Friday, January 17, 2014

The Legend Trilogy Book Review

Legend, Prodigy, and Champion by Marie Lu
Published: November 2011, January 2013, and November 2013 (respectively)
Synopsis: Set in post-apocalyptic North America where the United States has been separated into two warring counties, The Republic of America and The Colonies of America, Republic prodigy June finds herself working together with Day, the Republic's most wanted criminal, to uncover the secrets their country is keeping from its people.
When I first started reading Legend, I admittedly had a hard time getting into the story. The pacing was a little slow and I felt like I was slightly spoiled by reading the inside book flap and discovering June's brother was going to die. I also felt slightly put off by Day's use of unfamiliar slang in his narration and my initial fear that the plague was going to be another zombie virus. However, all that was soon forgotten and I found I couldn't put the series down. Thankfully, I had been given the entire box set (complete with the Life Before Legend novella) for Christmas so my marathoning needs were entirely fulfilled. And I was wrong about the zombie plague, thank god.
To start, let's talk about world building. I've found in other YA dystopian series, the world building is a little lacking and leaves a lot of questions as to how the whole dystopian apocalypse began or instead blurs over particular details instead of explaining them. That was easily not the case in the Legend trilogy. Unlike other YA authors, I feel like Marie Lu had a complete sense of the why, when, how, and where her world began. She had a complete understanding of her world and that, in turn, reflected in her writing. I also give her extra points for taking topics like GMO farming/ meat industries and global warming which are relevant for us today and incorporating them seamlessly into her world.


Marie Lu's writing got better and better with each book and the characters she created were so developed that each one was amazing in their own way. Aside from the main protagonists of the story, there were so many great supporting characters that helped bring this story to life. First, there's the older brothers, Metias and John, who essentially both sacrificed themselves for the greater cause and to save their families. I truly wish both had more time in the books. Tess and Eden are both pure innocence but each have a strength and an endurance to them that kept them going. Kaede is just a pure kick-ass character whose death broke me and I loved Pascao's combination of playful, fun, seriousness. I really liked Anden too and I'm glad that he and June got some time together in the epilogue and I hope that somewhere beyond the pages of the books he got his own happy ending as well. 
On the villainous side, Thomas was a great character. I hated him right along with June and Day though I was always suspicious of him from the beginning once June said his uniform was always perfect. He was the perfect soldier and followed all of his orders even if that meant throwing his morals out of the window. (I vaguely remember reading something about that in one of my college psych classes though I can't remember what that theory was called - something to do with the Holocaust.) I liked how he was a Republic soldier right up until his death - which I thought was very fitting for him and made sense for his character. Commander Jameson, though, I feel was not as developed as she could have been. By Prodigy and Champion, she was pegged to be June's main enemy to the point where she warned June that she could end up like her. Somehow felt that was rushed. She didn't have enough development time throughout Legend to hold such a high place on the antagonist scale. I didn't see the correlation between herself and June and therefore, didn't see how June could have such a paralyzing fear of her.
Now onto our protagonists. I have to say, I loved Day and June and I loved each of their narrations. Unlike most dual narrator novels, I think both were separate enough to have their own distinct voices. Day was clearly influenced mostly by his emotions. He did everything for the love of his family and to keep them safe. In the beginning of Legend, he ignored Tess' warnings that they should leave LA for a while in favor of just being able to be close to his family's home. Everything he did, he did because to protect the ones he loved - first his family then Tess then June then the people of the Republic. June was influenced by logic and calculations and had a very black and white way of thinking until of course she met Day and she had to learn that what's the most logical isn't always what's right. Granted, I did find it slightly annoying that she counted seconds all the time and did calculations of how many seconds per minutes per blocks it would take to get from point A to point B. However, that was completely in character for her and therefore, I ignored my annoyance and continued reading. Plus, I'm not a math person to begin with so calculations just aren't my thing. Major credit to June for doing mental math under extreme pressure because goodness knows, I couldn't do it.
There were only two things that I didn't like about Day and June. First, their relationship spawned basically from nothing. They fell in love instantly without knowing each other, practically without even knowing each other's names. I understand that there's a mutual trust and a bond that builds when two people are fighting together for the same cause but in this case, I didn't feel like there was enough of a foundation between the two of them for them to be so wholehearted in love by the time Prodigy began. However, I was willing to accept that this is a YA novel and, as such, love at first sight is always an option. Second, theirs but particularly Day's relationship to the people. I know in the beginning of Legend it was mentioned that a lot of Day's crimes against the Republic had been for the benefit of the people. However, I didn't feel like there was enough precedence in the books for the people to be protesting Day's execution with red in their hair. He was made out to be a Robin Hood-like character but I felt as if I needed to be shown more of that rather then having just been told it. (Day's novella goes into a little more depth on this but still, I would have liked to have been shown more.) Again, however, this didn't take anything away from my experience in reading and fully enjoying the books.
As for plot and story arcs, again it really showed how well the author had an understanding of her world and how everything functioned. Nothing was without purpose even if it seemed pointless at first. For example, while I was reading Prodigy I thought June getting sick right as the assassination attempt was going to happen and right when the Patriots were chasing after them was just a way to add drama into the story. June kept saying her brother always said she was particularly prone to sickness so I thought to myself, 'Well then of course she'd get sick at the worst possible moment.' By the end of Champion, I was clearly proven wrong because even her sickness had a purpose and it turned out she unknowingly was the missing piece to the cure that the lab technicians needed. 
As a whole, I really love this series and I can completely understand why the movie rights were bought to it even before Legend was published. As I was reading, everything was just so epic in my head that it was already playing out like a movie - particularly the action sequences which were very well written. And the ending! It was so bittersweet but perfect! I'm glad they found each other again and I'm glad Day kept June's ring even if he didn't know who it was from. I'd most definitely recommend this to anyone who likes dystopian YA, romance, and action.
Final side note: Thank goodness Ollie was okay! I was mad at June for leaving him behind in Legend and when she got him back, I found myself flipping ahead literally just to make sure he was okay. I know he died in the end but at least it was from old age and not from being shot or something. I'm glad no dogs (fictional or not) were harmed in the writing of this trilogy. =)

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