Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

1 Dec

Click on the book cover for this title's Goodreads page!

Title: Legend

Author: Marie Lu

Series: Legend, book 1

Genre: Dystopian YA

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Published: November 29, 2011

Summary: 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.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

*Sigh* You guys, LEGEND is one of the most enjoyable, unputdownable books I’ve read all year. If I had known how much I would love it when I grabbed a copy at BEA this year, I might have stopped right on the floor of the Javits Center to read. It’s that good.

LEGEND is the fast-paced, gripping, and adrenaline-fueled story of June, the genius daughter of a wealthy family of the Republic, destined for military greatness and privilege. Day is a smart, illusive, criminal from the poor districts who spends his days on the lam from the government while trying to keep his family safe and healthy. When they cross each other’s paths in the aftermath of the murder of June’s brother, business gets REAL and everything they both know and love is tossed around, turned over and put in jeopardy. I love this. The stakes are high and emotions are peaked throughout. One or the other or both characters always have something to lose: Day has his family and Tess; June has the opportunity to catch her brother’s killer and, later….well, other things. I couldn’t help but get sucked into the grip of the nonstop drama, and I can’t wait to get sucked in by the next book either!

The world of LEGEND is fascinating and vibrant. The slums, the wealthy environs–I had visceral senses of every place. And I am intrigued about how the Republic and the Colonies and the Patriots all came about and how they play off one another. Obviously there was a cataclysmic environmental event that caused tremendous geographic disaster. But there is still some room to explore how the current state of affairs came to be, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get some more insight into the politics. Who are the Patriots? What happened to the US government? Why does no one believe that the United States existed? What forced the break into the Republic and the Colonies? The world as its set up so far leaves just enough to the imagination to keep me wondering about where things are going next. But it’s great, truly. Very well-done. I got the sense that the things we don’t know about the Republic and the Colonies were left out on purpose, not because the construction of the world itself is incomplete.

The one thing that I found lacking about the world? A map. So I’m a nerd about maps…I really can’t help myself. Whenever I read a book that doesn’t take place in the real modern world, whether fantasy or dystopian, that doesn’t have a map I make a little sad face. Sometimes I have bigger problems with it than others, and LEGEND is definitely the latter, but I still have the craving. I’ve seen the image of the United States post-ice cap-melt that the author drew inspiration from for this world, but not being at all familiar with LA in any form, and constantly hearing not only about the different sectors of that city as well as the different states and boundary lines of the rest of what’s left of the US, I find myself curious about what it actually looks like. Sometimes for me, hearing about it or reading descriptions of it just don’t translate into an image in my mind; I need a picture. That’s just me and my inner cartographer, I guess.

But it’s not even the setting that makes LEGEND so gripping. It’s the characters. They’re awesome. June definitely changes the most out of them all. She begins the story not only with hatred for Day and what he represents, but disdain for the poor in general to the point of bigotry (she wonders at one point if she can catch the plague simply by walking around in the poorer districts and seeing the filthy people there). It’s clear that she has not only grown up with a kind of prejudice against the less fortunate citizens of the Republic, but that she also has no exposure whatsoever to the hardships of their lives, not that she would empathize with them if she did. And her belief that Day, one of these people, is suspected of murdering her brother in cold blood only makes her hatred worse. Her gradual coming around was paced well and very realistic, happening in bits and pieces over time. I’m not going to lie: there were times when it was hard to like June. But it was never hard to understand her actions, her confusion, or her anger, if that makes any sense. I understood the whys, I just didn’t always like the outcome. (She totally IS responsible for this one really bad thing that happens and I’m curious to see what the ramifications will be, if any, when people have a little more time to dwell and mull things over.)

And Day…Day is an awesome character. I love so much that he is one of those “bad” guys who are really more morally gray than strictly good or bad. He feels just as strong a love and protectiveness for his family as June does. It’s really endearing, and it makes some of the things he deals with in this book downright devastating. But he’s clever, sneaky, daring, and street-wise, and I loved him HARD in a big, big way. I just want to cradle him in my arms and give him hugs and kisses and comfort him, except I don’t think he would take too much of that nonsense. He’s more sensitive and open-hearted than June, but he’s no bag of mush. How could he be? And that just makes me want to smother him with even more love. If he wasn’t a minor…. Seriously though, he’s protective and sincere and impossible not to love.

My only gripe is that they don’t seem 15 to me at all. So sometimes my mental image of them and the way they are described in the book didn’t jive and occasionally, this actually bothered me to the point where I pretended that I hadn’t read that they were 15 at all and that they were, in fact, 17 or 18, as I pictured them. I can’t rightly explain why this is, except that their ages and their actions seemed off.

I don’t want to wrap things up before I mention Metias and, to a lesser extent because I felt like we saw a little less of him, John. These two really tugged the ol’ heartstrings. I was very strongly drawn to Metias (Meh-TEE-as? Meh-TIE-as?). He dies after only a few chapters, but he remains a strong presence throughout the book because of June’s investigation into his murder and into the mysterious “we have things to talk about” that he mentioned to her the night he died. Her stories of him were heartbreaking and sad, and made me really emotional. Because if there was one thing that was obvious from the get go about June and Metias, and confirmed with June’s flashbacks and memories, it was their devotion and affection for each other. Metias was a good brother, and June mourns him, mostly in private and through feelings of revenge, not only because he was her brother and her only remaining family–reasons enough–but because she loved him and admired him above everyone else she knew. June makes it clear early on that where most people’s childhood memories of certain milestones contain parents, her “parents” in those moments were Metias–father, mother, brother, friend. Her military bad-assery really keeps her from getting really emotional about his death and that makes her brief moments of overt sadness even more heartbreaking. Day and John also have some pretty heartbreaking encounters that really choked me up. In fact, the big brothers in this book were generally outstanding. I love my sister; she’s my favorite person ON THE PLANET EARTH. But Metias and John made me wish I had big brothers to look out for me, and Thomas made me wish that my big brothers only had nice, non-smarmy, loyal friends that I could crush on. That’s all I’ll say about HIM.

Also, there’s a little thing that happens near the end that I’m NOT a fan of at all. It’s not an important thing, or a major thing. In fact, it’s not even a thing explicitly stated. It’s an assumed thing based on a worry that June has, and I don’t like it one bit because it’s probably my least favorite plot event in any book. It makes me sad. Oftentimes sadder than any other sad thing that has happened in the book already. I understand that this world in LEGEND is one where people lose things they care about in the blink of an eye. The Republic is brutal, to everyone and everything. But still…out of all the things I remember and think back on from LEGEND, this is the thing that I’m probably most worried about because I will need to gird myself. Sorry for being cagey, but I can’t help it! Literally. I can’t help it. My fear MIGHT come to pass, but I’m HOPING that it doesn’t. *fingers crossed*

I had read early on that this book was being called a Robin Hood retelling, because Day steals from the rich to feed the poor. But I had a harder time seeing this explicitly, mostly because Day does steal from the rich, but he does it mostly for his family, something Robin Hood didn’t have, and sometimes his crimes aren’t thefts. And June is hardly the Maid Marion type. But when I read recently in an interview that Marie Lu drew inspiration from Les Miserables and the conflict between Jean Valjean, the criminal, and Javert, the detective looking to apprehend him, it was like, BOOM! Sense is made. I can’t tell you how much this fills me with squees. I LOVE Les Miz, and the plot of that book/play serves as an excellent foundation for Legend. It also makes me curious as to how much inspiration the author will continue to draw from Les Miz, which is framed by the French Revolution, something I could totally get behind in LEGEND-world. But if I’m picturing the characters in LEGEND as characters from Les Miz, I’m not going to lie: I am experiencing worry. Lots of people die in Les Miz. *wrings hands and fends off panic attack*

So I’ve been talking a lot. It’s only out of love. Because I really did love LEGEND to bits. I read it–twice, actually–in just about one sitting each, so be prepared to not put this book down once you start. The characters, the conflicts, the world, the bright spots in the darkness will keep you glued to the pages. The next one is coming out soon, right? RIGHT?! WHADDA YA MEAN, NO?!?!

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9 Responses to “Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top Ten Tuesday (7) « Tripping Over Books - December 27, 2011

    […] now I can’t really get it out of my head. I’ve already read it twice (and reviewed it here), and something about it keeps me thinking about reading it again (I’m a HUGE rereader). Day […]

  2. Top Ten Tuesday (8) « Tripping Over Books - January 3, 2012

    […] website. It is.) In case you haven’t been around the blog too much, LEGEND was one of my favorite books of this past year. A nudge past DIVERGENT and SHATTER ME for my favorite dystopian. I’ve read […]

  3. In My Mailbox (39) « Tripping Over Books - August 5, 2012

    […] Marie Lu. It seems a crime that I didn’t have a finished copy of LEGEND, right? I mean, I’ve sung its praises far and wide, and was salivating at the prospect of getting a copy of PRODIGY, book 2, at BEA this year. Alas, […]

  4. Top Ten Tuesday (41) « Tripping Over Books - August 21, 2012

    […] FEELS different to me. Maybe it’s the Roman Empire-vibe I get from the Republic. Or maybe I love this book simply because Day and June are complex and complicated, and the things that they have to deal with […]

  5. [review] Legend by Marie Lu | coffeeandwizards - October 21, 2012

    […] “I read it–twice, actually–in just about one sitting each, so be prepared to not put this book down once you start.” – Amy @ Tripping Over Books […]

  6. Top Ten Tuesday (53) « - November 27, 2012

    […] this one, too, thanks to BEA, and consider yourself warned: These books just keep getting better. I really loved LEGEND because the characters endeared themselves to me. The things that happen to Day and June in PRODIGY […]

  7. Tripping Over January « - January 1, 2013

    […] LEGEND is one of my favorite dystopians. I even liked it a touch better than DIVERGENT. I’ve been […]

  8. Top Ten Tuesday (7) | Tripping Over Books - March 21, 2015

    […] now I can’t really get it out of my head. I’ve already read it twice (and reviewed it here), and something about it keeps me thinking about reading it again (I’m a HUGE rereader). Day […]

  9. Top Ten Tuesday | Favorite Books of 2011 | Tripping Over Books - March 21, 2015

    […] now I can’t really get it out of my head. I’ve already read it twice (and reviewed it here), and something about it keeps me thinking about reading it again (I’m a HUGE rereader). Day […]

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