My number finally came up for my library’s copy of The One by Kiera Cass and after finishing it I had to laugh at the timing having just finished Sophie Perinot’s Médicis Daughter (though you’d probably have to both to understand why). There were definitely some surprises in this third installment of Cass’ Selection Series—I’ve already put my name in for the The Heir—surprises that were an improvement on some of the disappointments in The Elite but there are still areas I think could have been stronger.
Having made up her mind to fight for Maxon, America must navigate the more treacherous Selections tasks that King Clarkson puts before her. Still doubtful about both whether she wants the responsibilities that would come with being a princess and where she ranks in Maxon’s affections, America also learns more about the larger political situation the palace and her country are embroiled in—the differences between the northern and southern rebels and what their goals are. She must also confront telling Maxon the truth about her history with Aspen.
The internalized back and forth America succumbs to in the early pages of The One were a little too much like The Elite. Quite frankly, I don’t think it was necessary for them to be two separate novels—the events from both could have been trimmed and condensed enough to make one book a bit longer but stronger and tighter overall. There was more world building in The One—most of which should have been in The Elite but the new characters that came with the world building were engaging and a welcome addition. The events of the final few chapters were well executed and pulled all the right emotional strings but a lot of the lead-up felt unnecessarily stretched.
One of the bigger twists in The One was the redemptive arc for Celeste. I certainly liked her better in this installment but I’m not sure there was enough depth to her redemption—getting an explanation for her terrible behavior earlier doesn’t excuse it and the reactions from the different characters as she makes her apologies aren’t entirely realistic. Given later events in the book, I understand why we were given a better look at Celeste’s character but I feel it’s too little too late for the impact to be what it could have been with a different character—I’m all for redemption arcs but this one just felt forced because it came so late (if it had started in the last book, maybe).
One of the biggest disappointments for me was the world building—or rather, the lack thereof. We finally get a bigger glimpse at the world in which Illéa resides but it isn’t very specific or detailed. There’s a bit of insight into the differences between the northern and southern rebels and we get the origins—sort of—for the northern rebels but not much about those from the south. Some of this might be due to the limitations of using a first person narrator in America—one of the reasons I am so sick of first person narrators, especially in Young Adult fiction. And while the events of the novel’s—and first three books of the series’—climax are exciting and well written, there’s almost nothing concerning the fallout from those events.
I am still eager to read The Heir but knowing there’s a significant time jump and that there’ll necessarily be a tremendous shift to new characters as well, I’m dubious about how much I’ll enjoy it. The answers I still have regarding the politics of Illéa in the first books will likely remain unanswered as the situation should have shifted enough for those details to no longer be relevant, so once more I fear it will be too little too late. While this series had a surprisingly long start, I think there was too much filler and not enough substance overall for the series to have a lasting impact—at least not with me.