Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde
At first, Giannine thought the $50 gift certificate for Rasmussem Gaming Center was the greatest gift her absent father could have ever given her. Giannine started to waver a bit when she past Rasmussem and saw several people outside protesting children’s exposure to violent video games. The vocal protesters who tried to block her path into Rasmussem were unsuccessful in stopping Giannine from experiencing one of the coolest things ever, a total immersion video game in which she goes through the game as if it were really happening.
Inside, Giannine is met by a girl in medieval clothes with a tiny dragon pet. After considering a few possible game options, Giannine decides on the medieval role-playing game, Heir Apparent. In the game, Giannine is Princess Janine, a sheep farmer who has just found that that she is the illegitimate daughter of the king and the next in line for the crown. Even though Giannine was told there are many different ways to win the game, she soon finds out that one wrong step can bring her back to the game’s beginning, sleeping on a hill with her sheep dog Dusty. During one of her attempts, a voice interrupts her game play informing her that the protesters had stormed the gaming facility and have damaged the computer systems. Now Giannine is stuck in the game until she can find a way to beat it. Giannine must make alliances with wizards, soldiers, and even her half-brothers, who are also trying to claim the crown, in hopes of surviving the three days before her coronation. Every time her game starts over, Giannine changes a small detail or two, leading her to deal with barbarians, magic rings, decapitating poet statues, dragons, and more outrageous things. What Giannine doesn’t know is every attempt at defeating Heir Apparent may be her last as the machine she is hooked up to is still malfunctioning and could quite possibly leave her in a coma.
Heir Apparent is an ambitious combination of science fiction and fantasy that delivers an amazing story. Giannine’s frustrations become your own as she tries repeatedly to beat the video game. Vande Velde’s novel is one that you will want to read again and again.