Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu
Legend, I have to admit, let me down. I’ve been waiting to read it since I first heard about Marie Lu’s dystopian months ago and while it’s definitely a page turner, it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be. I’ve heard there’s already a film in the works and I can see why. Legend feels, and reads, like an action movie. Lots of fight scenes, your basic dystopian plot, but lacking that certain something that makes it really great.
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.
That’s not to say this is a bad book. Legend is entertaining and well-written, a fast read, with plenty of action to keep the story progressing nicely, but there’s also nothing that makes it stand out. It doesn’t help that Legend is a little too vague on the details. At 300 pages Legend feels slight and while Lu hints at government conspiracies, and possible scientific experiments, the reader isn’t given much to go on. Why has the US been split into the Republic and the Colonies? Why are they at war with each other? What are they fighting for? Who exactly are the Patriots and what are their goals? Legend needed more background and groundwork. It doesn’t read like bad world building, more that a lot of information is being held back for the next installment, when the first book could have done with being fleshed out more.
June and Day are likable characters but are also pretty forgettable. Both are child prodigies, which I did roll my eyes at. Their exploits bordered on the ridiculous at times, Day’s in particular. Bring able to scale walls, outwit and take out highly trained soldier after soldier, robbing banks in record time, with a damaged knee? Promoted early into the military and entrusted to independently bring in the most wanted criminal in the Republic, despite being a trouble maker with a known disregard for the rules? It was a bit over the top. Unsurprising, neither June or Day sounded 15. If the story hadn’t mentioned their age, I would have put them at least 3 years older. I didn’t feel I was reading about two kids, one fighting for their own and their families survival, the other struggling to earn her place alongside her brother in a totalitarian government. However, Lu does earn my respect and gratitude for not jumping on the ‘insta-love’ bandwagon. I actually felt the romance between June and Day was only there because it was expected, I didn’t see much of a connection or bond between the two of them, but since any attraction was kept very low key and never overshadowed the main focus of the story, the lack of chemistry between the two didn’t bother me as it normally would have done. I do wish their friendship had been developed further. June and Day risk themselves for one another fairly quickly, without much of a reason why.
Legend is told from two narrative view points. I preferred June’s chapters, as we see her original ignorance and disdain towards the lower classes waver as she starts to question and eventually distrust the Republic. Her character arc is one of the most interesting aspects of Legend, though I do think it would have had a bigger impact had it happened gradually over several books. Day was less interesting. His narrative consisted of pretty much the same thing throughout, no matter what was happening. I wasn’t bored while reading Day’s chapters but by the end I also didn’t feel I had much of a sense of who he was. June is definitely the stronger character of the two, but it was actually Metias who I was drawn to, who had secrets of his own and I hope we get to hear his story in the future books.
Legend lacks subtlety, is fairly predictable, nor does it explore any social issues in any real depth, but it has an energy to it and is a fun, light, fast-paced story. The characters and the background needed to be fleshed out a little more, but aside from a poor plot-line where a blog conveniently reveals everything, Legend was well put together. It was refreshing to read a YA dystopian from a guy’s point of view and I think it is one of the few really popular dystopians released this year that will appeal to both sexes. I think younger readers in particular will love it and Legend is certainly well worth a read if you are a fan of the genre, old or young.