Heir Apparent is written by Vivian Vande Velde. It was published in 2002 by Harcourt. Vande Velde’s website can be found here.
“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!”
What I Liked:
Wow, what an original concept here! A virtual reality fantasy? That’s awesome! Also, the fact that it’s like Groundhog Day? Double awesome! Add in a wonderful plot and wonderful character development, and we’ve got a winner here.
Giannine’s development was lovely to see, especially since I spent the first 50 pages or so wanting to yell at her because she was so stubborn and high-minded. Also because I figured out where the ring was right when it was mentioned, whereas Giannine ran around getting herself killed five or six times before she realizes anything. At the end, though, it’s very clear how much she has changed, at least in the fantasy. We didn’t see enough to see if it carried over into reality, but perhaps it will.
The plot was great, even if some parts of it were a little obvious (such as the dragon and the crown). Although, granted, at some point, plots have to become obvious since the author gives the character all the mechanics they need to solve the problem and the reader figures out what’s going to happen. That’s not necessarily obvious, but just the reader thinking ahead. I just really loved the virtual reality part of it, especially since I was expecting a straight-up fantasy when I first started reading it and then it’s talking about AI buses and I was like, “Wait, what?” Very nice spin on an old classic.
What I Didn’t Like:
The picketers? Really? Yes, there are people like that, but it didn’t have to be so…mocking. Especially since the other side was not given at all. Instead, the picketers were displayed as lunatics rather than people with decent reasons for doing what they’re doing.
The wonderful virtual reality aspect aside, I kept thinking of the great quote from Dumbledore: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I also couldn’t help but notice that Giannine escapes from reality into a fantasy and then solves her problems in the fantasy. I have nothing against video games or whatever, to an extent (I can’t be, I play them myself), but I know that escaping from reality with the expectation that fantasy will solve all your problems is potentially dangerous and unhealthy.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Realistic, Fantasy, Young Adult
My mind filled with details of memories I’d never had. The effect is like holding two pieces of tracing paper up to the light, one on top of the other: At first all you can see is a jumble, but as you concentrate on one drawing—or on one life, as the case may be—then suddenly you can make it out by ignoring the pieces that don’t fit.
So I ignored those parts that were Giannine Bellisario, eighth grader at St. John the Evangelist School. I ignored Rasmussem Enterprises and its overpriced computer that lets you see, hear, feel, taste, and—yes, thank you very much—smell a fantasy adventure in quarter-hour segments that seem to last for days.
I let myself become Janine de St. Jehan, sheepherder. Along with the identity came all sorts of snippets of information that I’d have known if I’d been born and raised in the village of St. Jehan.
~Vande Velde 13-14
Come on, I told myself. Surely I should be out of the maze by now, or back in the center.
And then I heard a sound behind me, a single footfall. Andreanna? Kenric?…Except I had the momentary impression of an animal. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the growl.
I didn’t have a chance to turn around. Something struck me hard on the back, knocking me face first to the ground. I cried out at the pain in my palms and knees—and at the back of my neck. I felt fizzy bubbles all over my skin. “No!” I screamed. Then I heard my foster mother call, “Janine! Janine, come back to the house.”
I pounded my fists on the ground. “I hate this! Hate this! Hate this!” I screamed.
Dusty licked my face to show me that she loved me.
~Vande Velde 57
Heir Apparent has a fantastic, unique concept and a fast-paced plot that is quite refreshing compared to all the other standard fantasies out there. I had a little bit of a problem with the message that could be inferred from Giannine’s adventure, but overall, a wonderful book.
You can buy this book here: Heir Apparent
Coming Up Next: East by Edith Pattou