by Vivian Vande Velde
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
336 pages; ISBN: 0152045600
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Witty, captivating, ingeniously sci-fi and fantasy at once – Vivian Vande Velde’s Heir Apparent is a novel worthy of all these titles, and more.
With a wry opening dedication – This book is dedicated with affection for, but no patience with, those who would protect our children through humorless moralizing and paranoia about fantasy – Velde brings to mind the Harry Potter controversy, promising magic and fantasy galore. Velde does not fail to deliver on those promises, creating a novel as thrilling and engrossing as the role-playing games it is based off of.
Giannine Bellisario is just a regular fourteen-year-old girl, who recently received a gift certificate from her father. Not unusual, certainly, but this certificate is to Rasmussen Gaming Center TM Total Immersion Game Rooms. Giannine chooses to play the imaginative-looking game Heir Apparent, in which she plays a girl who has just been named the heir of a king.
While most science fiction-type fiction is based around silver spaceships, hovercraft, and technology in general, Velde expertly places fantastical elements inside of a sci-fi setting. Giannine lives in a world of talking buses and engrossing, 3-D games – but she plays in a world with sword fights, armored knights, and spell casters.
Heir Apparent – the game – is based around the alliances and choices Giannine makes as the character Janine. Massive gold-loving dragons, devious half-brothers, and puzzling riddles are everywhere to be found as Giannine begins her first run. But something goes wrong midway through.
A man, who uses her real name instead of her persona’s, tells her that a piece of equipment has been damaged. The equipment is irreparable, and malfunctioning – if she doesn’t beat the game soon, the equipment will overheat, and she will die.
Newly desperate, Giannine begins a frantic attempt to save her own life. The normally light-hearted – through frustrating – game develops a sinister twist, as Giannine must battle her foes in earnest, all the while knowing that every minute she spends playing increases the chances that she won’t make it out.
Suspenseful and masterfully written, Heir Apparent makes full use of it’s RPG foundations, creating a wholly fantasy world within it’s futuristic sci-fi surroundings. The characters are believable, Giannine is funny and brave, and the ending is hilariously and immensely satisfying.
Despite the fact that this book is supposedly for 9-to-12 year olds, anybody can enjoy it. It can be found online at Amazon for $11.90, or in the school library, if you feel like giving it a test read first. Medieval and futuristic at once, as well as charming from the outset with its opening dedication, I give Vivian Vande Velde’s Heir Apparent a 10/10.