Sunday, March 18, 2012
(Un)Common Enemies: Legend
Putnam Juvenile, 2011
The Republic of America is a nation that demands order and excellence. The western portion of what was once known as the United States, it is also at war with its neighbors, the Colonies. On the one hand we have June, a girl born to a good family. She has a loving brother who has cared for her ever since their parents' tragic death, she's a military prodigy, and she's being molded by the nation's elite. On the other hand we have another 15 year old, Day, the country's most wanted criminal. Born into one of the poorest neighborhoods, he has no qualms with stealing from the people who have ruined his life. When June's beloved brother is killed, Day is the prime suspect, but as she investigates the death, June starts to uncover dangerous secrets about her beloved Republic and that there's more to Day than anyone could have realized. In turn, Day is dealing with a crisis of his own and is shocked that he's drawn to the Republic's favorite daughter and that she could be the one to help him. These two may actually have a common enemy who would prefer that they destroy each other.
I knew very little about this book before I bought it when the Breathless Reads Tour came to Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois a few weeks ago. I'd seen it getting good reviews from other bloggers and a variety of other sources and that it was being recommended to fans of The Hunger Games, so I decided to give it a shot. Readers are in for an entertaining and fairly intricate ride with Lu's debut novel that sets the bar high.
Alongside the fact that I found the premise to be promising, I loved flipping through the pages of the book and seeing right away that the story is told using dual narrators: Day's chapters are printed in gold ink, June's in black. I personally love authors who can successfully use this in their story telling - it's very easy for the tale to feel redundant if not done well, but Lu masterfully utilizes June's and Day's voices, weaving together a full and rich picture of the events unfolding in their lives. Each of them have a distinct voice and perspective. I felt tugged back and forth as they each told their side of the story and was empathetic to both of their situations and the question of why they do what they do.
It is also evident to me that Lu has spent quite a lot of time thinking about the world she has constructed, providing interesting details about everything from funeral dress to the repercussions of what happens when all ten year olds in the country take their Trials, a test that will determine a person's role for the rest of their lives. I had no problems visualizing Lu's Los Angeles - she has a gift for imagery.
My only criticism of the story is while the world building was excellent, I felt lost in terms of backstory and geography. Day and June both discuss that the Republic is at war with the Colonies, but I was unclear as to where exactly the dividing line was, especially since other states are mentioned and I didn't know what side they were on. And were the mentioned Patriots simply people from the Colonies or just anyone who disliked the Republic's practices? I also was a bit unclear as to why they were fighting. Perhaps this is common knowledge to the characters or it will be revealed in a future novel, but knowing even some of the ideological differences between the Republic and the Colonies would have been helpful to me (for example, like the way the major differences between the five factions are made known in Veronica Roth's Divergent).
These were minor things in the grand scheme of things, however, and they will not deter me from continuing to read this series. In fact, it makes me want to read more.
So if you like dystopian fiction, cunning and bold characters, and learning the dark secrets of evil governments, I highly encourage you to pick up Legend. You will not be disappointed, and I can personally vouch for the fact that Marie Lu is awesome - she's a great speaker and really nice, too, signing my book in gold Sharpie and happily posing for a picture.
Comments welcome and as always, happy reading!
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