dinsdag 4 maart 2014

Review: Marie Lu, Legend (Legend, #1)

The vast amount of dystopian fiction that has been produced in recent years is almost unbelievable. Not all that glimmers is gold though, and while a lot of these books sound really exciting, few are really worth the time, I think. Which means that I’m picky when it comes to buying these books cause I’m not an unconditional fan of the genre (*). I do like to stroll the shelves in the library and pick them up for a read. Just for – free – fun (**). Thus so it happened that I stumbled upon Legend and it got me intrigued, cause I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book upon its release some years past (***). It’s about time to see what the fuss is all about.

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.

As is the case with most dystopian novels, the plot is actually nice, although not terribly original nor exciting. The idea behind the military society and the plague-subplot makes for a good read. The worldbuilding, however, isn’t what it should be. There is constant mention of the Republic and the Colonies, but it’s never explained who is who and why. It’s not that I want to know it all right away, but some initial worldbuilding to place the events in a bigger picture would have been nice. Now, it’s just confusing bordering on messy and it's hard rooting - or even trying to sympathise or even understanding - for someone's cause if you do not know the basics of it all.
The basic premise of Legend brings us two main mysteries. First and foremost, the search for Metias’s – June’s brother – killer, and second, the truth about the plague. Sadly enough, both mysteries are solvable halfway through the book, which leaves you with two protagonists stumbling about trying to figure out what you know all along. The hints that are being dropped are so big, it’s a real effort from their side not to have seen them. The way June uncovers the truth was a bit weird and I don't know how I feel about that, though (****). The conclusion as well, was fairly predictable, but nonetheless, it was enjoyable to read. Also, while the solution is at hand and the characters have a certain amount of understanding, nothing really got solved and they just made a bigger mess of things.
Talking about messmakers, Legend is told through the perspectives of June as well as Day, and their POV’s alternate chapters. Every chapter mentions which POV you are reading from, which is a good thing seeing as there is almost no difference between June’s voice and Day’s. If it weren’t for the chapter titles, you’d have a hard time figuring out who was POV. June as well as Day are prodigies, and while there is nothing wrong with that, you’ll have to give them an edge to make your characters interesting. Unfortunately, June nor Day holds that edge and they come across as flat and utterly unbelievable. Sure, June might be a prodigy, but she’s only fifteen and being so high up the ranking just doesn’t match with the way society is structured. In the midst of all the military control and trying to contain everyone and everything – and going to horrible lengths in order to achieve it – they hand a lot of responsibility to a girl of only fifteen? Beats me. Day’s bag of tricks comes across as unbelievable as well. Climbing up the walls of buildings – with a butchered knee – in mere seconds? Sure he’s not Clark Kent or Spiderman? Another thing that struck me as bordering on the unbelievable was the romance. On a scale ranging from insta-love to a beautifully developing relationship, this one fell on the wrong side. Luckily, the romance really took the backseat here.
Despite my annoyance with the characters and the predictability of the plot, this books wasn’t all bad, mind you. In fact, I quite enjoyed reading it. It’s fast paced and exciting, and Marie Lu’s writing style is simple and clean, which keeps you reading. There is also a nice balance between exposition and the more action-packed scenes and the exposition was limited so the story never dragged on and on.

Legend has gotten some hype a while back - and now still, with the release of the final book - and while I’m not convinced that the hype was totally justified, I had quite a good time reading this book. While it is predictable and the characters don’t interest all that much, the stuff that was going on was enough to keep me reading. If I stumble across the sequels in the library, I’ll pick them up, cause I do want to know what happens next. If you want a light read between some big tomes and you've enjoyed The Hunger Games, you can’t go wrong with Legend.
All taken into account, I'd give Legend 2.5 flames, but since I don't do halfsies, I'll round it up to three. There you go!

All you Legendary people can buy your own copy, right here and support us while you're at it.

(*) And I also don't fancy having a whole shelf full of Hunger Games knock-off's.
(**) The motivation behind me reading books that aren't particularly good is still a mystery to me. They are enjoyable, I'll give them that, but isn't enjoyable AND good a better way of wasting my time?
(***) Which says absolutely nothing. I only wish half these books were half as good as The Hunger Games...
(****) Also, kudos to her for having such good eyes, cause you need an excellent pair for discovering grease on the handle of a knife - which has also blood on it, which makes it supertricky and not something for kids below 15 - on a photo you've just declared blurry and all but good for the case, and linking that same grease to a person who happened to have a smear on his body. On a military basis with lots of weapons and other machinery, no one but that person is so clumsy with the grease. Who needs Sherlock?

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