The Cruel Prince is the first book in The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black. But you may be wondering where to go from there. There are a few ways that you can experience The Cruel Prince series in order and this article will let you in on the different ways you can read these books.
The story begins with Jude and her two sisters. As children their parents were murdered and they were whisked away to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now nearly an adult, Jude desperately wants to belong there despite being human.
To win a place at Court Jude must defy Prince Cardan, youngest son of the High King. As she does so Jude becomes entangled in a web of intrigue and deception. In order to save her sisters, and even Faerie itself, Jude must risk her life in a dangerous alliance.
If you enjoy reading stories about magic, intrigue, faeries, and some romance for good measure, you must check out The Cruel Prince series in order.
Who is Holly Black?
Holly Black is the author of more than 30 contemporary fantasy novels for kids and teens. A New York Times bestselling author Black has also won multiple awards, including the Mythopoeic Award, a Nebula, and a Newbery Honor. She has also been a finalist for an Eisner Award and a Lodestar Award.
Her books have been translated into 32 languages.
Black might have been most well known for her Spiderwick Chronicles series, but The Cruel Prince caught the book world by storm. It delivers on being an epic slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance with a morally grey hero and, of course, faeries.
#1 The Cruel Prince Series in Order (Books Only)
You don’t technically need to read the novellas. If you’re looking for a shorter series, or prefer to consume your reading in sets of trilogies, then you can read the three main books set within The Cruel Prince series in order.
- The Cruel Prince (2018)
- The Wicked King (2019)
- The Queen of Nothing (2019)
#2 The Cruel Prince Series in Order (with Novellas)
However, if you want to fully understand the nuance of the characters and the complete world-building as the author intended, you really should put the novellas on your reading list. This is our recommended reading order of The Cruel Prince series in order, complete with the novellas.
- The Cruel Prince (2018)
- The Lost Sisters (2018) (Novella)
- The Wicked King (2019)
- The Queen of Nothing (2019)
- How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (2020) (Novella)
#3 The Stolen Heir Duology
Holly Black’s latest entry in the world of Elfhame is a new duology. Not much is known about this series, but we are here for it!
- The Stolen Heir (2023)
- The Prisoner’s Throne (Expected: March 5, 2024)
Do I Need to Read The Lost Sisters?
Before we dive into The Cruel Prince series in order, there are two exceptions that can influence your chosen reading order. These exceptions come in the form of a novella, The Lost Sisters, and a slim collection of short stories that takes place after the conclusion of the trilogy, How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories.
First let’s discuss The Lost Sisters.
This companion novella is slim at only 50 digital pages, so it really isn’t a massive undertaking to add this to your reading of The Folk of the Air series.
This book is intended to be read between The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. While you can round back to this novella after finishing the main three books in the series, you absolutely shouldn’t start the series with this read.
The Lost Sisters will contain spoilers for events that take place in The Cruel Prince, and also won’t make much sense if you haven’t read that book first.
This book recounts some of the same events of The Cruel Prince, but from the perspective of Jude’s sister Taryn. Black promises that it will be part-apology and part-explanation as it reveals some of the secrets Taryn has been hiding.
It is exclusively available as an ebook, but if you fell in love with the characters from The Cruel Prince – or want to know all there is to know about the Court of Elfhame – you absolutely should pick this up.
Should I Read How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories?
The other exception to the chronological timeline of The Cruel Prince series in order is How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories.
Published one year after the final installment of the trilogy, The Queen of Nothing, many in bookish circles on social media were dismissive of this slim collection of short stories from the perspective of the enigmatic character of Cardan.
It is told exclusively from his perspective and peels back the curtain on events in Elfhame from before the timeline of The Cruel Prince while also venturing past the ending of The Queen of Nothing.
This book is published with beautiful illustrations that add to your reading experience and will make you feel as if you are right back in Elfhame.
This can arguably be read as a standalone, but the best way to appreciate Cardan’s perspective is to read this upon completion of the trilogy. If you intend to read the three main books in The Cruel Prince series in order, you must save this book until the end unless you want to read spoilers for all three books.
Again, this is a slim read with the digital version of the book coming in at around 200 pages.
Is The Darkest Part of the Forest Connected to The Cruel Prince?
Finally, before we dive into The Cruel Prince reading order, you might be asking yourself if this series is connected to Holly Black’s 2015 novel, The Darkest Part of the Forest. The answer is yes, both books are set within the same world.
However, The Darkest Part of the Forest was written as a standalone novel and can still be read as such. Whilst it is set within the same world as The Cruel Prince it follows different characters and a different storyline.
But characters from her Modern Faerie Tales series and The Folk of the Air series do make an appearance. Severin is a character in The Cruel Prince, and also cameos in The Darkest Part of the Forest.
Summary of The Cruel Prince Series in Order
Our recommendation on how to read The Cruel Prince series in order is the second option, which offers a more nuanced reading experience. If you wish to take your journey through Elfhame in this order, here are the summaries for all five reads in order.
If you’re wary of spoilers, take care in reading past The Cruel Prince synopsis.
The Cruel Prince
Jude is a human mortal living in the world of Faerie. Her parents were murdered when she was seven and she was taken in, along with her twin sister and half-sister, by the man who murdered them.
Because her adoptive father is the leader of the the Faerie military, Jude attends school with nobility, where she meets Cardan, the means, vilest, and cruelest of the High King’s sons.
To stop Cardan’s cruelty, Jude aligns herself with his brother Dain who is favored to replace the High King any day. Can she survive Faerie long enough to secure her place in a world where she doesn’t belong?
The Lost Sisters
As mentioned, The Lost Sisters is a companion digital novella to The Folk of the Air trilogy.
It is half-apology and half-explanation from the perspective of Jude’s sister Taryn as she reveals some secrets of her own.
While Jude was fighting for power in the Court of Elfhame against the cruel Prince Cardan, Taryn began to fall in love with the trickster, Locke. And sometimes the difference between a love story and a horror story is all in where the ending comes.
The Wicked King
With Cardan on the throne and Oak sequestered away in the human world, Jude is pulling all the strings. Cardan may wear the crown, but she convinced him to submit to her will for a year and a day and she’s taking advantage of it. Her plan is to keep Madoc at bay until Oak is prepared to take the throne.
But court politics and schemes abound, as do attempts on Jude’s life. Is her love hate relationship with Cardan strong enough to survive them?
The Queen of Nothing
The Queen of Nothing is the final book in the Folk of the Air series. Jude finds herself secretly married to Cardan and the Queen of Faerie, but in a stunning shock, Cardan has banished her to the human world.
When her sister is accused of killing her husband, Jude returns to Faerie to lie at her trial and secure her sister’s safety. Except everything goes wrong and the kingdom is on the cusp of civil war.
Can Jude save her kingdom and claim Cardan’s heart in the process?
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
This illustrated collection of short stories is a return to the captivating world of Elfhame.
This is the perfect collector’s items for fans of Elfhame with each chapter being paired with full-color art.
Final Thoughts on The Cruel Prince Series in Order
There you have it. This is our recommendation for how you should read The Cruel Prince series in order. The addition of The Lost Sisters and How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories won’t add much more reading onto your plate, but your interpretation of the series will be greatly improved.
Through reading the companion works you’ll experience rich character development and enjoy a glimpse into their perspectives. In reading these additional works, your interpretation of the world and the characters will only be enhanced.
Black has said that How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories won’t be the last thing she writes set in the world of Elfhame. But she hasn’t released any further information. Make sure you’re caught up with all of her works set within Elfhame before any such announcement comes.
Looking for more book recommendations?
Check out this list of 10 Books Like From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout.