Best Fantasy Books:

The Ultimate Guide to What You Should Read

 

Are you a long-time fan looking for the best fantasy books to read?

Or maybe you are new to the genre and are instead looking for the top fantasy books to begin your epic journey with?

This ultimate guide to fantasy features all the books you need to know about. We’ll cover:

*Rating based on Amazon & GoodReads

 


Best Fantasy Books of All Time: The Top 10 Fantasy Books Series You Cannot Miss

 

The books and series in this section of the list are what you might describe as ‘legacy’ fantasy. World famous, translated into languages that span many continents and read by millions, they are titles that will live on long after any of us.

Simply put, these are the foundations of fantasy, the building blocks of the genre. If you’re looking for the best fantasy book series, you’ll do no better than this list. The perfect place to start:

 

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The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R Tolkien

Reasons to Read:

Tolkien is often considered the father of the fantasy genre. His tales from Middle-Earth transformed the landscape of what were essentially fairytales and gave them a new and epic meaning. Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and his myriad of other works are legendary and not to be missed. The best-selling fantasy book of all time, can anyone who enjoys the genre afford to at least not give it a try?

Rating: 4.5


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The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S Lewis

Reasons to Read:

C.S Lewis’ creation is arguably just as legendary as Tolkien’s. This epic fantasy book series - featuring a very famous Lion, Witch and perhaps the most well-known piece of furniture to have ever existed - is one that every book lover should explore. His later novels might not be as well known, but they are a still worth reading.

Rating: 4.5


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Harry Potter - J.K Rowling

Reasons to Read:

If Tolkien is the father of contemporary fantasy, J.K Rowling is the mother of 21st-century literature. Harry Potter is a fantasy series unlike any other, not because it sold like no other book series in history, but because it combines an incredible wealth of fantastical concepts and themes with realism in a way that is so rarely successful. Truly, can you be a fantasy fan without reading this series?

Rating 4.7


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A Song of Ice & Fire - George R.R Martin

Reasons to Read:

A Song of Ice and Fire could very much be attributed to bringing the epic fantasy back into the consciousness of the mainstream audience. A dark and grim world that never fails to excite, G.R.R Martin’s work is often compared to Tolkien’s in how prolific it is, and how it will stand the test of time.

Rating: 4.6


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Discworld - Terry Pratchett

Reasons to Read:

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy book series is perhaps one of the most fleshed out worlds you’ll ever have the joy of entering. Through 41 novels, the legendary writer created a masterpiece of fiction. So numerous are his works, that it’s near impossible not to find at least one tale to fall in love with.

Rating: 4.1


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Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Reasons to Read:

Through the Looking Glass is classic. The adventures of Alice, the crazy world through which she wonders. It is the stuff of legend. We’ve all experienced some form of this story, be it through film, TV, play, parody or even song, but nothing compares to the real thing; the true original.

Rating: 4.0


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The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan

Reasons to Read:

A perfect example of what it means to produce an epic fantasy world, the mythos behind The Wheel of Time series is utterly breathtaking, and ultimately incredibly time-consuming. A long and dense series of novels, The Wheel of Time is one of the best examples of a good fantasy book series that transports you to a world of such rich detail, that you could live out your days within its pages without ever finding a question the author hasn’t answered.

Rating: 4.6


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Inheritance Cycle - Christopher Paolini

Reasons to Read:

The name Eragon is a legend in itself. The central protagonist of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon’s adventures span a four-part series of young adult fantasy novels that have taken the world by storm. Christopher Paolini’s works form the basis of so many ideas on which other authors are inspired, and should never be overlooked when considering your next fantasy read.

Rating: 4.5


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His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

Reasons to Read:

Philip Pullman continues to produce work that captures the imagination. The series His Dark Materials, most notable for The Northern Lights, on which the movie The Golden Compass was based, may have gathered much controversy in its time, but that makes it no less spellbinding and enriching to read.

Rating: 4.0


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Shannara - Terry Brooks

Reasons to Read:

Shannara is a fantasy book series that has been running since the 1970s and still going strong to this day. Writer Terry Brooks has announced a new four-book series that will bring the story of Shannara to a close. In the meantime, there are plenty of novels to sink your teeth into. An incredible creation in which the world has evolved and transformed as time has passed, the Shannara series cannot be missed.

Rating: 4.0



New Fantasy Books: The Latest Stories You Need to Read

 

We’ve looked at old fantasy stories, and fantasy most everyone will have heard of, but what about new fantasy novels?

If you’ve read all the classics and are looking to start on something you didn’t know existed, or perhaps just want to get in on the ground floor of an upcoming fantasy series guaranteed to be a talking point for the genre in the years to come, what should you be reading?

 

The Poppy War - R.F Kaung

Reasons to Read:

The debut novel of R.F Kaung, this epic grimdark fantasy takes readers on a journey that will captivate and enthral, while also bringing equal measures of uncomfortable moments and genuine fear. The first in a trilogy, Kaung promises to follow with more exciting stories.  

Rating: 4.6

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The Cruel Prince - Holly Black

Reasons to Read:

Brought to you by bestselling author Holly Black, this young adult fantasy is the first in an upcoming trilogy. Already opted for a film to be produced by Universal Pictures, you’ll likely be seeing a lot more of this series in the future. A story of self-discovery ensconced within tales deception, intrigue and bloodshed, The Cruel Prince is as much a coming-of-age story as it is a glance into a vibrant yet unsettling world.

Rating: 4.2

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Master Assassins - Robert V.S Redrick

Reasons to Read:

Described as clean and crisp, with characters that really live and breathe, Master Assassins is a new epic fantasy novel brought to you by well-established author Robert V.S Redrick. Packed with religious ideology, beautifully envisioned settings and intense character relationships, this jaunt into a desert-based epic fantasy world promises a lot and delivers more.

Rating: 4.2

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The Ninth Rain - Jen Williams

Reasons to Read:

Picking up awards right out the gate, The Ninth Rain was named Best British Fantasy Novel of 2018. The first in an exciting new series of fantasy books, Jen William’s series has seen rave reviews and is certain to attract more attention as this new trilogy unfolds.

Rating: 4.6

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The Best Epic Fantasy Books: High Fantasy Tales of Sword and Sorcery

 

When we think fantasy, what do we think? We often think of epic battles, dragons and mythic creatures, tales of sword and sorcery and, of course, old wizards. When it comes to the best fantasy books, sometimes the classic tropes are all you need. And sometimes those books also play with tropes to give you something oh-so-familiar, but also something brand new and incredibly exciting.

This is a list of epic fantasy novels. High fantasy stories that enjoy both nuances of narrative while making the most of fantasy elements we all know and love:

 

The Stormlight Archives - Brandon Sanderson

Reasons to Read:

An epic world of blisteringly large proportions, packed full of diverse cultures, extreme examples of magic and strange creatures aplenty - combined with deep and enthralling plot lines - this fantasy book series is a true example of what high-fantasy means.

Rating: 4.8

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Grace of Kings - Ken Liu

Reasons to Read:

A sprawling epic fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of medieval era Japan, Grace of Kings is a stunning example of how simple plot structure and storytelling can result in some absolutely incredible fantasy adventures that keep you captivated from beginning to end. Those who struggle with having their attention held by some of the more detailed fantasy novel series will love the carefully crafted words of award-winning Ken Liu.

Rating: 3.7


Demon Cycles - Peter V. Brett

Reasons to Read:

Rich characters, interesting use of magic and lore that is both effortlessly simple to understand but beautifully deep and enchanting, Demon Cycles is an epic fantasy book series that cultivates both intense character development while simultaneously oozing classic fantasy elements we all know and love.  

Rating: 4.2

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The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

Reasons to Read:

Unlike some other examples of epic fantasy, The Lies of Locke Lamora - and the rest of The Gentlemen Bastard series -  is a bit more down and dirty, a bit more gritty, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an epic fantasy worth reading. Set in a world crafted around medieval Venice, this crime-based novel is one of the best fantasy books you’ll ever find.

Rating: 4.3

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Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson

Reasons to Read:

Another addition from prolific high-fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, the Mistborn saga is, quite frankly, off the scale. Featuring seven books already with another in the pipeline, this epic fantasy series currently tallies a total of over 1 million words. Readers seeking something that will captivate them, and keep them hooked for a long, long time, will find very few fantasy books better.

Rating: 4.4

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Age of Five - Trudi Canavan

Reasons to Read:

Trudi Canavan's intoxicating epic fantasy book series provides a wealth of excitement and intrigue through its exploration of religion, cultural ideology and pure drama. Those readers who love to indulge themselves in books that focus on culture and beliefs will find Age of Five a perfect addition to their collection.

Rating: 4.5

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The Night Angel - Brent Weeks

Reasons to Read:

Starting with the critically acclaimed Way of Shadows, Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy is a masterpiece of fantasy storytelling that takes classic fantasy concepts and intertwines them with contemporary ideas of epic adventure. A piece that is as political as it is fantastical, there is so much depth to this series that it is small wonder each novel is rated so highly by fans.

Rating: 4.4

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The KingKiller Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss

Reasons to Read:

An ongoing trilogy by writer Patrick Rothfuss, The KingKiller Chronicles is quite unlike any other fantasy you’ll ever read; and that is entirely by the author’s design. Set across different timelines, this fantasy series features one of the most complex narrative structures you’ll find in the genre. This is one for those who really like to think about what is going on, and digest what they are reading.

Rating: 4.6

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The Black Magician - Trudi Canavan

Reasons to Read:

Another epic fantasy series by author Trudi Canavan, The Black Magician offers a new foray into a wealth of diverse themes true to real life. This time, Canavan’s words don’t reflect on religion but society instead, taking a closer look at topics such as segregation and societal differences, told through the use of magic and other classic fantasy elements.

Rating: 4.5

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The Farseer Trilogy - Robin Hobb

Reasons to Read:

The Farseer trilogy is the epic fantasy book series that launched author Robin Hobb’s career. G.R.R Martin himself has described her work as ‘diamonds in a sea of zircons.’ The trilogy introduces Hobb’s high-fantasy world known as The Realm of Elderlings, which is now covered by a complex and diverse mythos of sixteen novels. Anyone looking to explore a deep and fleshed out world will find Hobb’s work is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Rating: 4.2

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Dark Fantasy Books: The Best Grimdark You’ll Find

 

Grimdark and dark fantasy is, without a doubt, the rising star of the fantasy book world. Game of Thrones is an example of how grimdark fantasy has captured readers in a way other subgenres simply can’t. Taking classic elements of fantasy and placing them in grim and real settings, pouring over adult themes and producing gripping, imperfect worlds, grimdark fantasy and dark fantasy reflects more on the worlds we know than your typical epic fantasy. Yet, that makes it no less enticing as a method of pure escapism.

For those fans looking for the best dark fantasy stories, or those seeking to try a new type of the fantasy book, here are some unmissable reads:

 

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The First Law - Joe Abercrombie

Reasons to Read:

If you consider Tolkien the innovator behind contemporary fantasy, then surely Joe Abercrombie is the man who brought grimdark into our hearts and minds? The First Law series is a dark and twisted experience, throwing every trope of fantasy you’ve ever known out the window in harsh but somehow satisfying ways. Easily some of the best fantasy books you’ll ever read, let alone grimdark.

Rating: 4.2


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The Raven’s Mark - Ed McDonald

Reasons to Read:

Ed McDonald is a name grimdark fantasy fans should take note of. His series, currently two into a trilogy, is receiving absolute rave reviews and appears set to line this author up as a rising star in the dark fantasy world. Both Blackwing and Ravencry offer everything you need from grimdark fantasy; real characters surrounded by a dark and unforgiving world.

Rating: 4.2


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The Crimson Empire - Alex Marshall

Reasons to Read:

A deep and twisted world, featuring a diverse range of grimdark concepts from ruthless religious sects to unyielding characters with iron wills and the skills to enact their darkest plans, The Crimson Empire delivers in every single way you can think of when it comes to a good dark fantasy series.

Rating: 4.0


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The Broken Empire - Mark Lawrence

Reasons to Read:

Considered one of the best fantasy book series available today, let alone one that fits into the grimdark/dark fantasy category, The Broken Empire is beloved by genre fans across the world. Known for its striking storytelling and almost passive style, this epic trilogy offers some truly unexpected twists, twists that have you hooked through the entire narrative journey.

Rating: 4.5


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A Land Fit for Heroes - Richard Morgan

Reasons to Read:

Beginning with the epic fantasy novel The Steel That Remains, and carrying through a trilogy with a collection of bewitching characters in an ever-changing world, A Land Fit for Heroes is a grimdark fantasy series that starts bloody and just gets bloodier. Beware, this book covers dark topics and themes; and we mean real dark. Perfect for the true grimdark fans amongst you.

Rating: 3.7


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The Grey Bastards - Jonathan French

Reasons to Read:

The world within which The Grey Bastards is set is a true example of a grimdark universe if ever there was one. Filled with death, bloodshed, abominable tyranny and just good old-fashioned unfairness, it’s a dark and twisted place any fan of gritty fantasy books would enjoy discovering. The first in a promising series by debut author Jonathan French, The Grey Bastards is definitely worth any grimdark fantasy lovers time.  

Rating: 4.5


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The Black Company - Glen Cook

Reasons to Read:

When you hear the terms mercenary and dark fantasy in the same sentence, you know you are in for a grim and bloody affair. The Black Company is a series of grimdark fantasy books that combines both twisted, dark elements with classic examples of the epic fantasy. Setting a focus on military practice and how people deal with the stringent rules of the world, there is no room for mistakes for the characters of author Glen Cook’s narratives.

Rating: 4.0



Young Adult Fantasy: Fantasy for Teens and Up

 

Young adult fiction is immensely popular, and not just with its target demographic. Many of us enjoy the themes and narratives that bubble up on the surface of a young adult fantasy novel. Sometimes it’s nice to break away from the focus on adult characters, blood, gore, swearing and sex, and instead take a look at fantasy world through younger eyes. Eyes we all had at some point in our past - or indeed, have now.

For those in the age range targeted by the authors, or for those who just like this particular subgenre of fantasy, here are some young adult fantasy novels and series to consider reading:

 

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

Reasons to Read:

Six of Crows, and its follow up Crooked Kingdom, have been lauded by critics as perfect examples of intelligent, fast-paced and sometimes gut-wrenching young adult fantasy books. Written by best-selling fantasy author Leigh Bardugo, whose previous fantasy series sold over 2 million copies, Six of Crows’ focus on character perspective cannot fail to keep you wrapped up in this epic and dangerous world.

Rating: 4.5


Witch Hunter - Virgina Boecker

Reasons to Read:

The debut series of author Virginia Boecker, the Witch Hunter saga consists of four novels exploring young adult fantasy themes that vary from black magic to shocking twists and betrayals. With darker edges than others in the subgenre, and complex character development that keeps you pushing forward, this young adult series is one to take note of.

Rating: 3.8


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Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Hamilton

Reasons to Read:

Described as Arabian Nights meeting the Old West in a young adult fantasy book series that features all the classic genre elements you’d expect, including magic, mythology, epic world-building and much more, The Rebel of the Sands trilogy is not to be overlooked. Receiving rave reviews for everything from its romance and atmosphere to its action and adventure, this series really does have a lot to offer.

Rating: 4.0


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Children of Blood and Bone - Tomi Adeyemi

Reasons to Read:

Children of Blood and Bone has accomplished a lot in its short existence, even more impressive as the novel is author Tomi Adeyemi’s debut. Since it was released in early 2018, it has achieved the title of New York Times best-seller for young adult books, received a highly positive critical response and featured heavily on the American late-night chat show hosted by Jimmy Fallon. Covering deep subject matters including race, sexism and societal intolerances, this young adult fantasy has made a real name for itself, and is set to continue to do so as more in the series are released.

Rating: 4.6


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An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir

Reasons to Read:

First in a series of young adult fantasy books, An Ember in the Ashes was released in 2015 to major critical acclaim. An international bestseller, the story is set within a fantasy world modelled on Ancient Rome and highlighted by both its political intrigue and its beautifully developed characters. The series, of the same name, has received similar praise and is currently being developed by Paramount as a movie franchise.

Rating: 4.3



Free Fantasy Books: Find These Great Fantasy Books Online For Free

 

Finally, we come to the free fantasy books available online.

You’ll find these free fantasy eBook series can be downloaded onto Kindle, iOS devices, Android and pretty much anything that can connect to the internet. They may not be as well known as other novels and series on this list, but that does not mean that they don’t deserve to be on a list of the best fantasy books around. Just because they are free, it doesn’t mean they are poor quality; not at all.

 

Azrian Anthology - James Speyer

Description:

Enter the world of Azra with The Azrian Anthology: Volume #1 and experience a series of fantasy short stories. Explore the depths of sacred forests, witness horrors of both monsters and man, and follow uncertain and unhinged figures as they navigate the tough Azrian landscape. The Azrian Anthology: Volume #1 features examples of both high and low fantasy, perfect for all fans of the genre. Looking for tales of magic and mythical creatures? There is something here for you. Prefer a story wrapped in character detail and internal struggle? Then you're in luck!


Thinblade - David A. Wells

Description:

When second son Alexander Valentine loses his brother to an assassin’s arrow, he discovers that his family protects an ancient secret and reluctantly finds himself at the center of the final battle of a war that was supposed to have ended two thousand years ago. Pursued by the dark minions of an ancient enemy, Alexander flees to the mountain city of Glen Morillian where he discovers that he is the heir to the throne of Ruatha, one of the Seven Isles, but before he can claim the throne he must recover the ancient Thinblade. Seven were forged by the first Sovereign of the Seven Isles and bound to the bloodline of each of the seven Island Kings in exchange for their loyalty to the Old Law. Each sword is as long as a man’s arm, as wide as a man’s thumb and so thin it can’t be seen when viewed from the edge. Thinblade is the epic fantasy adventure story of Alexander’s quest to find the ancient sword, claim the throne of Ruatha and raise an army to stand against the enemy that has awoken to claim dominion over all of the Seven Isles.

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Blades of Magic - Terah Edun

Description:

It is not a peaceful time in the Algardis Empire. War is raging between the mages and seventeen-year-old Sara Fairchild will be right in the middle of it. She just doesn't know it yet. Sara is the daughter of a disgraced imperial commander, executed for desertion. Sara is also the best duelist and hand-to-hand combatant in Sandrin. She lives quietly with her family's shame but when challenged about her family's honor, her opponent inevitably loses. On the night she finds out her father's true last actions, she takes the Mercenary Guilds' vows to serve in the emperor's army. Using her quick wits and fierce fighting skills, she earns a spot in the first division. There she discovers secrets the mages on both sides would prefer stay hidden. Dark enemies hunt her and soon it's not just Sara questioning the motivation behind this war. While fighting mages, blackmailing merchants and discovering new friends, Sara comes across something she's never had before - passion. The question is - can she fight for her empress against a mage who might unwittingly claim her heart? This is year one of the Initiate Wars. Sara is hoping it doesn't become the year she dies.

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Rise of the Dragons - Morgan Rice

Description:

Kyra, 15, dreams of becoming a famed warrior, like her father, even though she is the only girl in a fort of boys. As she struggles to understand her special skills, her mysterious inner power, she realizes she is different than the others. But a secret is being kept from her about her birth and the prophecy surrounding her, leaving her to wonder who she really is. Just as Kyra is coming of age, the local lord comes to take her away. Her father wants to wed her off to save her. Kyra, though, refuses, and she quests on her own, into a dangerous wood, where she encounters a wounded dragon—and ignites a series of events that will change the kingdom forever. 15 year old Alec, meanwhile, sacrifices for his brother, taking his place in the draft, and is carted off to The Flames, a wall of flames a hundred feet high that wards off the army of Trolls to the east. On the far side of the kingdom, Merk, a mercenary striving to leave behind his dark past, quests through the wood to become a Watcher of the Towers and help guard the Sword of Fire, the paranormal source of the kingdom’s power. But the Trolls want the Sword, too—and they prepare for a massive invasion that could destroy the kingdoms forever.

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The Priest of Blood - Douglas Clegg

Description:

The man known as Falconer was born of a whore, served the royal court as a predator trainer, and warred against the infidel Saracens as a conscripted soldier in the Holy Land. But it wasn't until he found himself in the arms of a creature called Pythia that he was truly born into his destined role-that of vampire.

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Reign of Queens - Melissa Wright

Description:

Three Full-Length Fantasy Series Starters from Author Melissa Wright. The Frey Saga: Frey lives in a world where humans are fairy tales. A world where the powerful rule, where her magic is broken. That life is a lie. When dark secrets unravel, she’ll have to risk everything to rise above a dangerous past. Shattered Realms: King of Ash and Bone. When monsters break through the veil between worlds, Mackenzie Scott has nothing left to lose. Her brother is marked, her future is vanished, and all that remains is a desperate need for revenge. She devises a plan to stop them, and finds an injured stranger that just might be the key. But he's not the helpless boy he appears to be. He's one of them. And he's got plans of his own. Descendants Series: Bound by Prophecy Aern's only job is to protect the chosen. The trouble is, she's the key to a prophecy and everyone wants her. When the opposition descends, their only hope is to stick together, but the truth unravels, and together might prove the biggest complication of them all.