All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Legend – Marie Lu

on December 23, 2011

June is a jewel of the Republic. She scored a perfect 1500 on her Test, enabling her the best university education the Republic can provide and then an accelerated passage into their armed services that work hard to protect the Republic from the Colonies. She is from a wealthy, privileged background in what was once the west coast of a country known as America. Now divided up into districts, some gifted with everything, others little more than slums, June, 15 and with a rebellious streak, still believes in the truth and superiority of the Republic and she is ready to serve.

Day is from the other side of the tracks, so to speak. Also 15, he didn’t pass the Test set out and therefore didn’t qualify for any further education or decent working opportunities. Day doesn’t believe in accepting the fate that the Republic has dealt him though and instead he remains one of their most wanted citizens. They don’t really know what he looks like, but approximations of his face fill the public billboards listing his various crimes. He’s a criminal they desire to bring to justice as he undermines their various efforts in the war against the Colonies. Day has grown up at the other end of the spectrum and he doesn’t have June’s unwavering trust and devotion to the Republic. Far from it.

These two polar opposites’ world’s collide when June’s brother is murdered during one of Day’s daring raids and Day is the chief suspect. June is graduated early from her college degree to take up active duty and go undercover in the poor areas to try and draw Day out. She wants revenge for her brother’s death and when she meets Day and he helps her out of a bad situation, despite that hunger for justice, she can’t help wonder if this boy is really capable of murder. After all, in all his previous crimes, he hasn’t killed anyone. They’ve been crimes against the authorities and crimes against the wars themselves. He doesn’t murder people in cold blood.

The more time June spends with Day, in his world, the shakier her beliefs become. She isn’t sure who she can trust anymore, especially when it looks like there might be a lot more to her brother’s murder than those in charge are telling her. June thinks that even through apprehending Day and bringing him in, she can still do things her way and that no one will get hurt.

June is about to learn some hard lessons.

I went to an event for PenguinAU teen imprint Between The Lines a couple of Sundays ago which was around the time that Legend was released. To help drum up a bit of interest, there was a live video chat conducted with the author, Marie Lu where she talked a little bit about where the ideas behind Legend came from, her writing processes, etc and also a few tiny sneak peaks about what to expect in the as-yet-untitled sequel, due out towards the end of 2012. I hadn’t yet read Legend although it was on its way to the local branch of my library for me. I picked it up a couple of days after the event and read it almost right away.

The movie rights have been sold and it’s been heavily hyped towards fans of The Hunger Games etc but I went into it with an open mind because it isn’t the first time something has been hyped as the next The Hunger Games and I’ve come out the other side thinking that it’s nothing like The Hunger Games!

Legend starts off slowly, as we are introduced June and Day and are given a glorious contrast on just how different their lives have been growing up. June is cosseted, wealthy, privileged with a fantastic education thanks to her perfect score of 1500 on her aptitude test. She’s a little rebellious, pulling pranks, bucking the system just enough so that she won’t be punished too severely. Her parents were killed in an accident so it’s just her and her older brother Metias and the two are very close. In contrast Day grew up very poor, in a very poor part of town where plague runs rampant and where the citizens don’t receive the vaccinations that those in the wealthy areas do. He has two brothers, one older and one younger, but his mother believes that he is dead, Day’s rationale being that if she doesn’t know anything, she cannot say anything. These two could not have had different lives.

Halfway through the novel, there is an event that is like a punch to the face and from then on there is action, intrigue, romance, everything. The pace totally changes as June starts to come to startling realisations that things are not what they seem and Day starts to come to some realisations that time may be running out for him. From there it becomes more than just another story where two teens from different backgrounds meet somehow and fall in love.

It was a very nice surprise to see the dystopian element was strong in Legend. The citizens of the Republic are strictly controlled, with those in charge monitoring everything and deciding their futures based on these so called aptitude tests (with scores for some being fiddled…). They also control health issues in a way that is truly chilling and although there is civil unrest in the poorer areas, many of them are like June – steadfast in their belief and trust in the Republic and its leader (sworn in during the book for his nineteenth term or something equally remarkable!) and ready to serve. There’s an unseen enemy in the Colonies, other locations in what was America which June believes to be ruthlessly attacking the Republic for no good reason.

As Legend is a first novel in (I think) a trilogy, there’s a leisurely pace the beginning of it as Lu takes her time to set up her story and her characters. Once that is done, the story line really shifts into high gear and I expect that the next installment will be as action packed as the latter half of Legend. Lu has created a truly interesting world as her setting and you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to place yourself within it. The action in this one is very localised but Lu did say in the video chat that in the next installment we will be seeing/hearing more from the rest of the world (she dropped this piece of information when someone asked her if, due to the polar ice caps melting in the world of Legend, Australia still existed at all. It does apparently, split into East Australia and West Australia). I’m interested in finding out more about the world in the next installment because June is no longer the little darling of the Republic by the end and she won’t be programmed to basically spit out their propaganda. There’s also a very intriguing secondary plot involving the government and its interest in Day’s younger brother, which was left dangling at the end of Legend so I definitely want to see where Lu goes with that one.

Legend isn’t perfect – there are a few issues with distinguishing between the voices and sometimes if it weren’t for the different fonts, it would be difficult to know if we were in June’s head or Day’s. But it is honestly one of the more promising dystopias I have read this year (and it feels like I have read a lot, dystopia is the new black). I also like that it wasn’t too long – and we didn’t get bogged down in unnecessarily angsty moments between June and Day and their torture over their feelings for one another. Day is refreshingly non-broody and June has got some skills. She’s not hanging around waiting for her man to take care of her, and I think that they can compliment each other well.

The sequel of this one might be one of my most anticipated books of 2012.


Book #196 of 2011


One response to “Legend – Marie Lu

  1. Marg says:

    This book is sitting on the hold shelf at the library waiting to be picked up.

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