The Cruel Prince Series Order: A Complete Guide

In young adult fantasy fiction, few series have captivated readers’ imaginations as intensely as The Cruel Prince series by Holly Black. This critically acclaimed series, also known as The Folk of the Air series, blends the intrigue of court politics with the allure of fairy folklore, all through the perspective of a human in the midst of the faerie world.

This blog post provides a comprehensive guide on navigating this enchanting series in order.

Cruel Prince Series Order

The Cruel Prince Series in Order

The Cruel Prince Series in Order
The Cruel Prince Series in Order

The Cruel Prince series comprises three main novels and two novellas that provide additional insights into the world and characters Holly Black has created. Here’s the recommended order to read them:

  1. “The Cruel Prince” (2018): The first book in the series introduces us to Jude, a mortal girl living in the High Court of Faerie with her two sisters. Struggling to belong in a world where she is despised for her humanity, Jude aspires to win a place at the Court, no matter what it takes.
  2. “The Lost Sisters” (2018): This novella, while not necessary for understanding the main plotline, provides a different perspective on events from the first book. Told from the point of view of Jude’s sister, Taryn, it’s a fantastic read for those wanting to delve deeper into the character’s motivations and backstory.
  3. “The Wicked King” (2019): The second book continues Jude’s story in the wake of the explosive events of The Cruel Prince. As the stakes of faerie court politics rise, so too does the tension and intrigue.
  4. “The Queen of Nothing” (2019): The series’ climax is reached in this final installment, which sees Jude confront the consequences of her ambitions and the lengths she will go to secure her place and protect those she loves.
  5. “How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories” (2020): This novella, illustrated by Rovina Cai, goes back in time to explore the early life of Cardan, the titular King of Elfhame from the main series. It offers fans a deeper insight into his character and the experiences that shaped him.

Quick Fact: Embarking on The Cruel Prince series is a journey into a world of complex characters, ruthless politics, and the kind of enchanting, dark faerie lore Holly Black is renowned for. This reading order ensures you get the most comprehensive understanding and enjoyment of the series.

The Cruel Prince Series in Order (with Novellas)

Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series, also known as The Cruel Prince series, includes three main novels and two novellas that complement the main storyline. Here’s the suggested reading order:

  1. “The Cruel Prince” (2018)
  2. “The Lost Sisters” (2018) – Novella
  3. “The Wicked King” (2019)
  4. “The Queen of Nothing” (2019)
  5. “How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories” (2020) – Novella

Do I Need to Read “The Lost Sisters”?

While “The Lost Sisters” is not strictly necessary to understand the primary storyline of The Cruel Prince series, it offers readers valuable insights and depth to the narrative. This novella is told from the perspective of Taryn, Jude’s sister, and provides additional context for events and characters from the first book.

If you’re interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivations, reading this novella can certainly enhance your overall reading experience.

Who is Holly Black?

Who is Holly Black?
Who is Holly Black?

Holly Black is a bestselling American author, known for her work in the young adult fantasy genre. She’s written several popular series, including The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi) and The Modern Faerie Tales series. Black is especially acclaimed for her ability to weave traditional faerie folklore into intricate, modern narratives.

The Cruel Prince series, also known as The Folk of the Air series, is one of her most celebrated works, praised for its complex characters, intricate plotlines, and immersive world-building.

Is “The Darkest Part of the Forest” Connected to “The Cruel Prince”?

“The Darkest Part of the Forest” is another standalone novel by Holly Black set in the same universe as The Cruel Prince series, but with a different set of characters and story.

While not directly related to the events in The Cruel Prince, it shares the same enchanting atmosphere and world-building, offering another dive into the mystical world of faeries as imagined by Holly Black. If you enjoyed the folklore, setting, and tone of The Cruel Prince, “The Darkest Part of the Forest” is worth checking out.

However, reading it isn’t necessary for understanding or following the storyline of The Cruel Prince series.

1. “The Cruel Prince” (2018)

"The Cruel Prince" (2018)
“The Cruel Prince” (2018)

The story begins with a shocking event where Jude’s parents are murdered by Madoc, a faerie general who is actually her mother’s former husband. Following this, Madoc abducts Jude and her two sisters, Taryn and Vivi, and raises them in the High Court of Faerie.

Despite being fully human, Jude yearns to find her place in this new world, often brutally violent and controlled by intricate politics and deceptions. Her ambition is to become a knight and earn a position within the royal circles.

However, she encounters intense discrimination and cruelty, most notably from Prince Cardan, the youngest of the High King’s sons, known for his ruthless and wicked demeanor. Despite the hardships, Jude holds strong, committing herself to navigate the perilous waters of faerie politics to secure her place and future.

2. “The Lost Sisters” (2018) – Novella

"The Lost Sisters" (2018) - Novella
“The Lost Sisters” (2018) – Novella

Told from the perspective of Taryn, Jude’s twin sister, “The Lost Sisters” provides a fresh viewpoint on the events that unfolded in “The Cruel Prince”. Unlike Jude, Taryn wishes to align with the rules of the Faerie world and seeks to fit in by planning to marry a faerie.

The novella dives deep into her complex relationship with Locke, a charismatic and cunning faerie, and the choices she makes out of her desire to belong. As Taryn’s actions contribute to her growing estrangement with Jude, this novella presents an important insight into her motivations and the underpinnings of their sibling relationship.

3. “The Wicked King” (2019)

"The Wicked King" (2019)
“The Wicked King” (2019)

The second book in the series takes us back to the Faerie world, where Jude now secretly controls the throne by using Cardan, who she has crowned as the puppet king. Manipulating Cardan’s rule while maintaining an outward illusion of his power proves to be a challenging game for Jude, especially as Cardan relentlessly tries to subvert her control.

Amidst the chaos of power struggles and political machinations, a more ominous threat looms large, putting the entire Faerie kingdom at risk. Jude finds herself in a desperate race to identify and thwart the traitor before it’s too late. However, her cunning plans falter when Cardan, furious at her deception, banishes her from the Faerie world.

4. “The Queen of Nothing” (2019)

"The Queen of Nothing" (2019)
“The Queen of Nothing” (2019)

In the final installment, Jude is in the mortal world, yearning to return to Faerieland. Her opportunity to return comes when her twin sister, Taryn, appears asking a favor. Taryn is in trouble she killed her husband, Locke, and now needs Jude’s help to explain her actions to the faerie folk. Jude agrees, seeing it as a chance to return to Faerieland.

When she does, she finds herself drawn into the chaos and unrest of the Faerie world yet again. As war looms, Jude must uncover the traitors, manage her complicated relationship with Cardan, and ultimately decide her place in the Faerie world.

5. “How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories” (2020) – Novella

"How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories" (2020) - Novella
“How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories” (2020) – Novella

In this beautifully illustrated novella, Holly Black takes readers back in time to present Cardan’s perspective. His experiences, from his early childhood to his eventual ascension to the throne, are laid bare, giving fans of the series deeper insights into his character, his motivations, and his complex relationship with Jude.

Quick Fact: Alongside the main narrative, the novella also features several reimagined folktales from the Faerie world, adding depth to the overall mythology of the series.

Why does Madoc kill Jude’s parents and take her and her sisters to the High Court of Faerie in “The Cruel Prince”?

Madoc, a faerie and a former general, kills Jude’s parents because of a personal vendetta. Jude’s mother was previously married to Madoc and had a daughter, Vivi, with him before she ran away to the mortal world. She married a human and had two more daughters, Jude and Taryn.

When Madoc finds them, he kills Jude’s parents out of revenge and takes Jude and her sisters to the High Court of Faerie. Despite his brutal actions, Madoc raises them as his own.
What is the main conflict in “The Wicked King”, and how does it affect Jude’s status in the faerie court?

In “The Wicked King”, Jude finds herself secretly ruling the Faerie kingdom through Cardan, whom she has crowned as a puppet king. The main conflict revolves around Jude’s struggle to maintain her control over Cardan and the court while navigating treacherous political waters.

Despite her control over Cardan, Jude faces constant resistance from him, undermining her position. The situation escalates when a potential threat to the kingdom emerges, and Jude must identify the traitor. However, her schemes backfire when Cardan, furious at her deceptions, banishes her to the mortal world.

What makes “The Lost Sisters” a critical part of the series, despite being a novella?

“The Lost Sisters” is crucial to the series as it presents an alternative perspective on the events in “The Cruel Prince”. Told from Taryn’s viewpoint, Jude’s twin sister, it offers a deeper understanding of Taryn’s motivations, her complicated relationship with Locke, a faerie, and the impact of her actions on her relationship with Jude.

This novella adds depth to the narrative by exploring the sisters’ complex relationship and Taryn’s struggle to belong in the Faerie world.

How does Jude’s character evolve throughout the series?

Jude’s character undergoes significant development throughout the series. Starting as a mortal girl longing for acceptance in the Faerie world, she evolves into a resilient, cunning, and determined figure navigating the brutal and intricate politics of the Faerie court.

Her ambition to earn a place at the court leads her to defy Prince Cardan, which sets off a chain of events leading to her rise in power and eventual exile. Jude’s growth can also be seen in how she manages relationships, confronts betrayals, and makes difficult choices for the ones she loves and her place in the Faerie world.

How does the relationship between Jude and Cardan evolve over the course of the series?

Jude and Cardan’s relationship is complex and evolves significantly throughout the series. In “The Cruel Prince”, Cardan, who despises humans, bullies Jude, setting off a hostile dynamic between the two. As the series progresses, they become entangled in a web of power struggles, deceit, and growing attraction.

Despite their animosity, they’re forced to work closely when Jude makes Cardan a puppet king, leading to a shift in their relationship. By “The Queen of Nothing”, their relationship has evolved into a complicated bond marked by love, resentment, trust, and betrayal.

How does Jude’s mortal status influence her journey throughout the series?

As a mortal in the Faerie realm, Jude is considered an outsider. The discrimination she faces fuels her determination to gain power and acceptance in the Faerie court. She faces numerous trials due to her mortal status, including deception, political machinations, and open hostility, especially from Prince Cardan.

This adversity, however, makes her resilient and crafty, shaping her into a critical player in the court’s politics and eventually leading to her strategic control of the throne through Cardan.
Why is the novella “The Lost Sisters” considered important in understanding the main series?

“The Lost Sisters” offers a different perspective on events from “The Cruel Prince”. It’s narrated by Jude’s twin sister, Taryn, and gives readers a deeper understanding of her character. The novella explores Taryn’s desire to fit into the Faerie world, her relationship with Locke, and how her decisions create tension with Jude.

This added depth and context enrich the reader’s understanding of the series’s characters and motivations.

What are the primary themes explored in “The Wicked King”?

“The Wicked King” delves into themes of power, control, deceit, and betrayal. Jude’s struggle to maintain her covert control over King Cardan and the Faerie court encapsulates these themes. The narrative further explores the implications of power imbalance, the complexities of political intrigue, and the personal cost of deception.

How does “The Queen of Nothing” conclude Jude’s narrative arc?

In “The Queen of Nothing”, Jude is grappling with her exile from Faerieland. When her twin sister Taryn offers her a chance to return, Jude finds herself back in the world she yearns for. The narrative unfolds with Jude striving to navigate the escalating unrest, her evolving relationship with Cardan, and her struggle for power and acceptance.

It’s a climactic end to her journey, underscoring the consequences of her ambitions and choices.

Why is “How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories” an essential read for fans of the series?

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories” provides readers with a deeper insight into Cardan’s character. It presents his backstory, exploring the experiences that shaped him and led to his complex relationship with Jude. This additional context enriches readers’ understanding of Cardan as a character and provides further depth to the series’ narrative.

How does Holly Black incorporate elements of faerie folklore in the series?

Holly Black masterfully weaves traditional faerie folklore into the series, presenting a world filled with enchantment, trickery, and danger. The faerie politics and societal norms reflect the capricious and often ruthless nature traditionally associated with faeries.

Quick Fact: The author’s use of folklore not only enriches the world-building but also amplifies the plot’s complexities and characters’ challenges.

How does Holly Black explore the dynamics of family relationships in the series?

Family relationships form a significant part of the narrative, from Jude and Taryn’s complex sibling relationship to their fraught connection with their faerie sister Vivi and their guardian, Madoc.

These relationships are explored in depth, marked by love, jealousy, betrayal, and reconciliation. These dynamics significantly influence the characters’ motivations and decisions throughout the series.


The Cruel Prince series by Holly Black is a compelling narrative set in an intricately crafted faerie world, offering readers an immersive journey through enchantment, power struggles, and complex relationships. The series is an exploration of ambition, resilience, and the lengths one would go to belong.

With its richly developed characters and intricately woven plot, it’s no surprise that The Cruel Prince series has captured the hearts of many readers worldwide.

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