Fantasy from the Point of View of Servants


Active Member
Oct 18, 2018
Lots of fantasy is from the point of view of Kings, Princes and Heroes. A fair amount of "Little Guy" fantasy is from the point of view of peasants. There is also some where the hero starts as a slave, although for some reason usually the slave portion is referenced in the backstory and hand waived away in a few pages.

What fantasy series are from the point of view of servants, butlers, palace cooks, etc.?
Sam Gamgee was a gardener. Of course, the rest of the fellowship consisted of landed gentry, princes, a noble, a king, and an angel.
There are sometimes kitchen boys, but unfortunately (for what you are looking for) they don't stay kitchen boys for long.

I actually read a story quite recently where the hero was a kitchen boy (by-blow of the King and a servant) but come the revolution he took on a more heroic role, and the other servants had either been killed, captured, or fled. The female lead was an apothecary/alchemist. There were some characters who were royal, but they were secondary, and the hero did not turn out to be the true heir or anything like that. It's called An Affair of Poisons. YA, if that matters to you.

Though there are kings and queens and princes and wizards in Patricia McKillip's Book of Atrix Wolfe quite a bit of the story takes place in the kitchens, with Saro who is a scullery maid, and of course the kitchen staff. McKillip often writes about characters who are musicians, and weavers, and scribes, etc. Even the Prince of Hed, in the riddle master trilogy, is basically a farmer.

But writers of books where all the main characters are servants, I can't think of any off the top of my head.
Yeah, I've been trying to think of "that one where the kitchen maid is the main protagonist", but then it all came back to me. Dragonflight!
Not really what we are looking for, as she turned out to have the noble blood and could talk to every dragon.
Simon was who I was hinting at at the beginning of my post.

I didn't think about the servants in Gormenghast, although of course they are there. School-teachers, too, and a whole school of boys. Actually, somewhere in Gormenghast there is probably just about anything you can think of.


We double-posted, Danny. She doesn't stay in the kitchen long, either. There seems to be a fantasy highway that runs straight through the kitchen, but it always seems to lead elsewhere.

I think a fantasy story about a valet or lady's maid could be quite interesting. They'd know all the secrets of their employers. Servants as main characters are getting sort of popular in mysteries, now that I think of it. So maybe a fantasy mystery with upstairs and downstairs characters might be a treat. Maybe someone has written one.
Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan has a doctor who spends a lot of time in a sorta-servant role as the MC; that's the first one to leap to mind off the top of my head.
The Storm light Archives by Brandon Sanderson have a lot of POVs, a few of which are from servant, slave or similar position characters.
Good suggestions! I'll have to check out "An Affair of Poisons".

I don't necessarily mind if only the main character is a servant, or if they secretly have noble blood. (Who is more likely to secretly have a noble father then a palace servant?). I would prefer that they actually spend a fair amount of the story as a servant. It would be interesting to have a character who spent much of their life interacting with the nobility in a very specific way suddenly develop a Special Power or turn out to be the Chosen One. (It would be amusing to have a middle aged valet turn out to be the Chosen One.) It would also be interesting to use the fact servants know everyone's business as a key advantage the hero has.

The Alchemist's Apprentice had the hero get a job as a servant for a while to gather information, and that was interesting. Servant wasn't her career though, just a means to an end. The Young Ancients had a scene where the young baker was the only one in the party who knew how to cook or do basic things because all the others were nobles who had servants do things for them. (The latter series kind of imploded, though...)
Servants feature heavily in Robin Hobb's assassin's apprentice story as the hero is effectively working for htem. Though he has royal blood he spends a lot of his life being more like a servant than a noble. This stuff fascinates me and I feel like writing one now.
'Memory, Sorrow and Thorn' has a servant boy as the main character.
Only just remembered.
Pretty decent series written by Tad Williams.
For a fantasy novel from a slave's perspective where the slavery aspect is more than backstory and not simply handwaved away quickly, there's Transformation by Carol Berg. (Yes, sure enough he doesn't end the book as a slave, but it takes a long while to get there.)
Not exactly servants but I recently watched these videos again
And it occurred to me that your humble city guard is often overlooked as well, after all somebody as to clean up the mess after the hero or rogue has done their thing in town.
I'll note that characters of the middle class are generally absent in fantasy. Which is interesting, because we readers are generally middle class and one might expect we would identify with such characters. But, no, in general readers want thieves and assassin, orphans and beggars, or else members of the upper nobility. Everyone in between is ignored. Yet a doctor (and I mean an ordinary doctor, not a magical healer) would be an interesting character to follow in war time, a lawyer in time of political upheaval. Seamstresses (the kind of sewing woman who comes to the house), barbers and hairdressers (I imagine people confided in them in the old days just as they do now) would all make excellent spies.

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