Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
No major spoilers ahead
I had started the Selection series without expecting to like it very much. I was never much into fairy-tale like stories involving girls in frilly dresses attending parties, and falling in love with princes. Nevertheless, I found the series strangely addictive.
The first book is set in a country called Illéa, which is a monarchy ruled by King Clarkson. Selection refers to the process by which the crown prince chooses a bride who would rule by his side as the queen when he ascends the throne. The much-loved Queen Amberly had been chosen in a Selection many long years ago, and now it is the turn of Crown Prince Maxon.
The country has a Caste system, which determines the occupation of a person. The highest caste, One includes the royals, while the lowest caste, Eight includes the labor class. The protagonist, America Singer is from a family of Fives, who are artists and musicians. America’s family persuades her to enter the Selection, which she does, despite being in a relationship with Aspen, a six, hoping to raise the fortunes of her family. The book goes on to describe America’s Selection. The process involves living in a the palace of the royal family and competing with thirty four other young girls for the affections of the Prince. The book describes America’s journey to the palace, her friendships and rivalries with the other girls, and her relationship with Maxon, whom she initially views with suspicion, and warms up to later. The second book in the installment, Elite is about the top ten girls from the Selection one of whom will be the future queen, while the third part, One is about the final stage, where the victor is revealed.
Throughout the series, there is mention of a rebellion against the monarchy, and from time to time there is an attack on the palace by them. While romance takes center stage in the series, it also shows Maxon and America delving into the history of Illéa, finding out about the motives of the rebels etc, though unlike most dystopian novels, there isn’t any bloodshed or violence. The other issue dealt with is the Caste system, which America wishes to change.
I felt America’s character was quite well written. She is shown to be a strong female emboldened by her upbringing as a commoner. She is daring, and unafraid to speak her mind. I particularly enjoyed the way her relationships with the other girls in the Selection were depicted, how she dealt with her arch-enemies, while not allowing her friendships to by tainted by rivalry. Maxon was also a good character, but I found the romance in the book a bit clichéd, though enjoyable.
Heir and Crown (May contain minor spoilers for Selection, Elite and One)
Heir describes the Selection of Crown Princess Eadlyn. While previously the crown passed on to the eldest prince without exception, and princesses were married off to forge alliances with foreign countries, the laws have changed, and now Eadlyn is chosen over her brother Ahren as the heir. The first ever Selection for a female is conducted, and thirty-five young men are randomly chosen out of whom Eadlyn has to choose her life-partner who would rule by her side.
I am currently in the process of reading Crown. I actually found these books more interesting than the first three, due to it’s unpredictability. How One would end was pretty apparent from the beginning of the series, but here it is totally unpredictable. We are left wondering whom Eadlyn will choose anyone and if so, whom.
Eadlyn’s character is shown to be drastically different from America’s. She is a bit of a privileged, spoiled brat. I actually liked these books even more because of that, as I like reading about flawed characters, as there is lot of potential for character development.
In Heir and Crown, the society is shown to be a better place than in the previous books. The caste system is abolished, and the sexism inherent in the society is largely removed, with the advent of the first female heir. However, finding a life partner through the Selection is still a rather stifling concept. The idea of finding a life-partner from a pool of ‘candidates’, under constant surveillance is a rather daunting concept. Also I m unable to understand why royalty has to marry so young. Eadlyn is all of eighteen when she sets on the quest to find a husband for herself. I am eighteen, and the idea of marrying now freaks me out. Yet, in this series everyone is satisfied by this, and most characters would end up finding an ideal partner by the time they’re in their late teens, a scenario highly unlikely in real life.
The other misgiving I have is the way the process of running a nation has been portrayed like it is some sort of side-business. In Crown there is a time when Eadlyn has to temporarily take up the affairs of the state from her father’s hands. Her way of dealing with official business is rather childish, and is shown as a secondary duty, the primary one being her Selection. Like seriously?
Despite the few misgivings, I really enjoyed the series, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of Crown.