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.
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.
#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.
#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)
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 hates Cardan with a passion that surpasses her hatred for the other faerie folk. She hates him so much that when she looks at him, she can hardly breathe.
Jude was only seven years old when her parents were murdered; her and her two sisters were then stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. A decade has past and now Jude wants nothing more than to belong in this world despite her mortality.
But many of the fey despise humans. Most especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. If Jude wants to win a place at the Court, she must defy him and face the consequences.
In doing so, Jude becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions as she discovers her own capacity for bloodshed. Civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence. Now Jude must risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
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
The sequel to The Cruel Prince opens with the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie. Now, Jude must fight to keep her brother safe as well. To do so, she has bound the now wicked king, Cardan, to her and asserted herself as the power behind the throne.
It would be difficult enough to navigate the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie even if Cardan was easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
Then it becomes clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her. Her life, and those of everyone she loves, hangs in the balance. Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan if she wishes to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.
The Queen of Nothing
The final installment in The Folk of the Air trilogy brings with it the warning that he will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.
Jude has learned that power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. As in when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power. She is now the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, powerless and reeling from Cardan’s betrayal.
She bides her time determined to reclaim everything her took from her. Such an opportunity arises when her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, finds her mortal life is in peril. If Jude wishes to save her sister she must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan.
But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines, she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.
Then a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, and panic spreads throughout the land. Jude is forced to choose between her ambition and her humanity.
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories
This illustrated collection of short stories is a return to the captivating world of Elfhame.
It begins as all tales begin: Once upon a time.
Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.
This boy with a wicked tongue would one day grow up to be a cruel prince and a wicked king. But before all of that he was a faerie child with a heart of stone. Black peels back the curtain on Cardan’s childhood and dramatic life in the latest installment of The Folk of the Air series.
As well as including details that take place chronologically before The Cruel Prince, Black also includes moments that take place after the conclusion of The Queen of Nothing. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories also recounts familiar moments from within the mainline trilogy, but told exclusively from Cardan’s perspective.
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.