Legend -- Marie Lu
Book 1 of Legend
2011 Release -- Putnum Juvenile
Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
I had been swaying back and forth between a 4 Star rating and a 3.5 Star rating--which, now that I think about it, is a fairly stupid battle. Because I can’t deny the fact that Legend was definitely an exciting page-turner and that I definitely, really, really enjoyed it a whole lot. It’s not a perfect book, of course, but if you can look past a few things that I wished Legend could have covered in more detail (world-building, world history, political aspirations), then I might have bumped the rating up a little higher.
Which is strange considering those types of info-dumps are usually what breaks a book for me. But in this case, Legend started off slightly slow and I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out the history and politics of this futuristic Republic nation that used to be the far western half of the United States. And it took me some time to determine that the Republic was a nation, all on its own, rather than just an isolated region of the United States in a futuristic dystopian society.
On top of that, the Republic is at war with the Colonies, whose origin I’m still a bit sketchy about (though I think we’ll learn more about in the next book). Then there are the Patriots whom I assume are a secret rebel group who are not so secret. I’m not quite sure I know what their origin is either. And in the end, I don’t know who’s fighting for what and why everyone’s at war, though we DO know that the entirety of the former United States lands is now a big dystopian mess.
As the Official Blurb Goes:
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.
Aside from the world-building being a little fuzzy, one of other few quibbles that disappointed me about Legend was the “ultimate game of cat and mouse” plot device between Day and June. The actual happening in the story just didn’t seem as intense and suspenseful as I would have liked for it to be.
If anyone has ever seen the Hong Kong movie Running Out of Time , THAT is definitely a classic “Ultimate Game of Cat and Mouse”.
But I digress…
I was looking forward to this, even without reading the summary blurb, when it first came up in the story itself. Without knowing who he is, June must hunt down Day and bring him to justice for her brother’s death. Without knowing that he’s being hunted, Day must continue on and find a way to save his youngest brother from the plague. I mean, there was all sorts of potential for this kind of plot device to spiral in in an anxious mess of suspense, excitement, angst, and FEELS.
The game of wits that June plays while hunting down Day is clever, but it felt under-utilized. There was little suspense, and while the two realistically remained wary of one another and were able to maintain their anonymity even as they traveled together, and while both are show-cased as highly intelligent and able… the so called “cat and mouse” game actually came off a little flat.
I would have liked to see more of that particular plot device used to build the tension and the suspense for Legend. The time that June and Day spend together, traveling and keeping secrets from each other, getting to know each other, just felt too short to feel too significant.
Instead, we simply fall back on typical clichéd dystopian building blocks.
Because the moment that June’s brother, Metias was killed--which was a surprisingly emotional vat of FEELS for me that I hadn’t expected, and which also dragged on those vat of FEELS for a good long burn for a huge chunk of the book--I already knew how the rest of the story would go down. What was left was seeing how June and Day would meet and join forces to bring down our currently corrupted, secretly evil government that everyone’s been worshipping for the past few hundred(?) years.
The whole “cat and mouse” game just felt moot, in that sense--in contrast, the amount of time that June spends in the slums by herself (though short) seemed like it was more significant in showing June the flip-side of her beloved nation and propelling her personal character development--although, that part of the book could have been expanded a little bit more as well.
These particular anecdotes were like teasers of something that could have been much more exciting.
A few other twists included at the turning point of this story were actually good twists, even if they weren’t the gasp-worthy types of surprising.
What worked for Legend, I think, was the smooth progression of the storyline that was constantly forward-moving, the little side plot devices that had immense potential if they’d been expanded upon (June’s days in the slums, the “cat and mouse” game, Metias’s discoveries about the Republic and how June puzzles them out, etc…), and the characters of Day and June--these two were definitely fleshed out and created to be as likable and relatable as possible.
However, I can’t say the same for the rest of the characters. I loved Tess and I even loved the deceased Metias even if he barely had any scenes. But side characters and even our main “villains” seemed slightly one-dimensional and I hope that the following books will give them a little more depth.
June was a conflict for me: I wasn’t sure whether to like her for being so capable and strong and intelligent, or to be frustrated with her for being so slow on the uptake when she was supposed to be such an intelligent and capable person. I couldn’t help but to think that either she remained in a state of denial about her beloved Republic for much too long, or she just wasn’t as smart as she was supposed to be, piecing together all those loose ends and strange pieces of the puzzle that pointed at the Republic being a pretty evil nation.
I mean, for crying out loud, her Commanding Officer brutally executed innocent people just for protesting. I would think your faith would be shaken a bit more than simply to a state of confusion and you’d start questioning what you believed in more vehemently.
Then again, the people were taught to believe that the Republic did everything for the greater good and everyone else were the bad guys.
Final Thoughts: Legend is a page turner. And despite all the faults and flaws I found myself nit-picking about, and despite the fact that neither June nor Day really stood out as outstanding characters, for some reason, I just really, really, really, wholeheartedly liked reading this book. It was entertaining, enjoyable, exciting, and I just can’t seem to find a reason why I shouldn’t really like this book, even though I’ve already pointed out a lot of little things that struck me as irksome.
I’m strange like that, I suppose. I guess when you like something, you just like something. Legend had a sort of charm to it; an atmosphere of an epic dystopian adventure that could live up to its titular grandness given the right amount of hype, and maybe a few tweakings to the storyline and the world-building.
And I’m of the absolute certainty that Marie Lu is an excellent storyteller.
This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):