Trigger and content warnings are under spoiler tags.
Trigger/Content Warnings: This book features blood, poverty, absent and dead parents, guns, gun violence, domestic abuse, and an attempt to run off the road.
I've been intrigued by The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes for quite a while now, ever since BookTok has meant it's been flying off the shelves at work. A mystery that's compared to The Da Vinci Code? Right up my street! But while I really enjoyed it, I expected more.
The story follows Avery, who lives with her older half-sister Libby. She has no idea where her dad is, and her mum died two years previous. The majority of her life has been spent in poverty. So when she is randomly contacted to discover she's been left something in the will of billionaire Tobias Hawthorn - a man she has never heard of - she's confused and intrigued. That is until, apart from a few things for family and staff here and there, he's left the majority of his fortune. Which includes his house, full of secret passages, hidden compartments, and games which she must live in to receive her inheritance, along with Hawthorn's family. His family are left a pittance in comparison, and they are most definitely not happy. Some are convinced she has somehow hoodwinked Hawthorn to giving her everything, especially Grayson, one of Hawthorn's four grandson's and the one everyone assumed would get the lot. His brother, Jameson, however, is sure it's one final game, the last riddle set them by their grandfather. To find the truth, she joins Jameson in trying to figure out the clues Hawthorn left behind, not just to understand, but in order to keep herself alive when surrounded by people who loathe her.
The Inheritance Games has a massive Agatha Christie feel to it, and I was so intrigued! There's quite a large cast of characters, but the focus is mainly on Avery and the four brothers, Grayson and Jameson in particular. Hawthorn left letters to everyone; the four brothers received exactly the same letter, full of proverbs, while Avery's simply said "I'm sorry," along with his initials. Speaking to Jameson and getting to know who Hawthorn is, it seems like a final game is mostly likely, considering she has no idea why she has been left anything, let alone almost everything. The story has the two, and sometimes others, working together to try and figure things out, in between everything her new lawyer and bodyguard have arranged for her, including media training, a make over, joining a new prestigious private school, and trying to make it through the media frenzy - and the glares from the family. There's also a second mystery, surrounding the death of a girl, Emily, connected to the Hawthorn family, the granddaughter of members of staff, and one that is implied is down to the Hawthorn boys.
The story was massively intriguing, and I loved the game that was played. I ate up the game and all the clues, trying to figure things out alongside Avery, and I was much more interested in that than the love triangle, despite being completely fascinated with the Hawthorn boys. There are so many layers; layers to Tobias Hawthorn, to the boys' childhoods, to the house and this mystery. The Inheritance Games isn't a long book, it's 372 pages long. There's a lot that happens and a lot to learn in this fairly short novel, that the actual game, the riddle, the puzzle, wasn't quite as prominent as I wanted it to be - especially given there's a fair few elements, clues that needed figuring out, that were quite time consuming for the characters. I was expecting the game to be bigger, for the clues to be more complicated, for the whole thing to be more involved. Don't get me wrong, the story was gripping, and I enjoyed it. But comparing it to The Da Vinci Code, I wanted and expected more. And it's not like it's not possible to give more in YA, because The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman gave more than this book did. I just really feel the book should have been longer, and there had been more to the game, because I was a little let down.
And I was also let down by the big reveal, too. It was just really, really frustrating, and I kind of wondered what the point was. Knowing there's a sequel, I almost feel like the book might have been more of a set up for the next story; we now know all the characters, they've all reached a certain place because of the events of this book, and maybe The Hawthorn Legacy might be the real story. Because I'm felt feeling, after all that, that's it? Really?
Saying that, I still really enjoyed The Inheritance Games, and I am still intrigued! There's a tiny cliffhanger of an ending, so I'm looking forward to seeing where that goes in The Hawthorn Legacy. I just won't get my hopes too high that's it's going to be as involved and as complicated as I originally thought this one would be. As I said, it was gripping, though, and I loved the characters, so I'm excited to what happens next.