Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Gwen & Kate’s Love of Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is a unique but perfect mix of science fiction gaming, Medieval fantasy, adventure, romance, and humor, and is suitable for both young adult and middle grade reading levels. Both Kate and I have read it many times over, and will continue to do so for most of our lives. 

1045745

Series: Rasmussem Corporation, Book 2

Genres: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Humor, Romance

Format: Audiobook, narrated by Carine Montbertrand, and Hardcover (read multiple times)

Rating: 5 stars!

Description:

In Heir Apparent there are as many ways to win as there are to get killed.
Giannine can testify to how many ways there are to die–it’s about all she’s been able to do since she started playing. Now all she has to do is get the magic ring, find the stolen treasure, answer the dwarf’s dumb riddles, come up with a poem for the head-chopping statue, cope with the army of ghosts, outmaneuver her half brothers, and defeat the man-eating dragon.
If she can do all of that, why, she just might save her own life!

Review:

This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is a unique but perfect mix of science fiction gaming, Medieval fantasy, adventure, romance, and humor, and is suitable for both young adult and middle grade reading levels. Both Kate and I have read it many times over, and will continue to do so for most of our lives.

Since the description is pretty vague, here is a brief explanation of how the book works. Heir Apparent is virtual reality a game created by the Rasmussem Corporation, a futuristic gaming center. The game Heir Apparent requires full-emersion so you can experience all senses and feel like you are actually living what your character is living (although when you die, it only feels bubbly and not painful). However, this takes a dangerous turn when the equipment is damaged while Giannine is playing the game, endangering her body in a way that could be fatal if she doesn’t win the game and return to her body in a certain amount of time. But beating Heir Apparent is not easy, when the goal of the game is to be crowned king — after getting a magic ring, appeasing the royals and the guards, and avoid being killed (in the gaming sense) in a manner of gruesome ways. All the way, Giannine keeps up her hilarious sarcastic attitude that keeps readers interested even through the multiple repetitions as she dies again and again… but will she die for real (what do you think — it’s a middle grade book)?

As I mentioned, some parts do seem a little slow because as Giannine dies in the game, she is set back to the beginning, and many of the same events happen multiple times. However, Vivian Vande Velde (what a name! Her last name means “from the fields” in Dutch) does a fantastic job of not making the plot boring, even when the character is feeling extremely bored and frustrated with the game and the many set backs. Kate agrees that this was one thing she didn’t love, but also that the author does a good job making sure it doesn’t get too boring. She wishes that after Giannine passed level 1, that when she died she would start over after level 2 instead of going back to the entire beginning. That beginning scene was played so many times, Kate feels pretty sorry for the main character!

What I love about this book is that it takes place in a Medieval-themed virtual reality game within a futuristic world. It is a perfect combination of both genres, which I thoroughly enjoyed as a fantasy-lover. Kate also liked this combination, but specified that the historical, knights, royalty, and magic part set in a Medieval setting was the part she liked a lot more! In addition, the game is fascinating, and while the choices Giannine makes make sense in the moment, there is no way to tell how they will play out. It has a very similar feeling to a completely unpredictable mystery novel.

Heir Apparent is much better than the first book in the series, User Unfriendly (which Kate always reads as “Oo-ser Un-fiendly” for some strange reason), which is also less well-known. The first book has a different main character, although Giannine plays a supporting role, and also takes place within a Rasmussem game gone wrong. However, it is not as well written and the plot is less interesting, but it is completely not necessary to read the first book at all to understand the second (I didn’t even know it existed until after I had read Heir Apparent for the first time). I recommend sticking to the second book and treating it as a stand-alone.

This book is so unique there aren’t really any others quite like it, but if you enjoyed reading it I would grudgingly (see my review) recommend Ready Player One by Ernest Cline for older readers who favor the science fiction gaming side of Heir Apparent, and highly recommend the Squire’s Tales series by Gerald Morris (one that I desperately need to re-read) for fans of Medieval quests and knights in shining armor.

(This review is a part of the So Behind! Review-A-Thon Challenge.)

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2 comments on “Gwen & Kate’s Love of Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

  1. Lea Jurock
    October 12, 2014

    I read this book years ago! I had absolutely no idea it was the second in a series.

    • gwenkate
      October 12, 2014

      Yes, I know — it works so well as a stand-alone most people (including me at the first few reads) didn’t even know about the second. I think I discovered it when I found a copy at a book sale. ~Gwen

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This entry was posted on October 11, 2014 by in Author: Gwen, Author: Kate, Favorites, Middle Grade, Review, Young Adult and tagged , , .
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