The Heir

I think we are all a little tired of authors and filmmakers who take one good idea and stretch it out across too many books or films, am I right?  I mean look at The Hobbit!  One good book was stretched into three poor movies due to greed.  In order to stretch this single story across three, new plot-lines and characters were added that weren’t even in the original Tolkien story.  Frankly it made me both sad and angry.  Even books that aren’t made into movies seem to be following this trend of going on too long.  In TV shows the expression for that is ‘jumping the shark’ based on the show Happy Days which kept running long after Richie and Fonzie were growing old and most plot-lines had been explored, so they came up with the ridiculous episode where Fonzie jumps over a shark while water skiing, hence ‘jumping the shark.’  Ugh.

So how does this relate to my current book review for The Heir by Kiera Cass?   Well, when I saw that the author had written a continuation of her Selection series which already was three books long, I felt that this was another example of trying to capitalize on the popularity of the first three books by created another related series in order to maximize profit and fame.  Well I was pleasantly surprised that this first book of the new series was better than I expected.  I should have known better as I had also doubted the first series, thinking from the description that it would be like the book version of The Bachelor.

The Heir takes place twenty years after the events of the first series.  American Singer married Prince Maxon and the central character of this book is their daughter Eadlyn.  Eadlyn is actually a twin, but because she was born a few minutes ahead of her brother, she will be the next ruler of Illia even though she often wishes otherwise.  It is understandable that such a responsibility would weigh heavily on anyone, but to add to the pressure, she will also be the first female ruler.  Perhaps that’s why she is very guarded and fiercely independent.

However, her parents decision in the first series to remove the Castes, a system whereby people’s ability to work in certain jobs, live in certain neighborhoods and who one could date or marry hasn’t turned out exactly as expected.   it was this Caste system that to me made the first series dystopian fiction, this one is less so, but since I already reviewed the first series, I am including this on the blog too.  There are pockets of uprisings throughout the nation, so the Queen and King decide that in order to provide a distraction to give people something positive to focus on, they will have a Selection, such as the competition that brought them together in the first place.

It is strange in The Heir that Eadlyn knows almost nothing about her parents’ Selection as it had such repercussions for the country.  Even if her parents never shared the story, as those of us who read the first series know, the whole things was written about in newspapers and magazines, documented by photographers and filmed for TV weekly during the competition, so how could she be so unaware of the details?  This is a Princess who studies her country’s history and protocols and she never came across any of these details?     A note to anyone yet to read this book, I would suggest rereading or skimming the first books before starting this series as other characters from the original series are in this one, but so much time had passed since I read it, I couldn’t remember which of the women had been good or bad in the original Selection to match them up with their lives in this new series.  Even America herself who was such a vivid character in the first series is never even referred to by that name, she is simply the Queen or Mom to Eadlyn, which is a bit of a shame that she is relegated to taking such a back seat to her daughter in this one.

I do find it strange in both series that this competition that appears in both series, The Selection, seems to old-fashioned, yet the story takes place post modern times since they have all the same technology…yet some of the activities during the Selection are balls, taking tea, strolling the gardens, horseback riding, etc. which seem like something out of the 1800’s, yet the Princess wears some modern clothing, likes pop music, etc. so it’s a bit jarring sometimes.

What was unexpected to me was how Kiera Cass conveys in a very real way what it must be like to be royalty who must struggle between being in the public eye and guiding their people, and trying to have private thoughts and feelings while during their duty.  Maybe that’s why so many of us even in modern times as so fascinated by royals such as Kate and William, while seemingly a modern couple they are also an anachronism.  Also, how in this electronic age do they maintain a private life?  And what is it like to be born into royalty knowing that your birth dictates a very narrow path for your life?    Eadlyn’s struggle with all of this feels pretty real and that’s what took this book out of The Bachelorette  territory and into something more interesting.