The Heir (The Selection #4)
By: Kiera Cass
Release Date: May 5th 2015
*Beware: Spoilers ahead!*
Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn’t expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn’s heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her … and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn’t as impossible as she’s always thought.
I was Eadlyn Schreave. No one was more powerful than me. Eadlyn Schreave, oldest child of King Maxon and Queen America and heir to the throne of Illéa, knows what she wants out of life: a few new tiaras, some free time to work on her fashion designs, and a long and prosperous reign. Specifically, a reign without a meddling, incompetent husband. Her parents may have gotten a fairy-tale romance, but Eadlyn isn’t interested. But sometimes a princess’s duty to her country must come before her own desires, and Eadlyn finds herself the star of her own Selection with 35 suitors fighting for her hand. Determined to end this farce without a ring on her finger, Eadlyn soon realizes that maybe having someone to rule in her heart and by her side wouldn’t be so bad after all…and that maybe every princess deserves their happily ever after.
When I heard Kiera Cass was writing more books in the Selection series, I was beyond excited. The story of American and Maxon is one of my favorites; they’re both such well-written characters, and they’re always willing to fight for those they love, especially each other. (If only I could find a guy like that…*sigh.*) So of course I couldn’t wait to return to Illéa and read about their daughter (and to catch up on Maxerica and all their ear-tugging goodness)!
Eadlyn Schreave (AKA Eady) is the oldest child of Maxon and America and, thanks to the new succession laws, next in line for the throne. Because of her heir status, Eadlyn’s had a very structured upbringing, and it’s immediately clear that Eadlyn is not her mother. While America wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, she would’ve rather spent her time reading or practicing her music than face a crowd. She was always more concerned about others before herself, and she found great joy in simple pleasures like strawberry tarts. Eadlyn was born a princess, and it shows. She’s overly confident, competitive, and outspoken to the point of rudeness. Sometimes she’s whiny; sometimes she’s a spoiled brat. She doesn’t stand for any snide remarks about her gender, and she’s ready to cut down anyone who thinks she’s not fit to rule. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of heir Maxon’s father, King Clarkson, would’ve been proud of, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. King Clarkson was a violent and power-hungry ruler who cared more about keeping the throne than taking care of his kingdom or his family, and Eadlyn’s early semblance to her paternal grandfather was rather worrisome. Luckily, she has some of her maternal grandfather in her as well. Eadlyn’s overbearing tendencies are tempered by her deep love for her family and her desire to do what’s best for her future subjects, even if she’s not quite sure how. It’s this yearning to protect her family and to be a good queen, however, that ends up getting Eadlyn something she never wanted—her own Selection.
Eadlyn is as independent as they come. The only people she needs in her life are her twin, Ahren, her younger brothers, and her parents. Sure, she loves her extended family—Aunt May, the Woodworks, General Leger and Miss Lucy—but they can be as obnoxious as they are loveable. Especially the Woodwork children: Josie, who thinks her home in the palace puts her on par with royalty, and her older brother, Kile, who can’t be bothered to pull his nose out of a book long enough to use a comb and who’s been a burr in Eadlyn’s side for as long as she can remember. With the exception of these two (although deep down, she’d include them, too), Eadlyn would do almost anything to protect the ones she loves. This is Eadlyn’s biggest redeeming quality, and it almost feels like Maxon and America take advantage of this devotion; when grumblings begin to grow in the kingdom regarding the dissolution of the cast system, the king and queen decide that what the country needs is a distraction. And what works better to distract than a royal wedding? I obviously knew this was the premise of The Heir, but it seemed like forcing Eadlyn into her own Selection after she had grown up assuming she’d never have one wasn’t something the Maxon and America I knew would do. After the corruption and chaos of Maxon’s Selection, it felt almost cruel for him to essentially coerce his daughter into enduring the same thing. Yes, Maxon cares more for Eadlyn than King Clarkson ever cared for him, so it would be safe to assume that Eadlyn’s Selection would truly be under her control rather than manipulated to preserve the prestige of the royal lineage, but still. It just felt out of character for them. But then I realized that Maxon and America wouldn’t be doing this unless there was absolutely no other option. They don’t want to force Eadlyn to do anything, they’re just trying to save their kingdom—the kingdom Eadlyn will one day rule over—and they know that Eadlyn cares enough for her people to sacrifice herself for them. (Giving her a chance to find a love like theirs is an added bonus, no matter how much she says she doesn’t want a husband.) This was clear in the way that Maxon encourages Eadlyn to negotiate the terms of her Selection. A compromise gives her the freedom to decide her fate within the borders of her royal duty and also gives her a chance to practice the skills she’s learned while studying to be queen. Although she appreciates the allowances, Eadlyn’s still not happy, although I was rather delighted. It was clear that she wasn’t going to play nice with her suitors, and I love when a tough girl can stand her own against the guys. But that ferocity is softened when she sees the toll the rebellion is taking on her father, and she allows herself to be the sacrificial lamb to save him and, hopefully, the kingdom.
And so the newest Selection begins: 35 boys selected from the different areas of Illéa, invited to the palace to meet and (attempt to) woo the princess. Unlike Maxon’s Selection, the candidates are actually random, and I loved that the boy from Angeles (where the palace is located) is Kile. Since Kile is the son of Aspen and Lucy, I guess the potential match between Eadlyn and Kile is Kiera’s way to make all the America/Aspen shippers happy. It sure doesn’t make Eadlyn happy, though. Then again, none of the other Selected make her happy, either. Even if Eadlyn was looking for a husband, none of these boys are up to her standards. The boys arrive and introduce themselves, which was a funny scene. Eadlyn is just so unimpressed with these guys and she’s not afraid to let them know. I can appreciate that brutal honesty, and more than a few of the boys needed to be knocked down a few pegs anyway. Eady decides to quickly move things along, and in a misguided attempt to show that she’s taking things seriously, she sends a third of the suitors home. From Eadlyn’s point of view, she was simply culling the Selected with whom she believed she’d never feel a connection, mirroring Maxon’s dismissal on the first day. But to everyone else, her harsh judgement is further evidence of her ice queen personality. Personally, I loved the imagery of this scene: Eady stalking into the Men’s Parlor, the boys sweating (or crying!) as she stares them down and dismisses nearly a dozen of them with her sharp tongue and a flick of her wrist. What a way to show how powerful she is! It’s actually quite intimidating, but Eady’s learned that having nerves of steel is the best way to show people what kind of girl they’re dealing with. If they can’t handle her bluntness, then they don’t deserve to stay any longer.
After realizing her black widow act has done more harm than good, Eady eases up a bit on the Selected without compromising her goal of ending the Selection with her ‘single’ status intact. And although she’s not looking for romance, she does find a few friends among the boys. She even finds that she can stand Kile, as long as they’re kissing and he’s not asking dozens of personal questions. I liked the relationships Eady formed with the boys. You could tell she was wary of forming attachments with them, but she finds that she enjoys having friends. It was obvious that Eady needed friends; aside from her maid, the only people she had any real relationship with were her family and people who were as good as, and although it’s good to have family, it’s awkward to complain about how crazy your family is to someone who’s part of said family. She needed someone she hadn’t grown up with who could come in and tell her when she was going too far or make her laugh or just listen. I felt this was rather how Maxon felt during his Selection, although he was looking at the Selected in hopes of finding a wife, which would cast some interactions in a different light.
On the other hand, some of those attachments with the boys weren’t really what they seemed. One suitor in particular decides he can take advantage of the fact that Eady is a female and tries to force himself on her. Ahren takes care of him with a swift right hook to the jaw, and the suitor is immediately sent packing. This scene made my skin crawl. I’m a female, and although I’ve never found myself in this type of situation (thank goodness), I’ve heard many stories about men who think that “No” means “Yes” and “Get lost” means “Take me, I’m yours.” Any woman finding herself being taken advantage of by a man (or anyone, for that matter) should get help as quickly as possible, and luckily for Eadlyn, her brother and a pair of guards are nearby to save her. As much as this guy’s attack made me want to go hit something, I did appreciate how well it showed the bond between the twins. Ahren doesn’t hesitate to defend his sister and make sure she’s alright. Aside from showing that his heart’s in the right place, it shows that Ahren loves his sister and would do whatever it takes to keep her safe, even if she may not like it. The attack also shows Eady that she’s not as invincible as she’d like to believe she is. Being a princess may confer power, but this holds true only if the people in your power are willing to play by your rules. This encounter and a fight—over asparagus!—during a group date leaves Eadlyn more uncertain than ever about the Selection and leaves Maxon enraged that his actions have put his daughter in harm’s way. But as problems in the kingdom worsen, Eady knows she has to stick it out. I loved all the group dates, both planned and impromptu, that come up at this point. Being able to see the boys interact with one another gives Eady and the readers a chance to see more of the boys’ personalities and help get a feel for who may end up as the One, if indeed there is a One.
And then I got to the end. Bleargh, the end! We have the baseball game, which was definitely my favorite of the group dates, followed by the adorkable variety show before everything is turned upside down. First, Ahren elopes with Camille, the French princess and Daphne’s daughter, which I thought was an interesting twist—another way to make up for a bypassed relationship. (FYI, Daphne is introduced in The Prince, where she declares her love for Maxon and begs him to forget the Selection and marry her. Maxon doesn’t see her as more than a friend, and his refusal drives a wedge into their friendship, although it would seem things worked out in the end.) Eady, obviously, flips out. I mean, wouldn’t you be distraught if your twin ran away with the woman he loved and didn’t even bother to tell you in person? Then, as she searches for her parents to tell them the news, Eady ends up in Maxon’s room, and what she finds there was just perfect. In The One, Maxon showed America the giant collage of photographs on his bedroom wall—pictures he’d taken of his family and the palace, of places they’d been, of the Selected. Now the only pictures are of himself and America, the love of his life. This so tugged at my heartstrings, and it made up for any of the times that the characterization for the older versions of Maxon and America had felt off. This was a blatant reminder of how much Maxon loves America, how from the moment they met, his true purpose in life has been to be with her. And this is what made the final scene so heartbreaking. To be honest, I stopped caring about Eady at this point because I was so focused on Maxon. It made me cry to read how this man, who endured physical and psychological abuse from his father, who lost both his parents and was forced to become king far too early, who has dealt with rebellion all his life and still manages to be unbelievably loving and kind, is a sobbing wreck over the possibility of losing his wife. And in his grief, who does he turn to? Aspen, the one person he knows who once loved America at least a fraction as much as Maxon himself does now. Despite the problems they’d had before, it was clear that there’s now a bond between these men, one that will only grow as they help America heal. (Because we all know she’s going to get better. It would be too cruel for Kiera to kill off her beloved heroine, and Kiera’s not cruel. Delightfully evil at times, but never cruel.) Ahren’s elopement and her mother’s heart attack open Eadlyn’s eyes to how powerful true love can be, and while I appreciated Eady’s change of heart in regards to her outlook on the Selection, it seemed odd to me that she would be worrying about getting married when her mother is in critical condition. I know romance would not be the first thing on my mind in a situation like that. It was touching, however, that the remaining suitors came to pray for America and support the royal family. It showed that these boys are willing to put aside the competition and be there for Eadlyn and her family, which makes them all good people in my book.
There are a number of things I’m looking forward to in Book 5. More kissing for one, although I can’t say I have a favorite suitor that would be my choice for said kissing. I need to see how the boys deal with whatever new situations come their way before I join a team. More group dates, too, because those are a lot of fun. And America needs to get better, obviously, or Mrs. Cass will be getting some very distraught fanmail. (Note: that ‘distraught’ must be read with Moaning Myrtle’s voice for proper emphasis and distraughtedness.) I’d also love more references to the original trilogy—for pity’s sake, America or Maxon needs to tug their ear to signal the other at some point. I would totally squee in fangirl delight. Unlike the first books, I really don’t have a feel for where this new story is going. Will Eady really find a husband? Will she or Maxon be able to restore peace to the kingdom? Will Aspen and Lucy ever become parents, and will May ever settle down? Lots of questions, and no answers until we get Book 5! Until then, I guess I’ll have to settle for trying to find another heroine as sharp-tongued and confident as the lovely Eadlyn Schreave.
• Alas, Mom and Dad couldn’t stand to watch their firstborn be stripped of a title by an unfortunate but rather lovely set of breasts.
• “You are Eadlyn Schreave. You are the next person in line to run this country, and you will be the first girl to do it on your own. No one,” I said, “is as powerful as you.”
• At state events or important dinners, Mom was beside Dad or situated right behind him. But when they were just husband and wife—not king and queen—he followed her everywhere.
• “Mom, exactly how many rules did you break?”
• “When we met, you couldn’t stop staring at my breasts…make sure you get an equally satisfactory look at my backside as you leave.”
• “I only have one heart, and I’m saving it.”
• “I’m not sure anyone knows what they’re looking for until they find it.”
• You can be brave and still be feminine. You can lead and still love flowers. Most important, you can be queen and still be a bride.