Dawg-Eared: Riddles, ciphers and invisible ink

Relaxing in her favorite spot in Fairview, sophomore music industries studies major Clare Wohlschlaeger re-reads her favorite book from “The Inheritance Games” series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Photo by Elle Rotter.

ELLE ROTTER| STAFF REPORTER | earotter@butler.edu 

“Dawg-Eared” is a book review column that covers books that Bulldogs have requested including popular series, books that have been turned into movies and niche books that keep Dawgs turning the pages

Content warnings: sexual assault, rape, death threats, gun violence, kidnapping, child abuse, domestic violence and abusive relationships, alcohol consumption, car accident and implications of sexual relations. 

The Inheritance Games” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a bestselling series because of the thrill, mystery and nonstop plot twists that turn its readers into adrenaline junkies. 

“The Inheritance Games” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Barnes sold over two million copies of “The Inheritance Games” since its premiere in 2020. The New York Times Bestseller was also nominated as an Amazon Top 100 and all the books in the original trilogy have received Goodreads Choice Awards

Avery, a junior in high school from New Castle, Connecticut, is randomly called to the principal’s office. When she arrives, a boy dressed in a suit tells her that she is included in the will of Tobias Hawthorne, a multibillionaire and philanthropist. Soon she will learn that she will be receiving the entire Hawthorne fortune, but only if she follows the rules written by the late billionaire. Avery struggles to understand why she was named heir to  the fortune and not one of Hawthorne’s four grandsons: Nash, Grayson, Jameson and Xander. 

To receive her inheritance, Avery has to play Tobias’ inheritance games, which require her to live in the Hawthorne house with the four grandsons for the next year. Because of the requirements stated in the will, Avery quickly begins to receive death threats. It is believed by the Hawthorne family and lawyers evaluating the will that if she dies before the year is completed, she cannot receive the inheritance, because she would not have lived in the house for a year. While some of the members of the Hawthorne family are envious of Avery’s inheritance, the four brothers eventually take her in as a family member and vow to protect her.

This mystery novel has twists and turns from cover to cover. Avery and the boys follow the clues Tobias left while trying to answer the question everyone is asking: why did Tobias Hawthorne leave his fortune to Avery Kylie Grambs? 

Sophomore music industry studies major Clare Wohlschlaeger said that author Jennifer Lynn Barnes is great at creating extreme plotlines and unpredictable twists without being too convoluted or confusing

“I loved every single second,” Wohlschlaeger said. “I was very hooked and interested, and I constantly [needed] to know [what would happen] next. The chapters are so short that I just kept flipping. I read the first [book] in one day.” 

First-year choral music education major Ava Wiggins owns “The Inheritance Games” but has not found the time to read it. When she saw the series at a bookstore, Wiggins remembered a friend who had suggested the book. She read the back cover and decided to buy it. 

“[I was intrigued] by the plot [and] how she had to play a game in order to get the inheritance,” Wiggins said. “It was a cool concept. I thought it was going to be a niche cute [young adult] book. I was most interested in what kind of games she had to play, the puzzles and clues she had to figure out.” 

However, the novel is not just about the mystery, but also about the relationships built between Avery and the Hawthorne brothers. 

First-year elementary education major Hannah Knafl applauds Barnes for her ability to build side characters with meaning and strong character development. Avery builds a unique relationship with each of the brothers, and Barnes gives each their own story. 

“I read this book in one day, because I was so into it,” Knafl said. “I could not put it down. [At some points] I felt bad for the brothers, but I really liked how they opened up to the main character and accepted her.” 

The Hawthorne Legacy” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

The second installment of “The Inheritance Games” trilogy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, titled “The Hawthorne Legacy”, is set a week after the ending of the previous book. Avery and the Hawthorne brothers continue to grapple with the endless number of Hawthorne mysteries that are built into the mansion and its surrounding estate. 

This book focuses on Toby Hawthorne: a family member who was believed to be dead. Avery and Jameson believe he is still alive. So they work together creating friendly wagers to help motivate them throughout the trickiest clues of this mystery. As Avery is trying to find Toby, prove he is alive and find out why he abandoned his family fortune, she discovers shocking facts that potentially connect her to Toby Hawthorne. Avery’s life is again threatened and the book is left off on a cliffhanger to be resolved in the third and final book of the series. 

“The Hawthorne Legacy” is the highest ranked on Goodreads. Rating the book five-stars, Wohlsclaeger agrees with the consensus that the second book is the best of the series. 

With slow burn romances and love triangles, there is more to these books than just mystery. Readers get to observe the blossoming romances between multiple characters that create dynamic relationships between every member in this book. 

“I’m not a big fan of love triangles, even though it’s just a subplot [in this series],” Wohlschlaeger said. “I think it was the most prominent [in the second book], but I was still really focused on trying to dissect each and every thing that happened to try and figure out the plot before [the characters] did.” 

Whether readers are in it for the mystery, the romance or just the fun, the adrenaline and plot twists will keep readers reading until the early hours of the morning. 

The Final Gambit” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Almost a year passes from the end of book two, and “The Final Gambit” starts when Avery has almost reached the end of her year in the Hawthorne house and her 18th birthday. Avery’s sole mission is to survive the next few weeks; however, other mysteries distract her from that goal. 

One day, a girl named Eve shows up at Hawthorne mansion claiming to have information about Toby, a character whose life is still a question mark in the Hawthorne legacy. Some returning characters are instantly trusting of Eve, while others are suspicious of her intentions. Avery and the boys have to decide whether or not to trust her which creates tension amongst the group. 

Avery receives threatening notes — again — and the brothers do everything in their power to protect her. However, someone else’s life is put in danger, and it is up to Avery to be the knight in shining armor this time. The end of the book comes full circle, and Avery finally gets some answers about her life and why she has been chosen as the Hawthorne heir. 

Despite having over 81,000 five-star ratings on Goodreads, this highly-ranked book is still the lowest rated in the trilogy. 

“Everyone came together [as a team],” Wohlschlaeger said. “At the beginning, you could tell there’s a lot of tension between characters. [In the end] they [were] finally able to work together and figure everything out. I think that was really important.” 

Coming soon 

In the end, Barnes’ series became popular enough to inspire a TV adaptation. There is not a lot of information currently available regarding cast, trailers or a predicted release date. However, fans of the series awaiting the TV show can be held over by Barnes’ new book “The Brothers Hawthorne”, published Aug 29. 

Barnes’ newest novel takes place in the same world and involves the same characters as the series. However, the book technically is not a part of the original trilogy, but a standalone novel following the events of the series. The book is also not written from Avery’s perspective but from Grayson and Jameson’s perspectives. 

Readers interested in this series can find “The Brothers Hawthorne” available at major bookstores and online. 


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