Author: Marie Lu
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (US) / Puffin (UK)
Publication Date: November 2011 (US) / February 2012 (UK)
Hardcover: 305 pages
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.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in the Legend series
How did I get this book: ARC from BEA
Why did I read this book: This is another highly talked about book of the year, receiving a good amount of buzz at BEA, NY Comic Con, and across the interwebs. Being the sucker for dystopias that I am, naturally, I was thrilled to read this book and see if it could live up to the noise. Plus, I still consider LA my home and have a sick fascination for dystopian/apocalyptic novels set in California. Take that how you will!
The places is Los Angeles, the Republic of America; the year 2130. Following societal and economic cataclysm, the western territories of the former United States of America have seceded and formed the new Republic, while other states to the unite under as the Confederation. While tensions are high and a new kind of civil war is being fought from coast to coast, the immensely powerful Republic also grapples with maintaining its grip on its citizens at home. The divide between rich and poor has never been so large, as millions are crowded into slums and suffer routine outbreaks of a devastating, ever-mutating plague that claims countless lives annually.
In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, the Republic requires all of its children to be subject to the Trials when they turn 10 years old. A combination written, oral and physical examination, a high Trial score means a life of privilege and service – and a failing grade means a life sentenced to labor camps, never to be seen by family or friends again. When he was ten, a young boy failed his Trial and was taken not to the camps to work, but to be exterminated – and only through chance was he able to survive. Now, the boy (under the name “Day”) strikes out at the Republic in any way he can, bombing their buildings, stealing plague medicines, and the like – and has quickly become the number one enemy of the state.
While Day wreaks havoc on the Republic, one girl alone has the ability and determination to stop him. June is the only person to ever pass the Trials with a perfect score, and since that triumphant day she has excelled in all of her classes and garnered the attention of top military commanders. After her brother is killed at the hands of Day, June relentlessly dives into her first official mission: to track down Day and bring him to grim justice. But when their paths intertwine, both Day and June learn that nothing – least of all each other – is as simple as it seems. Together, June and Day learn the secrets that the Republic wants no one to know. Together, June and Day will have to choose sides if they have any hope of surviving and saving the people they love.
The much-hyped debut novel from Marie Lu, Legend is an adrenaline-fueled, action-packed, fun novel. I devoured the book in a single sitting and thoroughly enjoyed myself – much in the way that I enjoy and devour films like Con Air. There’s nothing really new here: at center stage, we’ve got the brilliant super genius protagonists, who of course are super hot, who of course fall for each other despite their fifteeen-years of accumulated baggage. Told in alternating point-of-view chapters (with some questionable design elements incorporated into at least the ARC version of the text), the novel chronicles the great evilness of the Republic and all that our brilliant protagonists will do to fight against The Man.1 The plot twists are all fairly transparent from the onset (the origins of the Plague, the ignorance of June and other upper classes, the truth behind June’s brother’s death, for example), and the worldbuilding is eminently familiar. There are echoes of Lois Lowry’s dystopian society of The Giver, of Scott Westerfeld’s bubblegum action in the Uglies quartet, and of the action and basic characterization profile of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Our protagonists may be caricatures, defined by their safely bland appeal, and appear to have unshakably noble values at heart, juxtaposed against the villains of the piece, who are the properly villainous, emotionally distanced monsters.
While the material might not be the most novel, the good news is that Marie Lu has a smooth-handed writing style and a knack for pacing that makes Legend a fantastic, effortless read. The cues are undeniably cinematic in scope, making the film deal for this book is a no-brainer – I can already see the pretty teenage actors walking away from exploding Republic installments with their expertly mussed hair rippling in the wind.
Unfortunately, in the running for best popcorn dystopian of the year, Legend falls second to Veronica Roth’s souped up Divergent. Of course, there’s always room in my heart for more summer blockbuster style action, so I’ll definitely be back for more June and Day.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
My mother thinks I ’m dead.
Obviously I’m not dead, but it’s safer for her to think so.
At least twice a month, I see my Wanted poster flashed on the JumboTrons scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles.It looks out of place up there. Most of the pictures on the screens are of happy things: smiling children standing under a bright blue sky, tourists posing before the Golden Gate Ruins, Republic commercials in neon colors. There’s also anti-Colonies propaganda. “The Colonies want our land,” the ads declare. “They want what they don’t have. Don’t let them conquer your homes! Support the cause!”
Then there’s my criminal report. It lights up the JumboTrons in all its multicolored glory:
WANTED BY THE REPUBLIC
File No: 462178-3233 “DAY”
Wanted for Assault, Arson, Theft, Destruction of Military Property, and Hindering the War Effort 200,000 Republic Notes For Information Leading to Arrest
They always have a different photo running alongside the report. One time it was a boy with glasses and a head full of thick copper curls. Another time it was a boy with black eyes and no hair at all. Sometimes I’m black, sometimes white, sometimes olive or brown or yellow or red or whatever else they can think of.
In other words, the Republic has no idea what I look like. They don’t seem to know much of anything about me, except that I’m young and that when they run my fingerprints they don’t find a match in their databases. That’s why they hate me, why I’m not the most dangerous criminal in the country, but the most wanted. I make them look bad.
You can download the full excerpt online HERE.
Rating: 6 – Good
Reading Next: Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Buy the Book:
- Seriously, what is with the mustard yellow text for Day’s narrative (paired with the huge shadow display font at the top of each alternating narrative)? Not a fan. ↩