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April 25, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

book review: Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

Velde, Vivian Vande. Heir Apparent. Harcourt; 2002.

Similar books: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner; Dark Lord of Derkholm by Dianna Wynne Jones; Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Synopsis and Snippet
Giannine Bellisario is about to celebrate her 14th birthday. This year, she actually receives a present from her father on time. It is a gift certificate to any Rasmussem Gaming Center Virtual Reality Arcade. Crossing a picket line formed by CPOC (Citizens to Protect Our Children) to enter, she decides to use her certificate for a total-immersion game called Heir Apparent. The object is to be crowned king. When the demonstrators damage the center, the protagonist is on her own and must complete the game successfully in order to escape permanent brain damage. Ghosts, witches, wizards, and magical tools help her as she races against time and faces many setbacks. Challenges range from barbarian attacks and peasant uprisings to a giant dragon. In addition, the half brothers and the hostile queen have treacherous plans to keep the crown for themselves.

I launched myself at Sir Deming. We hit the ground hard, scattering chickens and young siblings alike. I had his arm pinned and tried to unwedge the ring from his fat little finger. But with the element of surprise having run its course, he squirmed out from beneath skinny little me.

My mother was fluttering worse than a chicken…

I bit Deming’s hand, and I would gladly have gnawed off his finger if he hadn’t pulled out a knife and stuck it between my ribs.

“Oh Janine!” Mother cried. “How am I ever going to explain this to your father?”

The Review
I am a huge Vivian Vande Velde fan, ever since I first found her books in middle school. And this book is no exception. The pacing is fast and the characters fully developed, with such a fantastic ending.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you got sucked into your favorite video game? Okay, so now I have to admit that I stink at video games (I tend to stick with Mario and Sonic and the computer game Zork: Grand Inquisitor – which I just adored and I’m beyond sad that my new computer won’t play it without going all hokey on me.) But this book was such an adventure, that it didn’t even matter I’m not a big gamer (or even a little one, at that).

What I love is the timeless appeal of this book. Even though it’s technically science fiction, the main protagonist gets sent to a mid-evil world of magic, so it reads like a fantasy. I just loved the world of the game, and found it so hilarious when the protagonist keeps dying in random ways as she tries to pass the level. Only the stakes rise as the book progress and some wiring goes wrong, so now Giannine has to make it through the level and beat the super boss without dying — or it will harm her real body. When I got to that point, I just had to squeal! And I couldn’t stop reading until I’d turned the last page.

This book will be a favorite for both fantasy and science fiction readers, and I strongly suggest it for anyone who has ever played a video game, even if it’s on your phone.

Reader Age: Appropriate for middle grade readers, but fun for all ages. The violence is mild, and often comes off as humorous.

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6 Comments

  1. K. Howard / Apr 25 2011 12:41 pm

    I read this back in high school and thought it was absolutely hilarious!! Thanks for giving this a good review!

    • Chersti Nieveen / Apr 29 2011 11:36 am

      Oh awesome! It’s so good to hear that other people have loved it, too – I just reread it and still think it’s pure genius. And great worldbuilding!

  2. Shallee McArthur / Apr 25 2011 1:20 pm

    How fun– a mix of sci fi and fantasy! I’m intrigued. Thanks for the review!

  3. Julie Daines / Apr 26 2011 6:42 am

    Sounds interesting. I love stories with time travel.

    • Chersti Nieveen / Apr 29 2011 11:49 am

      Shallee – Actually, I think you’d really enjoy the book. Let me know if you’re going to read it!

      Julie – It’s not so much time travel, as it’s about a girl in the future who enters a historical type game. So that’s how it has both elements. But the world is so real, it’s almost like time travel! Sorry for being confusing!

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