under his nose, he can hardly contain his excitement.

But as Max begins his conjurer’s lessons in earnest, his newfound knowledge exposes the group’s dark and deeply sinister designs, leading to a game of supernatural cat and mouse that takes him from the ancient hills of rural Georgia and the mystic plains of the Midwest to fin-de-siècle Manhattan… and beyond.

The Shining by Stephen King

Okay, I feel like I have to put a Stephen King novel on this list. I mean, it’s the touchstone for horror fans, right? But where do you start when some of King’s books (looking at you The Stand) are very, very gory. Not this one! The Shining is an absolute classic and if you’ve only ever seen the movie, you are missing out. Very few books give me chills, but this one did.

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

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