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5 Fantasy Novels That Subvert the Chosen One Narrative

By Zakiya Jamal & Andrew King

We all know the story of the chosen one. Time and time again, we’ve watched the Fabled Hero rise from Humble Yet Noble Origins to unlock Hidden Power only to discover that their True Strength was Friendship All Along, or whatever. That’s not what we’re here to talk about today. No, today is about the books that take that familiar narrative and twist it up. Flip it on its precious, anointed head! 

And why today of all auspicious days for this task? Because we’re celebrating the release of The Discord of Gods, the thrilling conclusion to Jenn Lyons’ A Chorus of Dragons series, where chosen ones fall from grace, demons run rampant across the earth, and adventure is the most important word. 

So read on! Check out a whole list of novels that defy the heroic and shake up expectations!


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.

 

Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade

In Kel Kade’s riotous fantasy, Fate of the Fallen, the learned wizards, gallant nobility, career adventurers, and anyone who might be considered an archetypical hero have all yeeted themselves away from a world that is dying. Who’s left? The flotsam. The broken. The ne’er-do-wells. But no one fights like the desperate, and dying though it may be, this is their world to save, damn it.

 

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which is why he makes the mistake of attempting to rob Galva, who is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. And from these lofty beginnings, a sharply funny and bitingly thrilling fantasy adventure unfolds.

 

Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald

The first installment in a brilliant new fantasy trilogy from critically-acclaimed author Ed McDonald, Daughter of Redwinter chronicles the adventures of Raine, a young woman with a history of unfortunate decisions who can unfortunately see the dead. It’s a powerful gift, and one she’d die for if anyone knew. No adulation or support for Raine, our chosen girl who just might save the world. It’s secrets and daggers in the dark until the climactic end. 

Daughter of Redwinter is on sale 6.28.22

 

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.

2 thoughts on “5 Fantasy Novels That Subvert the Chosen One Narrative

  1. I am an avid reader and I always try to open new unique books to myself because I think that it is the best way to broaden your horizon and become inspired. I’m so glad that I came across your article because all these books stand out with their own special distinctive features and each of them has an absolutely unique concept. I think that any person can find a novel for his preferences and interests in this selection because each book impresses by its originality. I really want to read Fate of the Fallen by Kel Kade because I think that it is a really cautionary tale which shows how it is important to be strong inside and be committed to your principles. I think that it demonstrates what it means to be brave and go all the way, remaining unshakable.

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