Have authors of young adult novels found the right way to do spinoff series? In the last year or two, several young adult series favorites have come to a close. But the shelves are being filled with more in the same world.
In YA, the usual operating procedure is to have a set story arc for a finite number of books. Instead of the always-growing style of PNR series like Black Dagger Brotherhood (not complaining!), YA series typically are three to six books long. And when it’s done we find ourselves clamoring for more.
Somehow the YA book world has decided to cave to reader demands, and in the last year we’ve seen an explosion of spinoff series.
Fans don’t seem to mind, either. Admittedly, as long as the spinoff is coming from a series with a strong world building set—a place so rich with detail, I imagine it real—I’m eager to go back, and spend time with other characters there.
Richelle Mead has already found great success with her YA spinoff series Bloodlines. The novels feature secondary characters from her completed Vampire Academy series. The love interest who didn’t get the girl in Vampire Academy may have a second chance in Bloodlines, and this drove readers to the series in droves. The chance to see him get his happily ever after was enticing enough to make even me ignore the fact the heroine was Sydney.
I went into the first Bloodlines novel wary. I didn’t mind Sydney in the Vampire Academy novels. She was part of an alchemical society that helps conceal the existence of vampires from the human world. Her people are not fans of vampires at all. While she was interesting with others, I just didn’t know if I’d enjoy spending a whole novel with her.
I was wrong. This is where a spinoff takes legs. While set in the same universe as the Vampire Academy world, and expanding on events of that series, Bloodlines brings in all new elements. We learn about magic, alchemy and the dangerous consequences for becoming too friendly with vampires.
Julie Kagawa, who is one of my favorite YA authors, has The Lost Prince coming out in November. I’m incredibly curious to see how she makes this work. In her Iron Fey series, Kagawa’s main character Meghan Chase spent her time helping stop (and fight) a war within the faery realm. She was a half-fey princess. She fell in love. It was epic. There was a tangential novel featuring the hero of the Iron Fey series, Prince Ash, called The Iron Knight. It was epic fantasy goodness, complete with a quest for love. It showed me Kagawa could make her fey world work without focus on Meghan.
Now, she will be jumping ahead in time and focusing on Meghan’s forgotten little brother Ethan. Though just from seeing the cover you can tell Ethan is no longer, um, little. The Lost Prince will be the beginning of his story.
Instead of taking her series into the future, Andrea Cremer is going back in time with her spinoff series. After her wildly successful Nightshade series featuring wolf shifters and a long-lasting magical war ended, Cremer decided to tell us what happened before. How all the drama started.
This prequel series will show us how the divide between the Keepers, the Guardians and the Searchers was borne. It’s an expansion fans of the Nightshade series can appreciate. It also gives Cremer the opportunity to further explore the themes of gender roles, equality and independence fostered within the Nightshade world.
P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast went for flashbacks instead of traditional prequels for their spinoff House of Night Novellas series. Each book in the spinoff set starts within the current timeline of House of Night, with one of the school’s teachers as the main character. It then flashes back to that teacher’s time as a student at a House of Night school. I particularly liked getting to see Dragon and Anastasia fall in love in the first novella Dragon’s Oath.
The big question is, will this work for adult novels, too? A handful of authors have made it work well, most notably J.R. Ward and Jeaniene Frost. Karen Marie Moning is about to release her Fever spinoff Iced, and we’ll see if she can make it.
Do you read spinoff series, or would you rather authors built you a new world instead?
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.