The phrase, two bald men fighting over a comb, springs to mind when reading this Guardian report on the legal contretemps in the United States between the relatively well-known Fantasy authors, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Cassandra Clare. The former (who also writes historical romances under the pseudonym of Kinley MacGregor) is suing the Iranian-born Clare (real name, Judith Rumelt) because of alleged similarities in their respective young adult series, the Dark-Hunter novels and the Shadowhunter Chronicles, a multi-media franchise of books and dramatisations.

“The Dark-Hunter series dates back to 1998, says the lawsuit; the first in Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Shadowhunter series, City of Bones, was published in 2007.

Filed on 5 February, the lawsuit – which alleges copyright and trademark infringement and is asking for damages, lost profits and an end to infringement – lays out a host of similarities between the series.”

What’s bemused me, and many others, about the lawsuit are the copyright details submitted by Sherrilyn Kenyon’s legal team. Anyone familiar with the past several decades of Fantasy fiction will certainly raise an eyebrow or two at the list of themes, characters and settings supposedly unique to Kenyon’s works:

“Both Series employ a line of warriors who protect the normal world from demons. The Hunters (whether “shadow” or “dark”) operate in a high tech world that is hidden from everyday mortals and deal with demons who come and go through portals to a “Veil World.” In both Series, a young person becomes part of the Dark-Hunters (or Shadowhunters) world after being saved by a gorgeous blond Dark-Hunter (or Shadowhunter). The protagonists learn their purpose and how to fight various demons and their own personal inadequacies, while dealing with intricate family and friend issues. They face the constant threat of being consumed or being converted to evil. They each must kill their demonic father.

Both Series feature mortal or normal objects (referred to as “instruments” by the DEFENDANT), including without limitation a cup, a sword, and a mirror, each imbued with magical properties to help battle evil and protect mankind. The character’s powers are heightened or restrained by the use of supernatural markings. Both Dark-Hunters and Shadowhunters have enchanted swords that are divinely forged, imbued with otherworldly spirits, have unique names, and glow like heavenly fire.

Both Series feature “regular humans” who are oblivious to the supernatural world. They are called “Baretos” or “Ords” in the Dark-Hunter Series and “Mundanes or “Mundies” in the Shadowhunter Series. They can be “turned” by various demonic beasts into like creatures or servants when bitten or fed blood. Humans can also be turned by drinking divine blood from a sacred cup. They can use and perform magic. They cannot see through demon “glamour” (a term used by both authors). Both Ords and Mundies can become “forsaken” as “shade” in the Dark-Hunter Series). Once in this state, they do not eat or sleep, are in agony and cannot be seen or heard.

When regular humans mix with supernatural beings (whether Dark-Hunters or Shadowhunters), the divine blood is dominant and the children will inherit those powers. In both works, demons often seduce humans to produce offspring with powers. Shadowhunter, like Dark-Hunters, can be freed from their lives but each supernatural character must first figure out his or her own unique path to freedom.

Both works take place in an urban world that is not what it seems. Theirs is a world behind the veil with portals that lead to heaven realms and hell realms. There are segregated wards used as walls to hold back demons and neutral grounds that are safe zones. Different dimensions exist. Supernatural beings break through to the world of man. These worlds are not readily accessible to mortals.”

So, pretty much like every other American made-for-teens urban fantasy tale published since the 1980s! What used to be informally known in Irish fandom circles as, “Buffy-Lit“. Having sampled the works of both Sherrilyn Kenyon and Cassandra Clare I can say that neither are particularly talented writers, and their books are aimed squarely at the middle of the young adult market. Admittedly Clare has an extremely poor reputation within general Fandom, and accusations of plagiarism have surfaced repeatedly since she began her writing career in the torrid world of “fanfic” (fan fiction) some twenty years ago. However that does not make her guilty of deliberately copying her competitor’s stories. In any case, of the two, Clare is probably the better writer, which has been reflected in the lucrative interest shown by Hollywood and the US television industry in her novels. Which perhaps more than anything else explains the upcoming lawsuit.

2 comments on “Trouble In Fantasy Fiction

  1. Lord of Mirkwood

    The state of this genre has plunged a long way since the works of Tolkien.


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