Written by: Marie Lu
#1 / 3 in the Legend Trilogy
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Summary: What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time… and you try to walk in the light.”
Review: I picked up this book after finishing Lu’s The Young Elites (click for review), which I read entirely in one sitting – an insane rarity. I figured if I enjoyed one of her novels so much that I should try out some of her others, and most people were surprised to hear I had read The Young Elites without reading Legend, which is the book that originally put Lu on the map of YA authors to watch. Unfortunately, like any human being is wont to do, I made the mistake of reading Legend while simultaneously comparing it to The Young Elites in my mind, despite my best attempts not to. Turns out, they are not comparable. Although both written by the same author, in the same general genre, Legend seems to be for a younger crowd, both in the maturity of the plot line, the age of the characters, and the style of the writing. That all being said, it left me feeling like Lu could have enhanced the story in various manners, including more world development, elaboration of characters’ descriptors and pasts, and a less predictable plot.
Although I really do enjoy Lu’s style of writing, a lot of the story left me for want. I had a hard time imagining the new dystopian Los Angeles as any more than a basic set of slums surrounding an elite neighborhood and fortress, and I feel like it may be a little bit more complex than that. Also, it was a typical dystopian society – a leading and questionable elite surrounded and outnumbered by the impoverished, a two-sided war threatening the balance of society as it exists, and, in a small but not unforeseen twist, a mysterious and lethal plague. Not anything unusual or new, which definitely earned a disappointed sigh from me. Besides that, the characters themselves aren’t described all too well; if you told me to draw a picture of Commander Jameson, for example, I feel my picture would probably match up with Lu’s imagination by only about 30%. A lot of Lu’s writing is dialogue, which definitely keeps the plot up at a brisk pace, or describing movements or facial features, which helps support the busy dialogue, but I definitely needed to use my own perceptions of the scene a lot more than most books. Now, sometimes I enjoy doing this, because it feels intentional by the author to give the reader ambiguous descriptions and freedom to decide; but to me, it made Lu’s novel seem just a little bit lazy. The idea of a civil war between The Republic (the “bad guys”) and The Colonies (the “rebels”) is definitely interesting, and I hope to see this, and other potential subplots, developed further in later books.
Perhaps the one thing, beyond all else, that Lu manages to impress with me in this book is that you both root for the rebellious protagonist and rule-abiding (seemingly) antagonist at the same time, but in two completely different ways. Day and June both have their own tragic stories and admirable causes, even though the two of them lead almost entirely different lives and originally have different end goals. However, they were both relatively underdeveloped, in the sense that I could probably describe their characters with only three words each… and they share about 2 out of the 3 words. Additionally, I’m still not sure how June and Day’s relationship developed the way it did, as it really is just a matter of one simple conversation, a turn of a page, and everything has changed. Maybe they just click automatically. Maybe I’m reading too far into an YA book. Either way, I could have seen a lot more development between June and Day’s interactions, and I think the story would have benefitted from it. Beyond them, however, are some more interesting characters that Lu missed the opportunity to delve deeper into: Commander Jameson, June’s dictatorial supervisor; Tess, Day’s loyal companion; Kaede, the only known member of the Patriots, a group of Colony rebels; and so many more. I didn’t expect anymore than a physical description and perhaps one trait explained for each considering the lack of development in the two main characters, so I suppose the blow hurt a little less than normal, but it still left me disappointed.
Overall, Lu has created another great book, but I hope she uses its successors to delve deeper into the characters and world that she has created, as they are all intriguing. Legend is a book I would recommend more so for someone looking for an easy/fast read, or for a good YA dystopian novel for a younger aged crowd. I do look forward to reading the rest of this series, though – and soon! I have a lot of unanswered questions, and can’t wait to see where Day and June’s stories pick up in Prodigy.
If you have any really incredible YA dystopian recommendations, post them below! I’m always looking for something new to read!