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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
The Victorian age collides with the future in L.S. Kilroy’s dystopian adventure, The Vitruvian Heir. After a series of natural disasters, the monarchist dictatorial rule of the Vitruvian nation replaces the former United States. A new society is formed, returning to the “period of gentility and refinement” of the Victorian age. As a result, women have no rights; they remain hidden in the shadows of men. Lorelei, Fallon, and Gideon grow up in this reformed world. As Lorelei and Gideon’s prearranged marriage draws near, their triune childhood friendship is at risk. Lore desires so many forbidden things, and one of them is Fallon. She believes her marriage will be her “personal death.” Lore dreams of being a writer, but women are not allowed to become authors. When Lore’s grandmother dies, Lore inherits her grandmother's music box. After opening the box, Lore's eyes are opened to the “true history” of the world. A world she longs for, a world worth fighting for, and no longer will she be a pawn in the Vitruvian Regime.
The Vitruvian Heir portrays a futuristic world overtaken by Victorian rule. Maintaining the essence of a dystopian novel, Kilroy pens a plot setting in a male-dominated world, masquerading as perfect society. The narrative depicts government and technological control, and the loss of individuality. The ruling class rules, controlling the lives of the characters! Ironically, history is altered and erased to allow them to live in a seemingly idyllic historical time period. Although the characters are smart and inquisitive, independent thought is not permitted. Flaunting his power, the evil Bishop demands to be obeyed or face a public humiliation or death. “The Seat” seems to always be watching, knowing the characters' every move. As a lover of both old and new literature, I found hints of Emily Bronte, Jane Austen and Victoria Roth’s writings hidden within the plot. The story has a strong female protagonist. She is intelligent, caring and brave, willing to fight for the rights of others. Her desire to be a writer is prohibited by society, but as her character develops, she hears and records the stories of the other female characters.
The stories within the story create a major turning point in the novel as the reader is given background information needed to propel and enlighten the plot. Kilroy uses the flashback technique often; memories invade the present in the most precarious moments. The descriptions are imaginative, there many exquisitely penned lines. One of my favorites: “eerie stillness like time had stopped and life was sucked from the air.” The narrative contains love and betrayal, secrets, trysts, malevolent twists and shocking surprises until the very end. The Vitruvian Heir is a one-of-kind story. I have never read anything quite like it.