5 Fantasy Novels That Subvert the Chosen One Narrative

By Zakiya Jamal

Everyone’s familiar with the chosen one story. There’s that one character that is set to save the world from some disaster or major villain, and prevail over evil. But what if the chosen one wasn’t meant to save the world but destroy it? That’s what debut author Jenn Lyons explores in her upcoming fantasy novel, The Ruin Kings, but she’s not the only other to flip the chosen one narrative on it’s head.

Here’s a list of some of our fantasy novels that subvert the chosen one story.

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Lyons’ debut novel follows Kihrin, a thief and minstrel’s son, who discovers he’s a long lost prince. However, being a prince isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Kihrin’s new family treats him as a prisoner and he’s caught up in their power plays and political ambitions. To make matters worse, Khirin does seem to have a part to play in the fate of the world–in that he might just be destined to destroy it.

Lyon’s has already followed up with The Name of All Things and she continues subverting the traditional versions of heroes and chosen ones.


Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

While one could argue that protagonist Mia Corvere does fall into the chosen one trope, Kristoff breaks out of the typical narrative style by having a narrator who reveals early on that Mia will die by the time the tale is done. So while Mia may seem like the center of the story, she’s not the one telling it and she won’t survive the story’s end.


The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Without giving too much away, Chakraborty does a great job of setting up the reader to believe that Nahri is the chosen one of this story, and though she certainly is at the center of the book, the novel becomes a dual narrative tale where the reader is left to wonder how Nahri’s story will converge with that of Prince Ali.


A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

There are a lot of reasons why Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series was turned into a hit TV series and continues to bring in fans, but one of the big ones is Martin isn’t afraid to kill his heroes. From early in the series, Martin made it clear that the characters one might think are the saviors, or chosen ones, still aren’t safe.


The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Often referred to as the adult Harry Potter, it shouldn’t be surprising that The Magicians makes the list. However, unlike Harry Potter, protagonist Quentin Coldwater doesn’t face a clear villain, at least not at first; instead Quentin’s main story is about exploring (and abusing) magic and discovering a world he’s always admired but doesn’t fully understand.



Originally published November 29, 2018.