Fantasy Novel Repeats

Recently, I read The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, a historical fantasy novel that released this month. The concept seemed familiar, and the further I got into the story, the more confident I was that I had read the book before. A quick search confirmed that The Orphan King had been previously published as part of the novel Magnus.

A further glance at the reviews on Amazon suggested that The Orphan King actually had it’s start as an eight part series, which then merged into the single book Magnus, and now has been split again to form a “new” series dubbed Merlin’s Immortals.

In the past, I’ve enjoyed some of Brouwer’s books, but I was not fond of Magnus (in fact, I never finished reading it), so I probably wouldn’t have picked up The Orphan King if I realized it was the same book.

Brouwer is far from alone in this process of revising and re-releasing books under a different title. A similar incident occurred with Davis Bunn, who originally wrote using the pen name of Thomas Locke. Under this name, Bunn authored The Spectrum Chronicles, a four book fantasy series. Approximately 15 years later, Bethany House combined three of the books into one novel, The Dream Voyagers, and axed the first one altogether.

In most cases, these republished editions contain some alterations from the original story. A good example of this is Kathy Tyers, who wrote the Firebird series for Bantam Spectra (a mainstream publisher). The series was later acquired by Bethany House, and she took the opportunity to flesh out the faith elements she had always envisioned as part of the story. Later still, Marcher Lord Press published an annotated omnibus edition, and also the sequels she had planned many years ago.

So sometimes it’s merging series to form one novel, splitting a novel into a series, or changing much of the content while retaining the core storyline. Other times it’s as simple as repackaging the book under a different title, as with Donita K. Paul’s novel The Vanishing Sculptor. It was retitled The Dragons of Chiril, presumably to make the title uniform with the rest of the series.

This sort of revision and re-release seems particularly common in fantasy–at least, I haven’t noticed it to the same degree in other genres. And while I can see reasons to bring  new life to an old story, readers who think they’re purchasing a new book, when it’s actually a story they read years ago, may experience some annoyance and perhaps even feel like they’ve wasted money. What do you think?

Image credit: artbymags

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7 Responses to Fantasy Novel Repeats

  1. When I was about 8 to 14, I really liked the Winds of Light series… but I only had six books, not eight. (Yet it was a complete story, IIRC?)

    Curious, is the Orphan King about equivalent to book 1 of the Winds of Light series (“Wings of an Angel”)?

    Personally I don’t see how he could just retitle them… TBH Winds of Light was a really pretty name for the series and rather accurate.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Brouwer’s site lists eight books in the Winds of Light series. Maybe two books were added later? I never saw the series in its first form, only as the single book Magnus, and then as The Orphan King, so I’m not positive if The Orphan King content is comparable to the first book in the Winds of Light series.

      Interestingly, Brouwer only has the Winds of Light listed on his website–none of the other forms of the book. I’d like to know the story behind all these changes.

      By the way, I’m glad you chimed in, because it’s interesting to hear from someone who did read the very first version of the series. 🙂

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  3. I thought I was the only author doing this. Now, come to find out, it’s common. I wonder if the reason might be the size of the reading audience, and the love of the story so much that the author can’t imagine it not reaching the widest audience possible, even if this means calling the story something else. This is somewhat true in my own case. In my now-out-of-print pirate fantasy satire, the last chapter is a novella. This novella is now a series of chapterettes in my forthcoming novel ‘A Thousand Wrong Dancers,’ Irish Lore Trilogy, Book Two.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Your explanation makes sense, especially for books that were released a number of years ago or have gone out of print. From the perspective of a reader, I think the important thing is to note somewhere that the book previously appeared in another form, so that readers who want to buy all your books know that it’s not something new. That way you can reach a new audience, but also let long-time readers know what to expect. 🙂

  4. Jeff Chapman says:

    And don’t forget The Hobbit. Tolkien rewrote the chapter on Gollum and Bilbo when he started work on The Lord of the Rings. I don’t have a problem with new releases if there is some value being added and the author/press are up front about what you’re buying, but selling the old book with a new title reminds me of a used car salesman giving a worn out junker a new coat of paint.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Oh yes, The Hobbit is a good example of the type of revisions that don’t bother me, changes that I can even appreciate.

      Like you, I want to know up front what I’m buying, and I appreciate it when authors and publishers make it known.

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