If you’re a writer or reader, you probably have some strong feelings about book prologues. In fiction, they’re often deemed as unnecessary and they’re often used to give the reader a large amount of information in one go.
But good book prologues do exist, and sometimes, they can make the entire book much better.
For readers, book prologues are sometimes like a blurb in the sense that they can make you pick up or put down a book.
For writers, they are a useful worldbuilding tool and a way to set the tone.
The experts we’ve picked out below do it best and the books that follow are just as triumphant as the prologues that champion them…
The 7 Best Book Prologues
1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin
George R.R Martin is best known for his surprises and the prologue to his most famous book doesn’t disappoint on that front.
There are ten whole pages dedicated to it and in that time, George R.R Martin introduces us to a whole bunch of characters who are swiftly axed off.
The characters in question seem like they’re really going to be important to the tale and then it turns out that they’re just a plot device.
The severity of it sets up the ruthlessness of his writing for the audience and goes to show that no one is safe, but it also successfully gives us a wide scope of the world of Westeros.
2. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Stiefvater is the Queen of YA fantasy for a reason. Her lyrical language and incredible storytelling weave directly into the prologue of The Dream Thieves too.
While introducing a new POV to the Raven Boys series, she explores the theme of the book through the discussion of the ‘types of secrets’ while also revealing a lot more about the mysterious Ronan Lynch, who left the previous book on a cliffhanger by announcing he can steal from dreams.
It’s a prologue that stays with you long after you read it.
3. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Noughts and Crosses is the tale of Sephy and Callum, but the prologue is set three years before their story begins and focusses on their mothers.
It’s important to the story to know that they’re living in a world where white people and Black people are separated into noughts and Crosses, destined to live with a class divide between the two forever.
The prologue explores from an adult’s point of view the things that young Sephy and Callum are yet to understand – that their world is broken and even their strong friendship can’t battle against it.
The prologue serves to show their innocence and how what happens behind the scenes of their relationship causes the events that unfold three years later.
4. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
The prologue to this book is memorable for how it sets the scene with the description and gives us an understanding of the narrator’s childhood.
Like any flashback, it’s important to the story and details the moment where the young girl sees a tiger attack a man.
It’s a short prologue and yet it sets up all of the characters perfectly and is memorable for years after reading it.
5. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Since this is a memoir, it probably doesn’t count as a prologue as such, but the first page of Dolly Alderton’s engrossing book is one that can’t be left out.
It’s full of bold, sometimes ludicrous statements about the things she believed love to be as a teenager. It sets up the reader for the change in herself throughout the book, where she continues to revisit how she feels about love in a series of reflective anecdotes.
By the end, you feel as though you’ve been on the same journey as she has as she walks you through her life, leaving this book prologue as one of the most powerful ones you’ll ever read.
6. The Power by Naomi Alderman
Alderman’s novel sets up a terrifying dystopian reality where women are given the power to inflict pain on men through electric shocks.
The prologue of the book describes not only how the power works, but at the end of the prologue, you discover the text is part of the ‘book of eve’, denoting a new religion.
It’s a scary indication of the world that has been flipped to put women on top before the characters are even introduced. So it’s one of the few book prologues that effectively world builds in a prologue.
7. Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito
The prologue to this story is so haunting that it’ll stay with you for a lifetime. The former lawyer who wrote this novel introduces the story from the point of view of the main character who is the only person alive after a school shooting performed by her boyfriend.
As book prologues go, this is one that effectively sets up the entire novel, making you doubt right from the start whether the main character is reliable and also giving chilling details to a terrifying event.
What is one of your favorite book prologues? Share in the comments!