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* Robert Silverberg's ''The Alien Years'' begins with an alien invasion from the perspective of a resourceful pilot. He's killed in the first chapter, and the rest of the novel focuses on his brother's family.


* Robert Silverberg's ''The Alien Years'' ''Literature/TheAlienYears'', by Creator/RobertSilverberg, begins with an alien invasion from the perspective of a resourceful pilot. He's killed in the first chapter, and the rest of the novel focuses on his brother's
* Creator/IsaacAsimov:
** "Literature/TrueLove": Milton is searching for love, up until [[spoiler:[[MurderTheHypotenuse Joe gets him arrested for a crime a decade old, so that he won't come between Joe and Charity]]]].
** "Literature/LivingSpace": Clarence Rimbro, accountant and all-around nobody, is exactly the type of character Creator/IsaacAsimov likes to use as TheProtagonist in his stories, but once he's gotten the government to listen to his problem, agent Alec Mishnoff takes over as the person resolving the plot.

* Five chapters into ''Literature/TheColdMoons'', the first protagonist Bamber dies. He is too exhausted from his journey and only survives long enough to warn the ''real'' protagonist, Buckwheat, about the humans.


* ''Literature/TheColdMoons'':
Five chapters into ''Literature/TheColdMoons'', the first protagonist Bamber dies. He is too exhausted from his journey and only survives long enough to warn the ''real'' next protagonist, Buckwheat, about the humans.humans.
** Bamber's replacement Buckwheat is murdered twelve chapters in. His son Beaufort takes over as protagonist from then on.

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* Five chapters into ''Literature/TheColdMoons'', the first protagonist Bamber dies. He is too exhausted from his journey and only survives long enough to warn the ''real'' protagonist, Buckwheat, about the humans.

* Shadow is technically the main character of ''Literature/AmericanGods'', in that he is the viewpoint character, but his role in the story is largely the same as that of [[Literature/AliceInWonderland Alice]]; that is to say, he watches as the plot happens around him, occasionally pausing to say, "Gosh, that's unusual," but by and large he neither actively contributes to the plot unless deliberately roped into it by someone else nor does he react as though he seriously believes he's involved. It's really Mr. Wednesday's story at the end of the day (well, [[JediTruth there's a strong argument]] that it's actually Mr. Nancy's, but he's letting Mr. Wednesday borrow it).

%% This page has been alphabetized. Please add new examples in the correct order

* Robert Silverberg's ''The Alien Years'' begins with an alien invasion from the perspective of a resourceful pilot. He's killed in the first chapter, and the rest of the novel focuses on his brother's family.
* Shadow is technically the main character of ''Literature/AmericanGods'', in that he is the viewpoint character, but his role in the story is largely the same as that of [[Literature/AliceInWonderland Alice]]; that is to say, he watches as the plot happens around him, occasionally pausing to say, "Gosh, that's unusual," but by and large he neither actively contributes to the plot unless deliberately roped into it by someone else nor does he react as though he seriously believes he's involved. It's really Mr. Wednesday's story at the end of the day (well, [[JediTruth there's a strong argument]] that it's actually Mr. Nancy's, but he's letting Mr. Wednesday borrow it).
* ''Literature/BattleRoyale'' plays with this by trying to fool the readers in regards to Shinji Mimura. While the book starts off with Shuya as its POV character, Shinji Mimura gets made much of by several characters. Shinji does things early on that make it clear that he's cunning, and characters mention him to be the one that will think up a plan to have the class escape the game safe and sound. He even has quite a background to his character, especially with his [[CoolUncle uncle]] that taught him all sorts of things, and part of the book focusing on his plan to bomb the school. [[spoiler:Shinji dies during the middle of the game, and while his death is made out to be one of the hardest hitting for most students, it becomes clear that the main protagonist was always Shuya.]]
* ''Literature/BraveNewWorld'' features perhaps one of the most iconic examples of this: we are initially led to believe the protagonist of the story is Bernard Marx, as the novel focuses on him being a misfit in the World State and his questioning of its ideals. Then, as soon as Bernard and Lenina arrive at the Savage reservation, we are introduced to John the Savage and the novel focuses more and more on John while Bernard fades into the background.
* Creator/OrsonScottCard uses this at least a couple of times.
** In ''Xenocide'', Qing-jao is the focus of the storyline on Path. She doesn't die, [[spoiler: (she does have her OCD/godspoken-ness taken away though)]] but she's very handily displaced by Wang-mu towards the end of the book, and though Wang-mu appears as a main character in ''Children of the Mind'', Qing-jao does not.
** In ''Empire'', we meet Reuben Malich, who is basically the hero of the whole book [[spoiler: except he gets unceremoniously shot in the face about two-thirds the way through, and Cole has to finish his work.]] Bonus points for the paperback version of Empire because it happens ''right'' before a page turn.
** Card also uses it, by degrees, in ''Literature/HartsHope'', which begins centuries before the protagonist is born, with the story of a baron who overthrows his king. Orem, the hero, isn't born until roughly one-third into the 300 page novel.
* ''Literature/TheCavaliersSeries'' Oxford Blood opens with Stephanie French, social climber extraordinaire, attending the Cavaliers Summer Party and having Archie, the heir to a dukedom declare his love for her. And then Archie is turned into a vampire and kills her to complete his transformation. From then on, the action skips a year and focuses on Harriet, Stephanie’s cousin. Although [[spoiler: Stephanie continues to have a major influence on the story, most notably by being the major motivation for Archie’s murder spree]].
* While he is not a point of view character until the third book and then only part of the time, Valraven in ''Literature/ChroniclesOfMagravandias'' is the true protagonist of the story. The story shifts from [[BrotherSisterIncest his sister]] to his [[PlatonicLifePartners second wife]], to [[TheChosenOne a peasant boy]], but the focus of the story is always Valraven.
* At first glace, Colin Lamb appears to be the protagonist of ''Literature/TheClocks''. He's an "outsider" who gets mixed up in a peculiar murder case, and was let in the investigation thanks to his FriendOnTheForce, Inspector Hardcastle. However, Colin is actually a HeroOfAnotherStory who is using the murder investigation to find new leads for his own Intelligence work, and Hardcastle serves as the primary sleuth working on the mystery.
* ''Literature/TheDiamondAge'' by Creator/NealStephenson features a particularly spiteful example: as the book begins, we're introduced to a thuggish cyberpunk protagonist straight out of the low-rent sci-fi movies of the late Eighties, complete with spiffy black leather clothes, skull-mounted nanotech weapons, and life of petty crime. Within a hundred pages he's been [[spoiler: gruesomely executed for armed robbery]], and his neglected four-year-old daughter turns out to be the book's ''real'' heroine.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' has a few:
** Though he doesn't die, in ''Discworld/GuardsGuards'' quite a few pages are spent making it look like Carrot is going to be the main character of the story, having all the traits of the classical hero, before Sam Vimes takes over as protagonist, not just of the book, but of the City Watch series. This was how it was intended to be, before Creator/TerryPratchett realised Vimes had more character and switched protagonists.
** In the second book, ''Discworld/TheLightFantastic'', [[spoiler:the story's {{Deuteragonist}} and main protagonist of the Unseen University storyline is killed off a mere quarter of the way through the book, leaving Trymon, the BigBad, unopposed at the university.]]
** The first book has two ''Literature/FafhrdAndTheGrayMouser'' expies watching the city burn at the start. They have absolutely no impact on the plot and leave after doing some budget narration.
* Creator/ArthurMachen's short story, "The Dover Road". The first two thirds of the story stars Professor Warburton as he tries to come to grips with a bizarre phenomenon he and his colleagues have witnessed. Warburton eventually gathers up enough evidence to come up with [[AgentScully a rational-enough solution that completely satisfies him]]. The focus then turns to one of the other witnesses, [[AgentMulder Ian Tallent]], who had previously taken up all of 2-3 sentences in the story. Ian notices that Warburton's proposed solution fails to address certain aspects of the case and spends the remainder of the story doing some investigating of his own.
* In ''Literature/{{Dragonvarld}}'', it initially looks like Melisande might be the main character of the trilogy — she's introduced first, she's tough enough to defy a dragon in Chapter 2, she's got a developed love interest, and she's in line to assume the position that the first book is named after (Mistress of Dragons). But then she [[spoiler:spends the rest of the first book needing to be rescued and protected by other characters, being sexually violated (twice), and then dying while giving birth to characters who'll be important in the next books.]]
* In the first ''Literature/EmpireOfTheAnts'' book, the Ants part of the story starts from the perspective of a young male named 327, and follows him as he forms a team with female 56 and asexual warrior 103683... he is killed in the middle of the book, and his two partners take over as the main characters. And again later, 56 becomes queen and is reduced to secondary character then killed, while 103683 serves as the main character for the remaining of the trilogy.
* ''Literature/EverybodyLovesLargeChests'':
** In the description and beginning, the story seems to be a dungeon-diving adventure novel, until he is eaten by a dungeon mimic. Then you realize that the mimic is the real protagonist.
** During the Ishgar Republic arc a CatGirl named Keira Morgana is introduced. She is friendly (if a little scatterbrained), competent, in a lesbian relationship, and all around seems perfectly designed as a character for the readers to love. She also survives several chapters without Boxxy brutally murdering her, [[RedShirt which is rare in this series]]. And then [[spoiler:it turns out that she is merely Boxxy's facade to infiltrate elven society and learn a new Job. There was never a real Keira at all. There was even a BaitAndSwitch with a suspiciously strong student who seemed creepily interested in Keira, but he turned out to be just some random guy]].
* ''Fade to Blue'' by Sean Beaudoin appears to have two protagonists, Kenny Fade and Sophie Blue. But later in the book, it's revealed that [[spoiler: Kenny doesn't exist. He's a virtual life that Sophie has been living.]]
* In Thomas Sniegoski's ''The Fallen'', the first few pages revolve around a high school kid experiencing a bout of HeroicBSOD due to the fact that he's just gained superpowers and can now talk to animals. He's obviously the protagonist, right? Wrong. [[OurAngelsAreDifferent He gets torched by the big bad]] and is [[ButForMeItWasTuesday never mentioned again]].
* ''Literature/HumanxCommonwealth'': In ''Quofum'', Ersa Trellenberg is the initial viewpoint character, and seems to have all the elements — unique appearance and backstory, adventurous but responsible, UST with the expedition's only female crew member — expected in a heroic protagonist. [[spoiler:Then he catches a lethal sonic blast to the forehead.]]
* The third book in ''Literature/TheInheritanceTrilogy'', ''The Kingdom of Gods'', plays with this; Shahar Arameri would appear to be the main character alongside the godling Sieh - she dominates the description on the jacket copy, at any rate — but she actually gets shunted aside about 260 pages in to make way for her twin brother, Dekarta. (However, the author ''did'' state that she wanted to emphasize the plot, and thus the movers and shakers of the plot, rather than the romance angle...)
* Creator/JinYong loves this trope. A majority of his {{wuxia}} novels start around an apparent protagonist, only to reveal (sometimes several chapters later) that it is not. The first comes to mind should be ''Literature/TheSmilingProudWanderer'' (笑傲江湖), where the audience is fooled into viewing Lin Pingzhi as the protagonist [[spoiler:while it is actually Linghu Chong]].
* ''Literature/JoeGolemAndTheDrowningCity'' has the opening chapter be from the perspective of Felix Orlov the magician and his experiences with dead spirits. He seems like the main character, but the second chapter shifts POV to his assistant Molly and she becomes the lead character throughout the rest of the book, while Felix is a LivingMacguffin.
* Highly pronounced in Susanna Clarke's ''Literature/JonathanStrangeAndMrNorrell'', where the titular Jonathan Strange is not introduced for 250 pages, before proceeding to gobble up most of the spotlight.
* Cynthia Voigt's third ''Kingdom'' novel, ''The Wings of the Falcon'', pulls this. Oriel is a dashing, brave, fantastically charismatic young man who is clearly the perfect candidate to win the heart of the princess and save the Kingdom. Until, of course, he [[spoiler: dies in a duel about 3/4 of the way through the book.]] His always-in-the-background best friend, Griff, gets a rather abrupt promotion to Hero after that.
* ''Literature/TheKingdomsOfEvil'': Pon, who appears to be a Farm Boy on his way to seek his fortune. You know, before [[spoiler: he's slaughtered.]]
* Creator/JackVance's ''Literature/{{Lyonesse}}'' trilogy begins with the birth and upbringing of the spirited Princess Suldrun. At about the halfway point of book one, however, she dies. The rest of the series divides its focus amongst a number of other characters, including her lover, son and father.
* ''Literature/MarcusDidiusFalco'':
** In the first ''Literature/MarcusDidiusFalco'' novel, the spirited young noblewoman who encounters Falco, Sosia, seems to be the second protagonist, but then she's [[spoiler:murdered]]. The actual second major character and Falco's love interest is [[spoiler: her cousin, Helena]].
** ''The Course Of Honour'' appears to be Caenis' story, but in reality, it's the story of the rise of Vespasian, seen through Caenis' eyes.
* ''Literature/LesMiserables'' opens with a book detailing Bishop Myriel's life and philosophy, firmly establishing his character. Then in the second book comes bursting through his door a certain parolee named Jean Valjean…
* There are ''two'' of these in the ''Literature/{{Mistborn}}'' series.
** In the first book, though the main viewpoint character is [[SupportingProtagonist Vin]], the story is about Kelsier and his rebellion. [[spoiler:Then he dies and Vin takes on the main protagonist role.]]
** A variation happens in ''The Hero of Ages'', when [[spoiler:Vin sacrifices herself to destroy Ruin and it turns out that Sazed is TheChosenOne, though the core thrust of the narrative is still centered around Vin.]]
* Played straight in Ben Bova's ''Moonrise''. The first half of the book has playboy astronaut Paul Stavenger as the main character, only to have him die about half way through. Following a TimeSkip, Paul's less interesting and MartyStu-esque son assumes the role of protagonist.
* In ''The Night of the Generals'' (later made into a film of [[Film/TheNightOfTheGenerals the same name]]), during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, an officer of German military intelligence is investigating a series of murders of prostitutes, and comes to the conclusion that the killer is a German general. Two-thirds of the way through the book, he [[spoiler:confronts the murderer, and is killed]]. Years later, a friend of his, who had a very small role in the story before this point, [[spoiler:takes up the case and brings it to a successful conclusion]].
* Eponymous character of NarrativePoem ''Literature/PanTadeusz'' by Adam Mickiewicz, Tadeusz Soplica is set up to make readers believe he is the main character, but as the story progress it becomes more and more apparent that the real protagonist is Father Robak, [[ForegoneConclusion formerly known as]] [[spoiler:the [[TheAtoner infamous]] Jacek Soplica]].
* The first chapter of ''Literature/ThePhantomOfTheOpera'' novel centers around a BrainlessBeauty named La Sorelli, who is given a disproportionate amount of detail describing her physical appearance, personality, and history for someone who turns out to be one of the most insignificant characters in the book. This is particularly HilariousInHindsight considering the losses the real heroine Christine endures to her personality in adaptations, reducing her to TheIngenue who vaguely resembles La Sorelli, personality-wise.

%%* ''Literature/{{Reckless}}'' briefly appears this way, [[spoiler: but it's ultimately subverted.]]
%%* Ensign Tom Davis in the opening chapter of ''Literature/{{Redshirts}}''.
* ''Literature/{{Redwall}}'': Veil Sixclaw in ''Outcast of Redwall''. The book's description talks about nothing but him and doesn't even mention the real protagonist. He's even on the front cover. So naturally, one would assume the story centers around him. [[CoversAlwaysLie It doesn't.]] Veil ''doesn't even exist'' in Part 1 of the story and he's a {{Jerkass}} in Part 2 ([[LaserGuidedKarma and gets banished for what he does]]). By Part 3 his subplot (which should've been ''the main plot'') [[TrappedByMountainLions wasn't necessary to keep the book going]], and at the end of the story [[spoiler: he does a random "heroic" [[HeroicSacrifice sacrifice]] [[AssPull for reasons not fully explained]] and dies]].


* ''Literature/TheSilerianTrilogy'': Josarian, the Firebringer, is prophesied to at last free Sileria. At first he leads the struggle and seems well on his way to doing this. [[spoiler: Then he's betrayed and murdered as part of a deal to get the Valdani out, and revenge for killing Kiloran's son]]. Tanses takes up his role in the next books and serves as the main protagonist.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' is a poster child for this trope, due to extensive use of AnyoneCanDie:
** Each and every prologue is told from the point of view of a character who turns out to be a SacrificialLamb. The trope really only applies to the first book, because by the second book the reader will have figured out the pattern and not expect the character to survive.
** The main act is Eddard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell and leader of the protagonist-heavy Stark family. While we see many points of view, the main action of the story centers around Lord Eddard; he gets loads of character development, hints at a fascinating past, the works. [[spoiler:And then the Lannisters chop his head off before the first book even ends]]. In retrospect, considering the number of protagonists that are his children, his role can be reinterpreted as TheMentor.
** Viserys Targaryen is a Decoy Antagonist. As the abusive and insane scion of a royal line deposed by our decoy protagonist, he looks like the main villain of the series, but he dies about halfway through the first book.
* In ''Literature/StrangeFruit'', Tracy Deen is not even the first viewpoint character to be introduced, but still appears to be the protagonist for many chapters, being caught at the center of a LoveTriangle and faced with a difficult decision about what to do about the pregnant girlfriend he regrets he wouldn't be allowed to marry. He makes his decision halfway through the story, and it gets him killed.
* Biographical example in ''Literature/StrangerThanFictionTheLifeAndTimesOfSplitEnz''. Author Mike Chunn leaves the titular band in chapter nine out of sixteen, before they [[ThePeteBest even released their third album]]. Even still, he was only really a SupportingProtagonist up till that point.
* Machen did this again in his novella, ''The Terror'' where he makes ''[[CreatorCameo himself]]'' the main character for the first few chapters before being demoted to mere GreekChorus.
* Margo Smith is the hero of the first ''Literature/TimeScout'' book. Skeeter Jackson steps in for the second and carries much of the rest of the series.
* ''Literature/TortallUniverse'': In the ''Literature/TrickstersDuet'', Aly is the viewpoint character, but one of [[TheChosenMany several chosen]] to create a rebellion that will put the prophesied queen on the throne; the beautiful, passionate and caring Sarai. [[spoiler:At least, so it appears for the first 2/3rds of the story, until Sarai goes off and elopes to another country, leaving her little sister to become queen.]]
* Andrew Phelan in ''Literature/TheTrailOfCthulhu''. It seems like he'll be something of a SupportingProtagonist or an ActionSurvivor, witnessing the bizarre goings on that may or may not be connected to his mysterious new employer, Professor Shrewsbury of Miskatonic University...but that's only for the first chapter. [[spoiler:After this, he is no longer the [=POV=] character and eventually all-but-disappears entirely. He doesn't die, though, and considering this is a Franchise/CthulhuMythos yarn, that's really saying something.]]
* The original novel version of ''Literature/TheUnholyThree'' has the titular, murderous three as the main characters until the fourth or fifth chapter; afterward, the focus switches to a young man named Hector who has the misfortune of crossing paths with the three. Averted in the movie adaptation (coincidentally Creator/LonChaney Sr's only sound picture), where the focus remains on the three even after Hector is introduced.
* Creator/ChinaMieville's ''Literature/UnLunDun'' starts with two girls as protagonists, of which Zanna is presumed to be TheChosenOne, according to a prophecy, and Deeba seems to be her CowardlySidekick. Then, [[ScrewDestiny the prophecy doesn't come true]], Zanna is kicked out of the story, and Deeba takes the limelight.
* In ''Literature/TheWalkingDeadRiseOfTheGovernor'', [[spoiler: the two main characters are Philip and his ineffectual brother. Philip is the name of the Governor in the comics and it seems apparent that the novel is about him. Before it ends, however, Philip is killed and Brian takes on his name. Thus, the story was about him.]]
* Sara Douglass's ''Literature/TheWayfarerRedemption'' series takes an interesting take on this. The main protagonist of the first three volumes is Axis. Initially, it seems that his love interest is [[spoiler:Faraday]]. However, partway through the series, Axis falls in love with and marries [[spoiler:Azhure]], relegating [[spoiler:Faraday]] to a supporting role. The first half ends on an apparently final note with Axis defeating Gorgrael, after [[spoiler: Gorgrael kills Faraday and tears her body apart in a hopeless attempt to distract Axis]]. Then the second half begins with [[spoiler:Axis retired and the kingdom in the hands of his eldest son Caelum]]. The first volume strongly pushes Caelum as the main protagonist, [[spoiler:only for him to be rather unceremoniously cut down by Qeteb, turning over the reins of the series to his disgraced younger brother, [=DragonStar=].]] Oh, and [[spoiler:Faraday returns from the dead to become ''Drago's'' love-interest.]]
* ''Franchise/{{Whoniverse}}'':
** In the ''Series/DoctorWho'' novel ''Prisoner of the Daleks'', [[spoiler: Stella]] seems like a perfect companion figure for the Doctor, but [[spoiler: she gets killed off]] by Chapter Three. This sets the DarkerAndEdgier tone for the book.
** This was also done in the ''Literature/DoctorWhoMissingAdventures'' novel ''Time of Your Life'', focusing on the Doctor's first adventure after "The Trial of a Time Lord". [[spoiler:Angela]] is set up as the new companion, only to get killed pretty quickly. Instead it's [[spoiler:Grant Markham]] who ends up as a companion by the novel's end.
* The focus in ''Literature/{{Wraeththu}}'' shifts from Pellaz who [[RagsToRoyalty becomes a king]], to Swift who [[ComingOfAgeStory grows up to defy his father]], to Cal, a side character who turns out to be the key to everything.
* ''The Zero Game'': The apparent protagonist [[RevealingCoverup is murdered]] four chapters in, with the narration switching to his friend.

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{{Decoy Protagonist}}s in literature.

* Most of Creator/AnthonyPrice's spy thrillers feature David Audley as the protagonist or a significant supporting character. The prequel ''The Hour of the Donkey'' introduces Nigel Audley, David's father, within the first few pages, demonstrating a family resemblance in attitude and intelligence. He is killed off before he gets a chance to learn about the main plot, and the usual Audley role is played by another character, who is identified as a previously-unnamed mentor David recalls in one of the novels it's a prequel to.
* In ''The Rose Labyrinth'' by Titania Hardie, it initially appears that the two main characters are Lucy King, a young woman about to undergo a heart transplant, and Will Stafford, a young man travelling Europe in search of a family secret. However, several chapters in, [[spoiler: Will is mysteriously killed in a motorcycle accident,]] and it's up to [[spoiler: his]] brother Alex and [[spoiler: Lucy]] to uncover the mysteries that await.
* The ''Literature/SeptimusHeap'' series focuses more on Jenna Heap rather than the titular protagonist Septimus Heap; even the summary of the first book has an inclination to her story rather than his. He was the one most sought after by the antagonists for his MagicalSeventhSon powers ([[spoiler:though these powers never really manifested in the series]]), yet she had more of a narrative focus, and in the final battle she [[spoiler:orders him not to help her fight the bad guys. She seals the evil away and is later crowned as queen, with everybody having absolute faith in her ability despite her age. He makes no protest about her telling him not to fight (despite his own desire to protect the family he was separated from since birth), doesn't comment on it later, does not fulfil a character arc and seems perfectly content with how things turned out.]]


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