Kernels of Nonsense: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I rant and rave about various book and blogging related topics. This week I want to discuss whether authors writing various series within the same universe is a good or bad thing.

Just this past week Cassandra Clare’s newest novel Lady Midnight was released. I didn’t know too much about it, so I hopped on over to read the synopsis on Goodreads because everyone on Twitter was excited about it. I wasn’t surprised to learn that this new series is a sequel to her immensely popular Mortal Instruments series.

I read the first three books in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series a few years back and overall, I really enjoyed them. When Clockwork Angel, the first in her Infernal Devices series, was published, I was really excited to read it. I ended up feeling more and more underwhelmed as the series went on for various reasons. While this new series was being released, Clare was also working on three more books for her Mortal Instruments series. I never bothered to pick them up because I felt City of Glass was a satisfying conclusion and truth be told, my enthusiasm for the series had begun to dwindle.

Since finishing her Infernel Devices series, I haven’t picked up another Cassandra Clare book. This has less to do with whether I feel that the kind of books she writes no longer fit the type I’m looking for and more to do with the fact that every one of her books seem to take place within the Shadowhunter universe. I’ve grown rather tired of seeing more and more of these books, and am wondering if there will ever be a time where she stops writing Shadowhunter books. Aside from the Mortal Instruments and the Infernel Devices, Clare has also written/contributed to the Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and just recently released the first book in her Dark Artifices series. She also has a future series called The Last Hours, the first of which doesn’t have an official release date but will most likely be released later this year. What do all of these books and series have in common? They all take place within the Shadowhunter universe.

I know for superfans, having an author write several series within the same universe is like a dream come true. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’d be over the moon if J.K. Rowling decided to write a prequel and sequel series to Harry Potter. But I’m not a Cassandra Clare superfan, and I’m of the opinion that any author who sticks to one universe can unintentionally alienated potential readers who may be interested in their works but are not a part of that particular fandom.

I would love to pick up another Cassandra Clare book because I would love to see what other worlds she could create, and read about other characters she could conjure up, but this is an impossible feat when all she writes is Shadowhunter books. I know the saying goes “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” but I can’t help but feel like I’d enjoy her more if she would write something outside of this universe.

There aren’t many authors who can get away with writing various novels that take place in the same world. Cassandra Clare is the first name that comes to mind, but I do know that Rick Riordan has many series in the same universe as well. I’m not as familiar with his works, having only read the first Percy Jackson book. I can’t say how I’ll feel about these other series once I finish Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but I do wonder if anyone feels the same way about him as I do about Cassandra Clare. Sometimes I feel that these various novels within the same universe are superfluous.

Leigh Bardugo and Jonathan Maberry are two other authors I know of who have written more than one series within the same universe. I haven’t finished Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, but I’m a huge fan of Six of Crows. Despite my love for the latter, I do hope that Bardugo writes something different in the future because I’m positive she could come up with another epic series that doesn’t take place in the Grisha universe. Maberry’s Benny Imura and Joe Ledger series are two separate zombie series that eventually intersect. I prefer the Benny Imura series and despite enjoying Patient Zero, the first Joe Ledger novel, I’ve never felt the need to finish it because I feel quite satisfied with the former.

Do you ever feel that an author writes too many books within the same universe? Are there any fictional worlds that you would love an author to continually write about? Have you read all of Cassandra Clare or Rick Riordan’s works? What other authors do you know of who have written multiple series that take place in the same universe? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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18 thoughts on “Kernels of Nonsense: Too Much of a Good Thing?

  1. I haven’t read any of Cassandra Clare’s books but I am a big fan of Rick Riordan and I’d read anything that he published in the Percy Jackson universe because I love the characters so much (and it’s not as if he hasn’t written other series, he has the Egyptian series and the Norse series now) but I definitely see where you are coming from.

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  2. I see that a lot. When authors have found something that works, I tend to see a lot of spin-offs or a ridiculously high number of books in the series. Take Sherrilyn Kenyon for example with 20+ books in her Dark Hunters series. I enjoyed it for a while. Now I just feel overwhelmed thinking of catching up. I guess that makes me not a true fanatic. The bottom line for me: The is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and authors should gracefully end something before it becomes obsolete. Perhaps I only feel this way because I haven’t found something I am truly obsessed with.:D

    Personally, I love Clare and have read both Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices. I’ve had a healthy break so now I’m ready to dive back in.

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    • I haven’t read any Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I just took a peek over on Goodreads and my goodness, I’m actually very impressed with how many books she has in her series. I can’t imagine being a new reader and trying to tackle all those books. I might feel this way because I’ve never read a series that was more than seven books (HP), so I really don’t have any experience reading long series like that. I really hope you enjoy the new series!

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  3. I tried getting into The Mortal Instruments series years ago and remember getting through book 3 before I got bored. The fact she has multiple series of books all in the same world – just, no. Not for me. I have zero desire to read any of them. For me, that’s overkill, but I know for big fans of hers, they are loving it. It has worked well for her, but it would be nice to see her write something completely different to attract other readers who aren’t into the Shadowhunter world.

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    • You know, I read the Mortal Instruments series years ago and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it quite as much with a reread. Yes, on one hand, I completely understand fans’ enthusiasm, but on the other, it would be nice to have more variety to choose from when it comes to her works.

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  4. I am definitely not a ‘superfan’ of Ms. Clare’s, as you put it. I did enjoy The Infernal Devices and am currently TRYING to read City of Bones but…really not enjoying it. At all. But I do like the idea of several series – or standalone books – that take place in the same world. The people/stories might intersect or the only thing they have in common could be the world. Either way, I love it! (Even if I don’t exactly love the books.) I’m not (usually) really interested in dozens of books following the same people/person and all in a closely linked series, I will say. I prefer the idea of four trilogies following different people in the same world than twelve books following the same person.

    Though I wonder if this might be because I used to read a lot of ‘shared world’ fantasy books, where one person pretty much creates a world and then turns it loose and lets other authors play in it. (I’m definitely thinking of the D&D RPG tie-in novels.) I like how it offers a chance to look at a different aspect of the world and maybe see things at a different time or from a different perspective. Besides, I’ve never stopped reading a book/series because of the world building.

    As for other authors that do this… The first one that comes to my mind is Mercedes Lackey and her Valdemar books. I don’t even know how many she’s written in that world. Dozens, probably. And she’s even edited at least one anthology from other authors for that world. How about the two series Richelle Mead did? (Vampire Academy and Bloodlines.) A couple of my favorite authors are doing this, as well, with Lindsay Buroker (Emperor’s Edge and spinoffs/sequels/prequels) and Michael J. Sullivan (Riyria Revelations and prequels).

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    • I agree, if you are going to write within the same universe, it’s best to write about different characters. I’m not familiar with this concept of an author creating a world and letting others have free reign, but it sounds rather interesting. Richelle Read is another popular example. I haven’t read any of her books, but I do know they are very popular. I wonder if this goes into an author or publishers’s decision to write more books within the same universe.

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  5. Gah, I didn’t know Lady Midnight was set in the same world as the rest of her books! I don’t really care about it since I’m not a Clare superfan, as you call them, but setting so many books in the same world seems kind of lazy worldbuilding-wise. But you can’t blame the woman for writing more books in the same world when they are all really successful. I still have to read City of Heavenly Fire, I haven’t been able to make myself read it yet.

    Apart from those you already mentioned, I know Joe Abercrombie wrote three quasi standalone novels in the same world as his The First Law trilogy is set, and Robin Hobb has several series set in the same world – some follow the same dynasty (the Farseers) but two others are focused on another part of the same world, with very little cultural/historical overlap. I guess it’s easier for the author to build upon what s/he’s already created, especially in fantasy, where worldbuilding is so important.

    But you get two problems: you either assume readers always start reading your series as they were published chronologically and you don’t provide ALL the worldbuilding information in each novel or you assume nobody knows what you’re talking about and repeat everything. I think it’s hard to keep a good balance between the two, so old fans don’t get bored by repetition and new fans don’t get confused by lack of information.

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    • I hadn’t realized it was set in the same universe until I took a closer look and like I said, I wasn’t really surprised. I agree, it works for her and her novels are incredibly successful, so it’s hard to blame her for sticking with one universe. I can completely understand if an author wants to continue to explore a different aspect of a world they created through multiple series, but like you said, if this isn’t the case, I wonder how much info gets repeated. Good points!

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  6. I’m torn. I love the Shadowhunter world, and I’ve read the 6 TMI books. I haven’t read TID yet but I own the trilogy, and I own the Bane Chronicles, and plan to own Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy when it comes out as a bind-up. I think there’s another 2 series planned in the same universe as well. I can only take so much of the same world in one go, BUT I love immersing myself completely in a world like that from time to time and binging it. And I love that characters from different series pop up in other books. If Rowling would like to take a leaf out of Cassie’s book I’d be more than happy! R xx

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    • That’s a good point, I think if you’re going to read so many series that happen in the same universe, you have to pace yourself. Haha, I completely agree, I think I’d be singing a different tune if we had a Marauders Era series, maybe one based on the Black family, another about Tonk’s and Lupin’s son Teddy, don’t get me started on what she could do with different series that take place at other magical schools.

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