Thursday, 5 January 2012

review: Legend

by Marie Lu
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, November 29, 2011
young adult dystopian

June Iparis is fifteen years old, a military marvel and dedicated to helping her country, the Republic, defeat its neighbouring enemy, the Colonies. Day is fifteen years old, the country’s most wanted criminal and committed to keeping his family from the Republic’s clutches. When June’s brother Metias is murdered and Day becomes the primary suspect, their lives twine irrevocably; as Day’s execution date draws near, June’s struggles to find the reason behind Metias’s murder leads them to treacherous conspiracies… conspiracies that the Republic would kill to keep secret.
The cover:

Ehh. The symbol is good and all, but what does it represent? As well, the bevel/emboss Photoshop effect, which is already used far too often, is applied to everything on this cover, ironically making it look flat; the 3D effect is only achieved when there’s variation to the depth of objects, and applying bevel/emboss to everything does not give you variation. Also—silver and gold, only? Can we say duochromatic?

The book:

The fact that this novel is written in two perspectives would’ve been enough to render Legend distinct from other dystopians. As it is, Marie Lu wields both Day’s and June’s voices remarkably well, giving the reader a fabulous view of both sides of the story. This comes as an immense relief after dystopians like Wither and The Hunger Games, where the leading lady seemed to have all the characterization and all the issues, too.

Day is instantly likeable, what with his concern for his family, and the touch of the average teenage boy’s playboy side ensures he stays realistic. The time spent on flashbacks to his family also provide a solid look at what low-income living looks like in Lu’s world. It’s difficult to imagine Day is truly capable of all the previous crimes he’s noted for, considering we don’t get to see much action from him, though it may be due to June’s bad-ass-ness. With June, it’s her unruly side peeking through occasionally that wins us to her side (side note: can you believe the jacket copy called her “obedient”?!), as well as her open-minded view towards Day; there’s no stupid, infuriating misunderstanding that’s the only thing standing in the way here. Their interactions, going from a rough yet sweet start to a confusion that slowly sorts itself out, are a pleasure to read.

Of the secondary characters, Metias and Tess, who support June and Day respectively, play essential roles in that they help bring out both the protagonists’ vulnerable sides. The loving, if skewed with fear, relationship between June and Metias helps us to see June as more than a headstrong girl looking for the answers. Meanwhile, Tess shines more as herself than Metias does, rather than a supporting character; with her own small but unique skills, she promises to play an important role in future books.

Where Legend shines is its pacing. The action never feels repetitive, thanks to the various settings throughout the book; a Skiv fight sets us into the heart of poor, rural community while the code cracking in June’s apartment offers edge-of-your-seat high-tech suspense. However, predictability rises at the end with the mandatory gory gotta-get-away battle and the whole running away from the government scene to finish off. Please, no more running away from the government scenes. Please.

Oh, and there’s the romance. But really, since romance shouldn’t be a requisite in YA fiction (look at Plain Kate by Erin Bow), I’ll stick with saying this is a novel that’ll win you over with its protagonists and high-stakes action.

Rating: 4.3 out of 5