The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Sorry for the extremely long hiatus, but I’ve been feeling extra overwhelmed lately. I’m stressed, tired, and constantly grumpy. All in all, I’m never in the mood to pick up a book. And, again, I don’t want to get into the habit of reading for the sake of posting. I don’t give books a fair shot when I’m in a horrible mood. Plus, I genuinely love reading and never want it to feel like a chore. 

Sadly, life’s just been a lot lately. I’m always finding myself more ready to go to bed than to pick up a book. Even the idea of turning a page seems like too much some days. The coronavirus lockdown is finally starting to wear me down and, given the recent uptick in cases in the United States, I’m not sure those feelings will go away. I live in New York and it seems like Governor Cuomo is getting ready to shut us back down. I understand why, but it’s not really making it any easier to deal with. It feels like the holidays might be very, very difficult for everyone. We’ll all get through it, but it’s hard to think about right now. 

But, at least for the day, I wanted to get back to normal. 

When I finally got to the last page of Catching Fire oh-so long ago, I started exploring the Amazon Kindle store for new reads. I knew I wanted a short break from The Hunger Games universe – even as short as a day or two. Even though that small break turned into a much longer one, I started it off right with an absolutely amazing book: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. 

And, yes, to be honest, I chose the book because I knew that, at the very least, the title being so similar to The Hunger Games would be super amusing. I live for small jokes. But even now, a little under a month after finishing The Inheritance Games, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The characters were well done and entertaining, the storyline was easy to follow, and it was just a really, really good book. Even if you don’t read the rest of this review, you should immediately go purchase a copy of this book and stick your nose in it. It’s that good! 

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. 

MY TAKE ON IT

From the very first page of The Inheritance Games to the very last, I was hooked. I blame most of that feeling on Barne’s creation of a dynamic main character, Avery Grambs. Starting off the story with a description on how Avery lost her mother at a too-young age, the book quickly segwayed into a summary of Avery’s day to day life after the fact. From using chess games and parking lot poker winnings as a way to feed a homeless man in the park to a confrontation with her principal over suspiciously high chess scores, I was dying to get to know more about this character Barnes had created. How could Avery be so strong after everything she had lost? How did she ace the hardest exam in the school’s history not once, but twice? What was going on with this girl?

Avery was obviously a natural survivor and was extraordinarily intelligent. Anyone could see that from first glance. Her carefully calculated and seemingly constant assessments of risk appealed to me. Her strange combination of character traits made the idea of getting to know her practically irresistible. I didn’t want this book down until I understood Avery completely and the first one hundred pages flew by with barely a blink on my side of things. The idea of such a well-developed and engaging character blending into the background in her normal life befuddled me, but her lack of close connections made her all the more interesting to read about. 

All in all, Avery is a very, very well written main character. Perhaps one of the best I’ve ever read.

Combining the interest Avery held for me with the intrigue of the Hawthorne family fortune created a potent combination perfect for a good book. Why would the richest man in Texas leave everything to a complete and total stranger who lived states, and worlds, away? Considering that Avery spent most of her time living out of her car, it never seemed like the two would have the chance to cross paths. What about her caught the recently deceased Tobias Hawthorne’s eye? What games was he playing at? Did he even know her? Was this something she caused to occur? Was Avery up to something? Even as a reader privy to her every thought, I couldn’t be sure. 

Something about all of this made me feel The Inheritance Games would be a lot like the game ‘Clue.’ This feeling was furthered by Avery’s arrival at the Hawthorne Home, an enormous mansion with plenty of room for strange and unexpected murders to take place. Some part of me still wonders if the game is what inspired Barnes to write the book. 

And yet, within the first few chapters in, I was mostly disabused of this notion. The actual Hawthorne family themselves seemed as if they enjoyed secrets, but were practically incapable of keeping them. I expected them to be cool and detached, and they were to a certain degree. Yet, they seemed unable to stop themselves from oversharing with Avery. They might be good at riddles, but they weren’t exactly tight lipped. I had a hard time imagining them being capable of hiding murder weapons for very long.

I was also surprised at how close the entire family was. Because of the large amounts of money involved, I found myself picturing a very distanced and professional family. I was picturing their life as more of a business arrangement than a familial one. Grayson, the “heir apparent,” seemed the closest to professional, but still came across as slightly too far from that goal. He may have had the natural Hawthorne desire to bribe, threaten, and buy people out, but didn’t necessarily seem mature enough to outplay anyone. At least from first glance. 

However, these sentiments weren’t exactly to the book’s detriment. I wasn’t disappointed or upset by them, just surprised. It shook me to think that I was so very wrong about this family. It made me feel like every presumption I made should be thrown out the window and I absolutely loved that. 

Plus, I grew to admire almost every character in this book. None of them were entirely what I expected. They kept surprising me in small and big ways. You never knew what to think or who to trust. For the first half of the book, I had a hard time even trusting Avery as a reliable narrator. I’ve read too many books where the main character ends up being the bad guy to ever trust a main character blindly again! 

All in all, I just fell in love with each twist and turn in this book. At times, my predictions were correct, but I was wrong often enough to keep my interest. I loved the main characters and I loved the fact that I trusted absolutely no one to be reliable even more. I love a story that keeps me guessing more than you’d think. 

And, again, I one hundred percent recommend that you IMMEDIATELY go buy a copy of this book NOW if you haven’t read. It was so good! 

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