Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Saturday, January 11, 2014
Why I chose this book:

I work in a library, so I get to drool over a lot of books on my average work day. This particular one taunted me for quite a while before I finally picked it up. I’m not unaware of the hype for this series, so I figured it was worth a read just to find out. After all, the back cover touted that if I liked the Hunger Games I would enjoy Legend. I find that comparison ridiculously overused; generally, I feel like I’m being recommended Fifty Shades of Gray because I enjoyed Hamlet. In any case, I indulged. And I’m not sorry I did. 

Legend by Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: November 29, 2011
Format: Paperback 
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound 

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. (Goodreads)

4 things you need to know about this book:

1. Writing Style: 
She’s no Hemingway, but Marie Lu certainly favors the bare-bones style of everyone’s favorite gin-drinking, cigar-smoking writer. I adore Hemingway as much as any slightly off English major, but Lu just doesn’t string her words the same way. Instead of lean and athletic, I would have to describe Lu’s prose as sparse, maybe stingy, and a tad dry. All that said, it wasn’t all that bad. The characters themselves were engaging enough that I hardly minded the writing, which had its moments. The speedy plot and the tension between the characters made me forget any issue I took with style.

2. Characters: 
Legend’s dual narration is a definite plus when it comes creating a fast-paced plot and individual character development. The protagonists, June and Day, alternate first person point of views, meaning each character develops separately—without the filter of a narrator and with the addition of vastly different perspectives. Day, the street brat with a heart of gold, sees the Republic for the dismal and unjust place that it is. June, however, grew up coddled in the lap of the Republic’s wealthiest, and she sees only the greater good. If that weren’t enough, the both of them are prodigies, super intelligent, detail oriented, agile masterminds. The back and forth, detective and fugitive, Sherlock vs Sherlock, makes up for any lackluster prose. June and Day are both intensely interesting, and their battle of the wits is quite engrossing. My only complaint: Aside from obvious chapter headings, Lu made little distinction between June and Day’s voices. Her sparse writing made sense with June’s militaristic mind, but Day’s narration had a nearly identical tone. Still, I embraced both characters, and rooted for them all the way to the end.

3. Dystopian Setting: 
Lu’s dystopia is rather typical: military oppression, dictatorship, cruelty, unquestioning citizens. This is not a happy and fuzzy, everyone’s alright dystopia, but one where civilians are shot on sight, and no one ever heard of non-violent riot solutions. It’s not for the faint of heart, but Lu’s writing is skimpy on the gory details. This is the one place where Lu’s lack of words works extremely well. The violence is a stated, simple fact, almost nonchalant. It shows how accustomed both characters are to a life with aggressive and oppressive military rule.

4. Love and Such: 
The class difference between June and Day creates an interesting dynamic between the two characters and infuses their love story with a star-crossed lovers feel. However, it was predictable. I know, I shouldn’t have expected anything else from the characters, but I would’ve liked to see a little more hesitance when it comes to loving the enemy. Still, I was pleased with the absence of sappy writing and separation anxiety when the two found themselves on opposite sides. It’s this more than anything that makes June such a lovable heroine. I wouldn’t like her half as much as I did if she weren’t capable of living without Day. In fact, she’s entirely capable of living without anyone at all. June is a strong young woman living in a man’s world, and I admire her for her resolve, cunning, and command of her own emotions. She’s never unfeeling, but she always has perspective in mourning and in love. Day, of course, is the affable, lovable ruffian with strong morals and a gorgeous face. I may have expected them to fall in love, but I never regretted it.

Final Thoughts:
In the end, the best judge of a book is whether I would pick up the sequel. In this case, the answer is an unflinching yes. Even in the predictable moments, I was rapt, caught up in the unfolding of the plot. The writing was not spectacular, but it got the job done, and the plot moved quickly enough that I didn’t mourn the lackluster prose. The ending tied up the main plot but left a lot of loose threads that will certainly drag me into the rest of the series. 

I gave this book 3 stars on my Goodreads.

Guest Reviewer: 
Jamie earned her degree in English and writing from a small University in Nowhere, Texas. When she's not staring out of windows or admiring skinny boys in suits, you can bet she's holed up somewhere inhaling coffee and writing furiously. 
Her Goodreads account.

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