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Literature / Heir Apparent

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Heir Apparent is a 2002 young adult fiction novel by Vivian Vande Velde. Seventh-grader Giannine Bellisario receives a gift certificate to Rasmussem Gaming Center, an arcade that specializes in virtual reality, from her estranged father. Upon her arrival, she chooses the game Heir Apparent, where she is the illegitimate child to King Cynric, the ruler of the kingdom of Shelby. Unfortunately, an anti-fantasy Christian organization breaks into the gaming center and severely damages the gaming equipment, trapping Giannine inside. The only way Giannine can get out is to win the game before 'overload' occurs.

It has two companion books set in the same universe, Deadly Pink and User Unfriendly.

Not related to the fourth Guardians of the Flame book The Heir Apparant, or the Science Fiction Short Story "Heir Apparent" by C. L. Moore.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Actually, I Am Him: Giannine freaks out when she wakes up and sees Kenric holding her, and has to be reassured that it's Nigel Rasmussem. He lampshades the fact that he used an image of his uncle to warn her about what happened.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: How Giannine wins the game. It's programmed so if the player/players start crying or showing signs of hating the game, at least one game character will go Out of Character and tell the player what they need to do to win the game.
  • Author Avatar: Within the book, Kenric is based on the head of the Rasmussen corporation.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Inverted; Giannine was just going to the VR place for the fun of it, but she ends up literally having to fight for her life when the mob that attacks the arcade sabotage her machine. She lampshades it.
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  • The Chains of Commanding: Giannine finds this out the hard way as Janine, trying to spare a peasant boy who was caught stealing and trespassing and her choices affect the game run. On top of that, she has to feed an army, placate an enemy tribe head, and survive her murderous (fictional) family.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Being hooked up to VR for too long can fry your brain. Normally there are fail-safes to prevent this and users aren't allowed to play anywhere near the length of time it would take to cause this, but the protesters smashed them up.
  • Death by Childbirth: The player character's mother in the game.
  • Disappeared Dad: Giannine's father never shows up for her birthday; the story starts because he sent her a certificate for a VR experience. He seems to avert this, however, in the end, as when he heard she was in danger he came as soon as he could.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Giannine develops a bit of a crush on the NPC Kenric. For obvious reasons, they can't exactly be together once she's escaped the game. Luckily, he looks just like the game's Teen Genius creator, who shows up to apologize to the heroine personally and seems flattered that she liked the character based on him...
  • Draco in Leather Pants: In-universe example with Kenric, who, despite his appearance and attitude, ends up being the most helpful brother to Giannine. The company owner even says that picking him is almost always a bad choice.
  • Dragon Hoard: The protagonist needs to sneak into a dragon's lair to steal its treasure.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Giannine, as Janine of St. Jehan, just can't seem to get on anybody's good side, no matter how hard she tries.
  • Failsafe Failure: What traps her in the game. In the designer's defense, the failsafes only failed due to an angry mob of overzealous moral guardians smashing the device to hell and back while Giannine was using the VR machine.
  • Hypocrite: The Citizens To Protect Our Children kick off the main plot by breaking into the Rasmussen center and smashing up the equipment, while a child is hooked into it. Great job protecting, guys.
  • Knight Templar: The angry Christian mob that destroyed the device. Subverted in that later on, a real-life character says the group destroyed any chance of their being taken seriously once they nearly killed the young Giannine by incidentally destroying the failsafes in their rampage of destruction.
  • Maybe Ever After: Giannine and Nigel Rasmussem after she wakes up, as the story ends just after their first meeting.
  • Meaningful Name:
  • The most muscular of the princes is named Abas.
  • Moral Guardians: That turn into Knight Templar Hypocrites when they break into the gaming center and smash up the equipment, endangering Giannine's life. Sister Mary Ursula also has very strong anti-magic views, despite almost nothing bad ever coming of them.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Part of the reason Giannine chooses to play Heir Apparent is because she found the male characters on the game's display attractive, particularly Kenric.
  • Nausea Fuel: In-universe, the strength potion that Janine takes while climbing Mount Hag. Its flavor is described as licking toothpaste out of the (undoubtedly hairy) armpit of a sweaty construction worker.
  • Nintendo Hard: Janine has one hell of a time trying to get through Day 1 of the game. Partly because most people would probably wait to say goodbye to their father, but Janine had issues with her real-life dad, so...
  • No Ending: As soon as the player is crowned king of Shelby, the world "dissolves into a shower of glitter" and the player wakes up - after three days of perceived time minimum that the player had to put into it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Giannine's father never shows up for special events, but Giannine knows something is up when he comes after hearing that she nearly died playing a VR game.
  • Reality Subtext: In-universe example; the reason it takes Janine forever to figure out that she has to wait to say goodbye to her father to get a very important and useful item is because Giannine is estranged from her father and wouldn't think to do that in real life as a result.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: The virtual reality game "Heir Apparent" starts with the player character learning that their birth parents were a servant woman and the now deceased King Cynric, who has named the player the heir to the throne.
  • Save Scumming: Sort of; Giannine uses knowledge from previous playthroughs to make her decisions.
  • She Is the King: Andreanna, the former king's wife, is referred to as "Queen", but Janine aims to become the king rather than the queen.
  • Ship Tease: Janine and Kenric during the game, Giannine and Nigel in real life given he's holding her as she wakes up.
  • Split Personality: Sort of. Giannine becomes Janine, complete with Fake Memories designed by the gaming center.
  • Take That!: The entire book is a giant Take That! at Moral Guardians who think fantasy is going to corrupt our innocent children.
  • Teen Genius: Nigel isn't that much older than Giannine, and he's the head of his own corporation.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Computer-operated buses, genetically engineered mini-dragons, full-immersion virtual reality games...
  • Unfortunate Name: Nigel Rasmussem. He even says that it's his motivation for starting the company to make a name for himself.
  • Win to Exit: Thanks to those failsafes being broken, along with a lot of other equipment in the arcade, Giannine can't manually close the game and people can't shut the equipment down to get her out. She has to clear the game in order for it to shut down.
  • Wolf Man: Wulfgar in wolf form.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: The game is full of these, some of it possibly due to the player, but other deaths are just mean.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Abas, whose dialogue almost completely consists of him bragging about his various martial achievements and would seem the obvious choice to fight the dragon... doesn't "do" dragons and refuses to even try, forcing Janine to find a way to take it on herself.