Sunday, August 23, 2015

Review: The Heir

Whenever I'm asked whether I have any "guilty pleasure" reads, I tend to respond with the conventional wisdom that if you genuinely enjoy something, you really shouldn't feel guilty about it (within the realm of reason, ya monsters). 

But then I remember this series... and I have to think, Why the hell do you keep doing this to yourself, Savannah? 

The Heir, by Kiera Cass, is the fourth novel in the Selection series, and the first to tackle the romantic entanglements of Eadlyn Shreave. Eadlyn is the daughter of America Shreave (no longer Singer), whose ascent to the throne of Ilea, was chronicled in the first three novels.

Friends of mine know that I've had a long and complicated history with this series, the most recent installment of which followed after I finished the third novel... back when we all thought it was going to be a trilogy. Long story short, I don't like it... but I sure can't help myself!

What can I say, I've always been a sucker for covers with pretty dresses on them since I first found Anna Godbersen's The Luxe series in the 7th Grade. Besides, what sorority woman doesn't love The Bachelor?? (Okay, stereotype. But I'd be lying if I said our Monday night post-chapter viewing parties aren't the stuff of legend.)

Well, first off, Eadlyn is a brat. Her brother is an idiot. They both reminded me of that one line in The Little Mermaid - "I'm sixteen years old; I'm not a child!" - as well as Ariel's proponent for making stupendously dumb decisions. And no, this is not commentary on the realm of YA as a whole, by any means; there are plenty of well-written leads in YA galore who make rational, reasonable choices, with understandable emotional response. The Shreave royal line just does not seem to fit into that category.

But seriously: Eadlyn is a mess. In terms of characterization, she is thoroughly unlikable, and I get that it demonstrates character development on her part if she starts out a brat and grows to be better, but the fact of the matter is, the ideas that drive her plot progression are inherently problematic to me.

She likes the power and responsibility of being Queen one day... but all her acknowledgement of that is in outward appearances. She is described as doing paperwork with her Dad, which means she's tackling some kind of legislation, but for the most parts, it's commentary on how she looks in the media, asking why her subjects don't love her, and, most of all, her carefully-calculated wardrobe choices.

That's right: because Eadlyn, more than wanting to be Queen, really yearns for the freedom of her twin brother, younger by 7 minutes... to follow her heart. Not in romance, which is what he's doing, but because what her real passion is, is fashion.

You're the first monarch in the royal line to assume the throne as a woman, and not only are you allowing yourself to be shunted into a relationship conducted in the eyes of the public at such a young age, but you also would consider abdicating for the sake of a designer career? Wow, America. I'm so sorry for everything I've ever said about you or Maxon, because your daughter is literally the worst.

I guess that kind of fits in line with some of my other frustrations with the book, in terms of where those two crazy kids had been up to since the original trilogy concluded... namely, how the kids that we had gotten to know as teenagers in the Selection trilogy don't really translate to the kinds of adults demonstrated in The Heir. I honestly never thought I'd miss them, and yet, America, Maxon, et al., seem to have been doing a lot of growing since we saw them as teens, but little explanation is made for why they now act the way they do.

Time jump without coordinating character progression =/= cohesive series structure. Not to mention the fact that such a seismic shift in the political structure of the world of Ilea didn't necessitate too much commentary either... beyond the fact that the citizens are still angry.

Most of what I took issue with was a lot tamer than what I had seen go so wrong in the original Selection trilogy, which, I think, is a good sign. Cass, like I've said before, is growing as a writer, and beyond the fact that I have thought both of her leading female characters so far have been pretty unsuccessful, the future of the series is still unwritten.

Lord knows that if I've stuck with it thus far...

Final Verdict: The most recent installment, the most improved installment, but also still pretty ill-constructed. If you've read the first three books, you probably might as well. (If you haven't gotten involved in this series yet, save yourself and turn back now!!!)

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