So, this happens a lot, but I noticed it a lot with two specific series which I’ll talk about here: Similar books. Now, I’m not talking about plagiarism (which is deplorable and won’t win any favors from me), but rather a similarity that just sort of happens sometimes. I think it comes up when you read a story that you loved and got so hooked that you ended up unintentionally incorporating pieces of it into your own work. That’s not stealing so much as imitation, which is how virtually all stories start.
And, it’s the highest form of flattery, right?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that taking bits and pieces from others is natural. It’s going to happen no matter how much you try not to do that. And that’s okay. But sometimes, the stories end up noticeably similar to the point where it just can’t be ignored. I don’t think it qualifies as plagiarism. In fact, I think it has more to do with what’s popular at the time rather than stealing from another person. If everyone’s into Vampires, guess what, there’s going to be a lot of Poor Boy Twilights out there. If everyone’s into Dystopian, then look out for more Hunger Games (or Divergent, if you prefer).
What I’m saying is, it’s inevitable. I don’t think it’s wrong until you start intentionally stealing things from other authors, don’t credit them, and blatantly lie about it.
(I’m not going to talk about Cassandra Clare, even though I’ve heard all sorts of terrible things about her!)
Now, on to the books!
I read the series Strange Angels by Lili St. Croix first a couple of years ago. It’s a five book series about Dru, a special girl who has lived on the edge of the supernatural for years now with her someone crazy father. But when things go south for him, Dru’s left all alone to figure out what’s really going on. And reality is way stranger than fiction.
During the course of the novels, Dru encounters werewolves (second class citizens, as it were) and vampires – which are dhamphirs and strigoi (the bad ones). Starting to sound familiar yet? She ends up at a cool boarding school / castle place to learn all about how she’s special. Caught on yet? I won’t spoil how it turns out, but there is a love triangle, Dru is very special, and there are both good and bad vampires. Go figure.
Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but this is remarkably similar to the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. There are dhamphirs, strigoi, and moroi. (Good and bad vampires.) There’s a boarding school where they learn all about being vampires and how to be badass guardians! There are no werewolves and there’s kind of a complicated love triangle going on, though it’s not your straight up two boys love a girl thing. It’s more complicated than that.
Anyway, the point is that these two series (Vampire Academy has six books; Strange Angels has five) are remarkably similar, but I don’t think they really fall into the plagiarism category. I think maybe Lili St. Croix took some from VA (which came out first, I’m pretty sure), but ultimately she told her own unique story with elements that were already pretty common. (I came across strigoi and dhamphir in my Slavic folklore class, so it’s not an original idea in the first place.) A powerful, strong, special girl trained to take care of herself, thrown into a world of forces that are difficult to manage for any normal girl. Love, familial secrets, friendships, etc. All of these are more or less concepts that are so widely spread that I don’t think you can really say that VA was so original that anything like it is plagiarism.
(I know, now that I’ve beat that topic like a dead horse.)
Instead, what I’m talking about here is which one is better? It’s a personal opinion, I think, and maybe has more to do with the personalities of the main girls (Dru versus Rose) who are incredibly different from one another, and the writing styles of each author.
I really enjoyed both stories, but at first I didn’t care for VA, which is unusual since most of the people I’ve talked to have absolutely loved VA and didn’t care for Strange Angels. I was opposite, and I think it’s because I gave Strange Angels a try first. VA I thought looked silly, because I picked it up around the same time the movie came out (which was dreadful). It may have colored my initial reaction to VA and made it harder to get into. When I did, however, I was charmed. Rose is such a strong, fun character in contrast to Dru’s seriousness. Lyssa was sort of annoying, but Rose balanced her out, making them the kind of packaged deal that you rooted for.
As for the mythologies in each story, I think I preferred SA, however, I didn’t like the end and how the female dhamphirs fit in with the world. (I won’t tell you as there are spoilers for SA.) I preferred the idea that dhamphirs were second class citizens used as cannon fodder in the VA series, BUT SA had werewolves and that may have been the tipping point. (Plus, I really liked Graves.)
Ultimately, it’s weird how one series gets a lot of love while the same people hate the other series that is so much like it. I think it’s because we are so on board with one series, such huge fans, that we feel any similar series is a knock off or just not as good as the one we are first introduced to.
And I kind of think that’s not fair.
Both series were good in my opinion. I’d recommend either of them, but I’d give a shout out to SA first because it has such a smaller following and is less well known. It might be hard to get into at first (a lot of people have told me this), but in the end, it’s a series worth taking a look at. Give Dru a shot, because she may take some getting used to, but she’s all right in the end.
But don’t get me wrong, VA is impressively awesome and I’d recommend that side of the series, too. I just think that more people know about Rose and Lyssa, and Dru deserves a little love, too.