Here’s a post by Paul Weimer at tor.com: Priestess of a Lesser Goddess: H.M. Long’s Hall of Smoke
The basic four archetypes for a D&D-like party are the Fighter, the Rogue, the Wizard and the Cleric. In secondary world fantasy novels, the first three are very well represented, to the point of many variations and subclasses and versions of same. But the Cleric is far rarer. It’s not that there are none, mind you, but they are far, far less common as protagonists….
Okay, first, this review makes the novel sound interesting and good. Paul says: “Hall of Smoke is then a story of redemption, of growth, of discovery, of questioning one’s beliefs and trying to come to find what one does believe in, and acting on those beliefs.”
Good reviews on Amazon, too. It’s a little hard to tell if this book has the sort of ending I would appreciate. It’s especially hard to tell because I prefer not to have many spoilers for a book and therefore hesitate to read through too many reviews because honestly, someone is bound to say something I would rather not know. It’s a debut novel, so there’s no way to trust the author based on her previous work.
Well, I’ll pick up a sample, and if any of you happen to read this book, let me know what you think! A basic thumbs up or thumbs down would be perfect.
Now, moving on: It’s obviously true that in fantasy novels, priests, priestesses, and clerics aren’t nearly as common as thieves and fighters. Paul has a theory about why that is, which he mentioned in the linked post, but I’m not sure I’m persuaded. Never mind, though; the thing is, that makes me want to point out some fantasy novels where a priest or priestess or cleric is the protagonist. A few do come to mind! In no order:
1) Pasksenarrion. At the beginning a foot soldier, by the ending a paladin of Gird, the original trilogy still stands out as one of Elizabeth Moon’s best works.
2) Extremely different in every way except that it’d still be shelved in the fantasy section: From All False Doctrine, one of my favorite books last year.
4) Not the same, but in The Tombs of Atuan, my favorite LeGuin novel. True, the god is not one anybody decent would want to worship. True, by the end Tenar opposes the god. Still, at the beginning she’s a child-priestess, though the story is one of her movement away from that role.
5) Oh, should have thought of these earlier, but the Deryni series has lots of important characters, including pov protagonists, who are priests. I don’t find these books have held up as well as various others and perhaps should give my copies away. In particular, Camber is really not an admirable character, something I’m not sure Kurtz realizes, and that makes it hard to enjoy the later books set in this world.
6) The Wheel of the Infinite. In contrast, Maskelle is one of my favorite protagonists of all time, never mind one of my favorite priestesses.
7) The Killing Moon/The Shadowed Sun features an important assassin-priest. I should re-read this duology, which I liked a lot.
8. Mary Doria Russell’s Sparrow and Children of God are really good … in some ways … and feature a priest as a major protagonist. I doubt I’ll ever be able to nerve myself up enough to re-read these, though. Oh, plus, now that I think of it, they’re SF rather than fantasy.
Well, that’s eight! I’m running low. What other fantasy (or, I guess, SF) novels feature priests, priestesses, paladins, or clerics of whatever sort as protagonists?