Snow is Here, Time to Pick Up a New Book!

Snow is Here, Time to Pick Up a New Book!

Mary Clare Michael, Senior Staff Writer

Published in September 2020, Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ mystery novel The Inheritance Games became an instant hit. Since then, she has published the novel’s sequel The Hawthorne Legacy and is in the process of writing the final book in the trilogy, The Final Gambit, which is set to release in August of 2022. 

The Inheritance Games follows Avery Grambs, a relatively poor junior in high school who has practical plans for her future. Everything is changed, however, when someone visits her high school and informs her that the eccentric billionaire Tobias Hawthorne has left Grambs, a complete stranger, something in his will. 

Avery and her older sister Libby fly out to the Hawthorne estate, where it is revealed that Tobias Hawthorne left his entire estate to Avery Grambs, on the condition that she live in Hawthorne estate for a year with the family that Tobias has dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandchildren– Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Xander, who have been trained by their grandfather to be intelligent, cunning, competitive and dangerous. Forced into an entirely new world, Avery must solve the extensive puzzle of Tobias Hawthorne’s life and death, and find out her role in the puzzle.

I was originally drawn to the Cinderella-story novel when I heard others draw comparisons to the 39 Clues series, which was one of my childhood favorites. However, the book more closely resembles the 2019 film Knives Out, in which a poor girl is left an eccentric rich man’s fortune and is left to deal with the resentful and dangerous family.

On the whole, The Inheritance Games was one of my favorite reads of 2021. It is fast-paced, entertaining, and leaves the reader captivated. The characters are all interesting and their interactions leave the reader with more questions than answers, which is always a sign of a strong mystery.

There were a few minor issues with the books, most of which become more obvious while reading The Hawthorne Legacy. First, the book reads like YA in that the reader can clearly see the mechanical formatting of the book, which makes some of the plot twists painfully predictable. A good example of this is the side plot with Avery’s friend Max. The neglected best friend is such an overdone trope that before the storyline is even developed the reader can guess the outcome. 

The book also tries to deal with serious themes, but because of the novel’s pacing, these important issues are not dealt with correctly. Libby, Avery’s older sister, has an abusive boyfriend that acts as an antagonist throughout the first novel. The nature of Libby’s relationship is too serious to act as a side-plot however, so Barnes’ handling of the issue comes off as blase.

The final issue with the book concerns the supposed love triangle between Avery and the two Hawthorne brothers, Grayson and Jameson; it is really more of a line and a dot. Jameson is immediately established as the love interest, and Barnes uses Grayson to cause conflict between Avery and the brothers. However, Grayson is given so little characterization that the plotline becomes essentially useless. 

These small nuances do not take away from the novel’s greatness, however. Hopefully the third novel in the trilogy will fix up characterization issues while maintaining the fast-paced complexity of the first novel.