She came from nothing.
Avery has a plan: keep her head down, work hard for a better future.
Then an eccentric billionaire dies, leaving her almost his entire fortune. And no one, least of all Avery, knows why.
They had everything.
Now she must move into the mansion she’s inherited.
It’s filled with secrets and codes, and the old man’s surviving relatives –
a family hell-bent on discovering why Avery got ‘their’ money.
Now there’s only one rule: winner takes all.
Soon she is caught in a deadly game that everyone in this strange family is playing.
But just how far will they go to keep their fortune?
As I mentioned when I reviewed Catalyst some months back, I don’t tend to read a huge amount of YA. As a woman in my mid-thirties, I’m acutely aware that I am not the target audience and, whilst I know readers of all ages read (and love!) YA fiction, it’s just not been my go-to area of the bookshop – navigating my teen years in one piece was hellish enough in real life! But when a book comes along that is billed as Cinderella meets Knives Out (one of my favourite films of 2020), you’d better believe it piques my interest and, sure enough, Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Inheritance Games does not disappoint!
Seventeen-year-old Avery Grambs keeps her head down. Sure, she runs the odd side-hustle after school but she studies hard, works every shift she can get, and is determined to save enough to fulfil her college dreams, get out of her half-sister Libby’s tiny rented apartment, and build a better life for both of them.
After she’s accused of cheating on a test at school and yet another argument with Libby’s deadbeat on-off boyfriend Drake leaves her sleeping in her car, it looks as if Avery’s hard work and careful planning might be derailed. But then an extremely handsome young man in a well-tailored suit arrives at Avery’s door with an invitation to the reading of the will of billionaire philanthropist Tobias Hawthorne, a man Avery has never heard of, let alone met.
That young man is Grayson, Tobias’ grandson, and, along with his half-brothers Nate, Xander, and Jameson, he’s expecting to inherit some, if not all, of his grandfather’s vast fortune. But the Hawthorne family – and Avery herself – are in for a shock when Tobias’ vast mansion, along with the majority of his fortune, business assets, and charitable foundation are left to Avery Grambs. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of Avery – and all Avery wants is out. But there’s a catch. In order to inherit, she has to live in Hawthorne House for a year. Filled with hidden passages, mysterious codes, and long-buried mysteries, solving the secrets might be Avery’s trickiest problem yet. And that’s before she discovers a girl has already died there…
The Inheritance Games starts strong and just keeps getting better! I was immediately sucked in to Avery’s situation and, once the will has been read and the Hawthorne family introduced, the plot really picks up the pace. I got so sucked into the story that I finished the book in an evening, staying up well past my bedtime to unravel the mysteries and get to the bottom of why Tobias Hawthorne made Avery Grambs his heir!
The Knives Out comparisons are well-deserved. In addition to the fiendish riddles and hidden clues Tobias Hawthorne has left all over the mansion, Hawthorne House is filled to brimming with an eclectic mix of resentful relatives, faithful family retainers, and assorted associates – any of whom could be looking at Avery with murderous intent. In addition to navigating the mansion’s many twisting passageways and secret staircases, Avery must also learn to manoeuvre through the complex relationships and history of Grayson, Jackson, Xander, Nate and their extended family with her body – and her heart – still intact.
There’s a tense romance subplot amidst all the puzzling that, despite being a love triangle (usually one of my pet hates), I got really engaged in, as well as some of the usual teen dramas involved in negotiating high school, family relationships, and friendships. For the most part however, The Inheritance Games keeps its focus on the mystery plot, with the various subplots tying in to the main story as it develops.
Avery herself is a smart and level-headed main character who is easy to empathise with (even if I did sigh at her propensity to get distracted during key moments by the proximity of one or other of the extremely attractive Hawthorne brothers) and, despite having a very large cast, I found it easy to distinguish between and remember the other key characters. Grayson, Jackson, Xander and Nate have unique personalities that elevate them beyond being the stereotypical ‘potential love interest’, whilst the side characters – ranging from Avery’s best friend Max to her new bodyguard – are pretty well-rounded given the minimal amount of time that can be dedicated to them. I was also impressed that the book managed to touch on so many issues in a pretty sensitive way – from mentions of domestic violence and mental illness, through to the emotional trauma that comes with unexpected death and regret.
By the time I got to the ending, I was absolutely hooked on The Inheritance Games and, given the cliffhanger, thrown in right at the end, I genuinely cannot wait to get my hands on the second part of this brilliant duology. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written a twisty, well-plotted YA mystery with a page-turning pace, some intriguing puzzles, and an ending that will leave you gasping! Fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and One of Us is Lying are sure to love The Inheritance Games, as will anyone who enjoys getting swept up in a good story!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher and Netgalley UK for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, as well as to Dave from The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 30 September 2020 so do check out the other stops along the way for more reviews and content!
I don’t charge for reviews on The Shelf and non of the buying or bookshop links on my page are affiliated however if you enjoy the blog and want to support The Shelf, please do consider buying me a coffee on Ko-fi.