The Final Gambit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (book review)
Updated: Mar 18, 2023
GENRE: YA Mystery
LENGTH: 368 pages
Avery Grambs is on the brink of inheriting billions when Eve, the biological daughter of her adoptive father Toby, shows up at her door claiming he’s been kidnapped. Avery, the Hawthorne brothers, and Eve must play one last potentially deadly game. This is the conclusion to The Inheritance Games trilogy.
Since this is the conclusion to a trilogy I am not going to delve into describing all the characters we have met before in the previous two books. Instead, I’ll focus on the couple ‘new’ characters we have and mention anything pertinent about the ones we are already well acquainted with from previous novels. Other than that all I’ll say is that I still really love Avery and Jameson and how they challenge each other and I still adore Xander (perhaps even more so in this novel than the first two). Avery by herself is also still a strong protagonist. She’s incredibly loving and thoughtful but also wickedly intelligent.
While being deceased prior to the events of the series, Tobias Hawthorne has always been an influence in the books both in how he raised the Hawthorne brothers and in being the one to name Avery his sole heir. Prior to this novel the main things we really understand about him were that he loved creating games and expected perfection from his grandsons. This novel gives more glimpses into his life and further explores his character. The implications of the discoveries impact the action of all the main players including Avery and the Hawthorne brothers. Despite being dead he’s probably the most fascinating character in this entire series.
Our primary new character is one mentioned at the end of the second novel: Eve. She is Toby’s biological daughter and I found her character to be the most poorly written part of the entire series. She’s bristly and unlikable from the moment she appears at the gates of Hawthorne House. I won’t spoil it, but her arc is so easy to see from a mile away. Let’s just say she’s not exactly cut out to be an actress.
The love triangle between Avery, Jameson, and Grayson was seemingly ended in the second book when Avery chose Jameson. I was disappointed therefore when there was still that weird romantic tension present between Avery and Grayson. It was really unnecessary when there was already so much else to focus on.
This novel was an emotional roller coaster with lots of scenes of true vulnerability. In particular Jameson, Grayson, and Xander have reckonings with themselves, Avery, and their grandfather. It’s sad to see characters you’ve come to know so well in pain. Yet I appreciate seeing them breakdown on page because it goes directly against our society’s harmful ideals of men having to be strong and never cry. There’s no toxic masculinity to be found among the Hawthorne brothers.
The novel is told from the first person perspective of Avery. Just like the first two it is told in short chapters with even shorter segments. Each segment ends in a prompt or cliffhanger. Essentially, Barnes cut out all the fat to make the story a fast and thrilling read. Also just like the prior two books this one is full of games, riddles, and puzzles for the characters to solve. This time the games are set both by the late Tobias and Avery's mysterious adversary. This reminded me of copycat killers as he was mimicking the Hawthorne style to taunt Avery. Tonally this is the darkest book with the highest stakes and the biggest villain which feels fitting for a finale.
The series starts with Avery playing chess in the park with the man who turns out to be Toby and so it feels appropriate that, in a way, it ends with the game. I was super satisfied with the ending and how everyone’s stories were wrapped up. Obviously not everyone will be pleased with it because it is quite bittersweet. I also know some people get very invested in love triangles and may disagree with Avery’s romantic decisions. However, I really can’t imagine a more perfect plot for a finale.
This series has had its up and downs for sure. This is my second favorite in the trilogy with the first unsurprisingly being my favorite and the middle book being my least. This series is perfect for someone who likes solving puzzles and playing scavenger hunts. The books are quick, engaging reads. They’re over the top but fun. I understand there is a companion book coming out. I probably won't be picking it up, not because I don't like these books, but because when I find a fulfilling ending I don't want to risk having that altered.