Good vs. Evil: 8 Books with Characters Torn Between Right and Wrong

October 21 2022
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Good vs Evil. It is the ultimate battle, full of unexpected heroes and unimaginable horrors. From the King of Horror to some of my other favorite spine-tingling authors, this list is a wonderful blend of right and wrong, plus some truly terrifying moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat page after page.

Fairy Tale
by Stephen King

A fantasy adventure, but make it Stephen King, where a seventeen-year-old boy with a dead mother suddenly finds himself the unlikely hero. Infused with his masterful storytelling and knack for horrifying creatures, King here crafts an incredible battle between good and evil with nods to classic horror and fairy tales throughout. Charlie Reade is more or less a regular kid who learned to take care of himself from an early age. And then he meets Mr. Bowditch, a strange man with a strange, locked shed behind his house. When Mr. Bowditch dies, he leaves the house, a considerable amount of money, the shed, and a cassette tape explaining everything to Charlie. The shed is actually a portal to a cruel alternate universe and Charlie is now responsible for keeping the evil within out of his own world.

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Fairy Tale
Stephen King

Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.

Charlie Reade looks like a regular high school kid, great at baseball and football, a decent student. But he carries a heavy load. His mom was killed in a hit-and-run accident when he was ten, and grief drove his dad to drink. Charlie learned how to take care of himself—and his dad. When Charlie is seventeen, he meets a dog named Radar and her aging master, Howard Bowditch, a recluse in a big house at the top of a big hill, with a locked shed in the backyard. Sometimes strange sounds emerge from it.

Charlie starts doing jobs for Mr. Bowditch and loses his heart to Radar. Then, when Bowditch dies, he leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling a story no one would believe. What Bowditch knows, and has kept secret all his long life, is that inside the shed is a portal to another world.

King’s storytelling in Fairy Tale soars. This is a magnificent and terrifying tale in which good is pitted against overwhelming evil, and a heroic boy—and his dog—must lead the battle.

Early in the Pandemic, King asked himself: “What could you write that would make you happy?”

“As if my imagination had been waiting for the question to be asked, I saw a vast deserted city—deserted but alive. I saw the empty streets, the haunted buildings, a gargoyle head lying overturned in the street. I saw smashed statues (of what I didn’t know, but I eventually found out). I saw a huge, sprawling palace with glass towers so high their tips pierced the clouds. Those images released the story I wanted to tell.”

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The Ferryman Institute
by Colin Gigl

A supernatural affair, THE FERRYMAN INSTITUTE is a unique take on the Charon mythology of souls being carried to the underworld. Charlie Dawson is a ferryman: he saves souls and helps them move on into the afterlife. And he’s a bit of a legend since he hasn’t failed a single assignment since he took the job almost two hundred and something years ago. But the job is driving him insane and they won’t let him leave and he’s too stubborn to quit. Then he does something he’s never done before—Charlie stops Alice, a young woman, from taking her own life. Despite this being strictly against every rule in the Ferryman handbook, this is the first thing that has felt right to Charlie in a long time. But now he’s in a world of trouble with Inspector Javrouche. Still, Charlie won’t lose the only living, breathing person he’s been able to help and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect her—even if it means destroying everything else. Gigl definitely asks what is good and what is evil in this intriguing read.

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The Ferryman Institute
Colin Gigl

In this stunning, fantastical debut novel from a bold new voice in the bestselling traditions of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde, a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.

Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people—somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he's acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie’s pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence. Or he had, anyway, until he saved Alice Spiegel. To be fair, Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life—that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute—but he never planned on the President secretly giving him the choice to, either. Charlie’s not quite sure what to make of it, but Alice is alive, and it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years.

When word of the incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, the Ferryman Institute's resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he's in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight. He’s ready to protect her from Javrouche and save Alice from herself, and he’s willing to put the entire continued existence of mankind at risk to do it.

Written in the same vein as bestselling modern classics such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute is a thrilling supernatural adventure packed with wit and humor.

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The Book of Killowen
by Erin Hart

I love history and murder, and a good historical murder mixed with a current-day murder. Erin Hart captures all of that and more in THE BOOK OF KILLOWEN. Besides, what could be more good vs. evil than a great murder mystery? Archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are called to investigate an ancient corpse found in the trunk of a car in the middle of a bog. Except this corpse isn’t alone. The ninth-century ancient corpse is found with the body of famous television philosopher Benedict Kavanagh. While trying to solve both cases, Nora and Cormac stay at a local artist colony in Killowen where it seems everyone has something to hide. 

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The Book of Killowen
Erin Hart

“Hart combines powerful insights into human nature and pristine prose with history and archeology in her stellar fourth crime novel” (Publishers Weekly) about an ancient volume of philosophical heresy that provides a motive for murder.

After a year away from working in the field, archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin are back in the bogs, investigating a ninth-century body found buried in the trunk of a car. They discover that the ancient corpse is not alone—pinned beneath it is the body of Benedict Kavanagh, missing for mere months and familiar to television viewers as a philosopher who enjoyed destroying his opponents in debate. Both men were viciously murdered, but centuries apart—so how did they end up buried together in the bog?

While on the case, Cormac and Nora lodge at Killowen, a nearby artists’ colony, organic farm, and sanctuary for eccentric souls. Digging deeper into the older crime, they become entangled in high-stakes intrigue encompassing Kavanagh’s death while surrounded by suspects in his ghastly murder. It seems that everyone at Killowen has some secret to protect. Set in modern-day Ireland, The Book of Killowen reveals a new twist on the power of language—and on the eternal mysteries of good and evil.

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Gods of Jade and Shadow
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a knack for creating chilling and wondrous stories full of twisted characters and battles between good and evil. Set during the glittering Jazz Age, Casiopea dreams of a new life far from her small town in southern Mexico. And then she finds a mysterious box in her grandfather’s room. She opens the box, releasing the Mayan god of death, who quickly requests Casiopea’s help in reclaiming his throne from his brother. If Casiopea succeeds she can make all her dreams a reality, but if she fails, then it will certainly be her death. She finds herself plunged into a strange new world, beginning a life-changing odyssey with a god by her side.

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Gods of Jade and Shadow
Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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The Fifth House of the Heart
by Ben Tripp

Here’s the thing, no matter what anyone tells me, vampire novels will NEVER go out of style. And this one is a terrifying delight—bloody and fun. Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang is a well-known antique dealer who has found some incredibly valuable and exceptional pieces. He’s not lucky or good at finding lost treasures though—he’s good at killing vampires and stealing their massive hordes of wealth. But now his past has caught up with him and everyone he cares about is in peril. With the blessing of the church, Sax must face his fears and face down the evilest and most terrifying monster he’s ever hunted.

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The Fifth House of the Heart
Ben Tripp

Filled with characters as menacing as they are memorable, this chilling twist on vampire fiction packs a punch in the bestselling tradition of ’Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang, a vainglorious and well-established antiques dealer, has made a fortune over many years by globetrotting for the finest lost objects in the world. Only Sax knows the true secret to his success: at certain points of his life, he’s killed vampires for their priceless hoards of treasure.

But now Sax’s past actions are quite literally coming back to haunt him, and the lives of those he holds most dear are in mortal danger. To counter this unnatural threat, and with the blessing of the Holy Roman Church, a cowardly but cunning Sax must travel across Europe in pursuit of incalculable evil—and immeasurable wealth—with a ragtag team of mercenaries and vampire killers to hunt a terrifying, ageless monster…one who is hunting Sax in turn.

From author Ben Tripp, whose first horror novel Rise Again “raises the stakes so high that the book becomes nearly impossible to put down” (Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother), The Fifth House of the Heart is a powerful story that will haunt you long after its final pages.

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Dead Souls
by J. Lincoln Fenn

Fiona thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her and is sick of the constant criticism at work—so she does what anyone would do. Fiona heads to the bar for a drink, and she doesn’t question the guy who keeps buying them for her. When he tells her he’s the devil, Fiona just laughs thinking it must be some strange pickup line. He tells her that he’ll give her one wish in exchange for her soul, and after a few more drinks, she jokingly agrees. Accept it’s not a joke and Fiona just made a very, very bad call. Because in exchange for the wish, the devil also requires a special favor that he can call due at any time. Now Fiona joins the other “dead souls” who found themselves in similar situations—those who live in fear of the devil coming to collect. A true paranormal horror with a snarky narrator with a truly evil portrayal of the devil? I’m all in!

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Dead Souls
J. Lincoln Fenn

From the award-winning author of the acclaimed novel Poe comes an edgy and bone-chilling new novel.

When Fiona Dunn is approached in a bar by a man who claims he’s the devil, she figures it’s just some kind of postmodern-slash-ironic pickup line. But a few drinks in, he offers her a wish in exchange for her immortal soul, and in addition, Fiona must perform a special favor for him whenever the time comes. Fiona finds the entire matter so absurd that she agrees. Bad idea. Not only does Fiona soon discover that she really was talking to the devil incarnate, but she’s now been initiated into a bizarre support group of similar “dead souls”—those who have done the same thing as Fiona on a whim, and who must spend their waking hours in absolute terror of that favor eventually being called in...and what exactly is required from each of them in order to give the devil his due.

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The Library at Mount Char
by Scott Hawkins

THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR is a wonderfully bizarre book full of violence and incredibly powerful librarians and their quests to protect or exploit the secrets of creation. Hawkins's prose is compelling and immediately drags you into an unforgettable journey with good and evil, ultimately about what makes us human. Here we meet Carolyn, who used to be a normal girl, but that was a long time ago. Before her parents died and the mysterious man known as Father took her and a few others in. He raised them on ancient customs, and they studied his books, learning some of his secrets. Many of them have often wondered if this man was really God. But now Father is missing and presumed dead and the library, with all its power and knowledge, is left unguarded. Alliances are made and competitors rise out of the woodwork to take the library, but Carolyn expected this much. She has a plan and all the tools she might need to win control, but what will it cost her in the process?

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The Library at Mount Char
Scott Hawkins

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The Twisted Ones
by T. Kingfisher

I really enjoy T. Kingfisher’s atmospheric and haunting prose, which truly brings out a sense of dread and horror as her characters embark on truly peculiar journeys. Mouse knew her deceased grandmother was a hoarder, and dreaded cleaning out her house. But what she did not expect to find was a journal full of crazy ramblings from her step-grandfather. Or at least they seem crazy until Mouse starts to experience some of the horrifying things contained herself. Now alone in the woods except for her dog, Mouse faces unimaginable terror. Nightmares are real, and they’re coming. Kingfisher embraces the folk horror style in this bone-chilling adventure.

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The Twisted Ones
T. Kingfisher

Winner of the RUSA Award for Best Horror

When a young woman clears out her deceased grandmother’s home in rural North Carolina, she finds long-hidden secrets about a strange colony of beings in the woods in this chilling novel that reads like The Blair Witch Project meets The Andy Griffith Show.

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother's house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be?

Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself.

Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.

From Hugo Award–winning author Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, The Twisted Ones is a gripping, terrifying tale bound to keep you up all night—from both fear and anticipation of what happens next.

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Photo credit: iStock / Jag_cz

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