2 Ways To Enjoy James Dashner’s Maze Runner Books In Order

With its palpable tension, action, and drama, it’s no wonder that James Dashner’s Maze Runner book series was adapted for the big screen!

2 Ways To Enjoy James Dashner’s Maze Runner Series In Order

In fact, it was the fourth-highest-grossing film series based on young adult fiction, second only to the likes of The Twilight Saga, and The Hunger Games. But as any reader will tell you, reading a series is often more impactful than any movie adaptation.

And I can assure you that if young adult dystopian fiction is your thing, then this series will NOT disappoint!

What’s more, in addition to the three books that were made into films, the author has also written two prequels, a short story, a novella, and has also published an additional book set 73 years after the main series, with the promise of more on the way!

The book series is aimed at those aged between 11 and 18 in particular, but there are scenes of violence. The third movie released was rated 16+, however, this was only due to the use of swear words.

All the books in the series grip you from start to finish, but to truly get the most out of this series, you should read ALL of the books.

About The Maze Runner Series By James Dashner

Shocking, strange, and disconcerting, the reader is thrust into a dystopia where survival is not what it used to be.

The world has changed significantly and, initially, it is hard to understand why the characters have ended up in the circumstances they find themselves in, with no memories of what brought them where they are, and faced with all kinds of dangerous and deadly challenges.

As the series progresses, the reader develops a better understanding. Yet at the same time, the author has a knack for introducing twists and turns that keep the reader guessing as to what is going to happen next, and what the true purpose is of all of the events.

And it is only through this knowledge that the characters can know who they can and cannot trust if they are to survive to live to tell the tale and rescue one another.

It’s a thought-provoking book series that is action-packed and emotionally moving in equal measure.

The Best Way To Read The Maze Runner Series By James Dashner: In Order Of Publication

Before I go into the premises of each book and outline each book’s pros and cons, I felt it best to list the best order for reading the books here, so you don’t inadvertently end up reading spoilers, so here you go:

  1. The Maze Runner
  2. The Scorch Trials
  3. Thomas’s First Memory of the Flare
  4. The Death Cure
  5. The Kill Order
  6. The Fever Code
  7. Crank Palace
  8. The Maze Cutter

And now I’ll walk you through these books in a little more detail.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner (Book 1)

This is the book that started it all – the first of the series to be published, and the basis of the first movie adaptation. The tale begins when Thomas wakes up in a lift and his only memory is his name.

He then finds himself in a glade with other teenage boys who have also lost their memories. Together they must fend for themselves, farming and making shelter and such.

Their glade ends with a gigantic stone maze that closes every night and has walls that move and dangerous creatures inside. So far, no one has ever made it back when they’ve gone through it. But Thomas takes up the challenge and there are some very surprising revelations.


  • Fast-paced with breathless action in the fight to survive
  • A prominent bestseller with online retailers across three categories, namely Teen & Young Adult Fiction on Boys’ & Men’s Issues, Teen & Young Adult Friendship Fiction, and Teen & Young Adult Dystopian


  • Some readers argue that there’s a confusing start, but this is clearly deliberate and what the author had intended
  • If you’ve already seen the film, then you will already know the plot

The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, Book 2)

The Scorch Trials story begins where The Maze Runner story finished… Now that the kids have made it to WICKED’s control room, they have a better understanding of what the organization was trying to achieve. And now it’s time for Phase Two.

By this point in the series, the central characters have learned that the Earth got scorched by the sunning, killing vast swaths of the human population. And if all that wasn’t enough, humanity then decided to make a man-made virus to kill off even more people.

Thomas and his comrades now have to go across the blistering desert to a so-called safe place, where more trials take place and there are yet more revelations to uncover.


  • There are lots of twists and turns and narrow escapes, not to mention shifting loyalties and double-crossing
  • There are significant differences between the book and the movie, so if you’ve already seen the movie, the book is still worth reading


  • If you’ve already seen the film, then you will already have a rough idea of the plot
  • You need to know the characters and plot of The Maze Runner (book or movie) in order to know the context for this book in the series

Thomas’s First Memory Of The Flare (Short Story)

This VERY short story goes back to when Thomas was much younger, and it describes his very first experience in relation to the Flare (the man-made virus) and it takes place in the company of both of his parents.


  • This is a tense and dramatic part of the story where the consequences of the man-made virus really hit home for Thomas and other members of his family


  • You don’t really need to read this book in order for the rest of the series to make sense, it’s just a bonus story
  • This short story is only three pages long and is usually only available as part of a set rather than being available separately

The Death Cure

The Death Cure (Maze Runner, Book Three)

At this point in the story, Thomas has not only beaten the maze and survived the scorch, but now he’s ready for the final test, armed with the very memories that WICKED had taken from him, and the realization that he can’t believe a word they say.

Now it’s time for Thomas to save those friends he made in the Glade, back in book one, The Maze Runner. And it is also time to find out if humanity can ever survive the Flare.


  • This installment is packed to the rim with tricks and lies, and the readers have no idea who Thomas should turn to for help, and readers remain completely uncertain of the truth and what can be believed
  • There are significant differences between the book and the movie, so if you’ve already seen the movie, the book is still worth reading


  • Many readers were disappointed about how this installment in this series played out
  • If you’ve already seen the film, then you will already have a rough idea of the plot
  • You need to know the characters and plot of both The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials (books or movies) in order to know the context for this book in the series

The Kill Order (First Prequel)

The Kill Order (Maze Runner, Book Four; Origin): Book Four; Origin (The Maze Runner Series)

This story takes you back in time, well before Thomas ever found himself running through that terrible maze. It tells the story of Mark and Trina, who were actually there when the solar flare hit the earth and the virus started to spread.

Mark and Trina are determined to save those who remain, but to some, you are worth more dead than alive.


  • A window into all the events prior to the construction of the maze, explaining how the world and society became so messed up


  • If you were to read this book prior to reading The Maze Runner, then this would make The Maze Runner (book or movie) less impactful for you
  • You don’t need to read this book in order to follow the main storyline

The Fever Code (Second Prequel)

The Fever Code (Maze Runner, Book Five; Prequel) (The Maze Runner Series)

This story takes place after the solar flare, but before Thomas wakes up in the glade next to the mysterious and deadly maze. It is a time of plague, madness, and destruction, where violence reigns, and it seems that an answer may be presenting itself.


  • This book reveals the story of how the maze was built and, crucially, who built it and why
  • This story features the same central character as the three main books and is basically the final piece in the puzzle that makes the whole series fit together


  • If you were to read this book prior to reading The Maze Runner, then this would make The Maze Runner (book or movie) less impactful for you
  • You don’t need to read this book in order to follow the main storyline

Crank Palace (Novella)

Crank Palace: A Maze Runner Novella

In a departure from the rest of the series, this novella focuses solely on the character known as Newt…

The premise is that has come down with the virus and in an attempt to save his friends from the accompanying murderous rage, he runs away and ends up at the crank palace.

But before the inevitable conclusion, Newt has some significant encounters and tries to fulfill a new-found destiny.


  • It’s a thought-provoking and moving story that provides valuable insight into the mind of Newt


  • You don’t need to read this book in order to follow the main storyline

The Maze Cutter

The Maze Cutter

This story takes place 73 years after the events of The Death Cure. And it is one dark and dangerous tale. At first, it seems that everything had eventually turned out OK, and the story of WICKED and the Gladers feels so very far away.

That is until a woman shows up on a boat with news from the mainland. It turns out that the Cranks have evolved into a more violent, intelligent version of themselves, and characters Sadina, Isaac, and Jackie suddenly find they are being hunted down.

They have to survive long enough to discover who is friend or foe, why they are being targeted, and what the ultimate plan is behind all of this chaos.


  • This is a wholly new story, with even more dangerous and fear-inducing enemies
  • There is still more mystery to uncover, and the writing and action are just as compelling as the main series


  • You don’t need to read this book in order to follow the main storyline
  • It doesn’t feature the same characters as any in the previous books in the series

How To Read The Maze Runner Series By James Dashner In The Storyline’s Chronological Order

Here follows the order in which to read all of the Maze Runner series if you decide to read them in the chronological order of the storyline:

  1. The Kill Order (First Prequel)
  2. The Fever Code (Second Prequel)
  3. The Maze Runner (First Main Book)
  4. The Scorch Trials (Second Main Book)
  5. Thomas’s First Memory of the Flare (Short Story)
  6. The Death Cure (Third Main Book)
  7. Crank Palace (Novella)
  8. The Maze Cutter (Set 73 Years Later)

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t already seen any of the movies and don’t know much about the plot, the absolute best way to enjoy this series of books is to start with The Maze Runner. This way, you can ensure that the revelations in this book have the desired impact.

That said, I totally get why some people like to read a book series in the storyline’s chronological order, and that’s why I wanted to include two different ways to read the series here.

The great thing about this series is that each of the main books has a completely different feel to it. They really are separate stories, albeit linked together through the use of the same characters and backstory.

And if, like many, you find yourself intrigued by the world-building of this series, you can immerse yourself further still by reading the accompanying prequels and novellas, which serve to shed more light on what could have possibly brought about the various tense circumstances depicted by the author.

It’s an excellent series of books for engaging young adults, and also makes for an excellent choice for book club reading due to all the thought-provoking issues it can bring up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Watch The Movies Or Read The Books?

While it’s certainly true that the movie adaptions are really good, there’s a lot to be said for reading the books, because they can provide better insight into what goes through the character’s minds.

What If I’ve Already Seen The Movies?

If you’ve already watched all three movies, you won’t gain much from reading the books by the same name, however, if you’re a fan of the series’ world-building and want more of the same, you may enjoy the prequels and novellas, although they aren’t necessary for understanding the main 3 books.

In What Order Should I Read The Maze Runner Books?

Despite prequels of this series being released, I strongly recommend that you do NOT read the story according to the storyline’s chronological order, because by doing so the reveals in certain places would be significantly less impactful.

Is The Maze Runner A Trilogy? Or Does The Maze Runner have A 4th book?

The Maze Runner series was initially intended to be a trilogy (both the books and the movies), however, a 4th book has since been published set 73 years after the initial series, so you can look out for more!

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Noah Burton