Friday, 10 January 2014

Reviewed by Arianne: The Legend Series by Marie Lu.

In the world of literary expectations, there are two types of book. Type A: the books you have huge expectations for and which sadly let you down. Type B: the books you have little or no expectations of, but which completely blow you away. 

I am proud to say that Legend falls into the second category. 

Of course, for many other readers, Legend was Type C - a book that came with a loaded hype-tag and which still exceeded their expectations.  I'll admit I heard vague wisps of praise for Legend around the time of its release, but as I didn't read it right away, I didn't really register those. By the time I got around to Legend, it was a story that felt totally my own.

June and Day were born to oppose one another. Brilliant and capable, they would have been made for each other if they hadn't ended up on opposite sides of a very divided, often violent, society. June Iparis is the Republic's golden girl, but she's not destined for red carpets or movie premieres. She's been head-hunted for a career in the Republic's ruthless and revered military. Day's the rebel; born into the ranks of the poor, the valueless, pushed to the very fringes of the Republic's line of vision, all he wants is to look after his family. He's daring and he's desperate and he's a known vigilante-criminal. 

Legend is written with its alternate narration in mind. The writing pulls no punches and it sings with clarity, honesty and an inescapably beautiful style you can't help but fall for. There may be similarities to how June and Day speak but the worlds they live in are very different and I loved the spiralling tension as their actions and orders brought them closer and closer together. They're talented and they know it; they have work to do and they get on with it, though it inevitably leads to their paths crossing in the most teasing and brutal of ways. Their stories are woven with the dexterity and skill of a writer who will go down in the history books as the woman who made Les Miserables into a futuristic hero novel and got away with it.

June and Day may be attracted to one another, but with mutual death sentences hanging over them and the ones they love, there's not much room for declarations of undying love in this novel - and it was absolutely the right choice on the author's part. The simmering, confusing, heart-torn moments they spend with each other are some of the best in the whole book. The romance is drawn out delicately, carefully, and I never felt as if their potential relationship was getting in the way of the plot. Besides, they're far too busy being intent on killing each other to notice it, much.

Make no mistake, however; there are no pantomime villains or heroes in Legend. There are cold-blooded killers and icy-eyed ruling classes, but this isn't just a game between good and evil or characters who have seemingly impossible abilities. The story which springs from Legend is washed in grit and urban struggle, giving it a very real kind of edge.

When I search for criticisms of Legend in my notes, all I can really come up with is the slightly vague portrayal of its minor characters. I didn't understand Metias and I wanted more of Day's allies from home and from the street; Tess is painted well but I wasn't endeared by her. I'll definitely need to see an improvement on this in the next book. There's also a sense that between the amazing action sequences and the subtly thematic crises of conscience, and despite being so concise (for its genre), it lacks the focused destination point of a book that really delivers on its premise. 

In short: Legend is thrilling and unpredictable, twisting and turning until you don't know which way to look next. Its setting is fantastic, its concept original and its characters truly unforgettable.
 
Arianne's Rating:  4½ out of 5
 
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I think I may have to consider my rating for Legend. The first book was awesome, but as a sequel? Prodigy was incredible. And I just don't know if that spark - which I'll admit may have been the teensiest bit missing from my later re-readings of Legend - can be adequately described in the difference of half a star. 

Legend is good, but Prodigy blows Legend out of the water. Everything just becomes so much magnified. The scale, the stakes, the drama - it's all there, and it's all just so much better.

When we last saw June and Day, they'd just escaped death by very public firing squad. Seven days later, they're on the run and they're top of the Republic's hit list. They barely have time to catch their breath - scratch that, they don't have any time to catch their breath - before violence and agony come knocking on their door again. The Patriots are a notorious group of elite revolutionaries, feared and respected, dangerous and dirty. Their guerrilla warfare is making life very difficult for the Republic and it will make them even more of a threat if they get June and Day on side. They offer our heroes shelter and healing - but it comes a price.

I have never found it so hard to describe a fictional relationship as I do with June and Day. As fans we want to see them happy - but coming from such dark places as they do, knowing what they know and having little time or energy to console one another, there simply isn't reason to give them more than a few stolen moments together in the entirety of Prodigy. They don't have time to begin feeling safe in their relationship. All they can do is believe in themselves and in each other, hoping they've made the right choice. They haven't forsaken the people who need them for the sake of being together, even though they've already loved and lost some of those they swore to protect. 

And there are new figures in their lives to contend with. Just when things are looking up for June and Day's cause, in walks Anden. Gorgeous, groomed, upfront Anden, who makes his feelings for June perfectly clear - despite the fact that he's the new Elector Primo following his father's sudden death. Anden is Day's anti-thesis, and I know we're supposed to hate him, but at times I admit I actually liked him. He's not exactly offering total security what with all the plagues and the wars and the fact that he's the leader of a vulnerable and deeply rotting state, but there are genuine reasons he and June could work. I'm not a huge fan of love triangles, but in this series the emphasis is on a relationship which must develop slowly and organically in the face of terrible dangers, so once you've got past the momentary reaction of shock/disgust/violation, it stops being an intrusion and becomes interesting.

(I've seen others describe the love triangle as a square, but I don't really count Tess as I just couldn't take her seriously.)

Other characters re-emerge from the mists of Legend, too. Commander Jameson and Thomas continue to need taking down a peg or two (or, you know, a casual stabbing out of their eyes or something); Eden never fails to try and break my heart. Gloriously visual action-sequences take pride of place as well. In writing this series, Marie Lu has truly raised the bar for plot-driven action in current YA. 

Oh, and it has an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor and your eyes so wide anyone around will think you've spontaneously turned into ET. 

In short: Legend may have been good, but Prodigy is stellar. It ticks all the boxes - character development, a blossoming central romance, a thrilling storyline and plot twists that completely blindside you in the best way - and then it ticks some more - great bad guys, visceral world-building, truly heart-wrenching choices - just for fun. Amazing.


Arianne's Rating: 5 out of 5.

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When I found a surprise copy of Champion waiting for me in my local library, I felt like Christmas had come early! I've spent a little over a year pining for this trilogy, so there was a part of me that yearned for an ending - and a part of me that didn't. 

The world of Champion is one we think we are familiar with. The war with the Colonies, the reformation of the Republic, the introduction of the Antarcticans – they’re all things we'd like to say we could have predicted but in truth Marie Lu creates as breathtaking a story as ever within these pages. The chapters flow by like the draining of sand through your fingers. It pulls you in and wraps you up in a cocoon of tenter-hooked awe.

June and Day don't suddenly transform into different people in Champion. They are not saints. They are not and probably never will be perfect. Even with all of Day's good intentions and June's fiercely strategic nature combined, they're not a wonder couple. This is not a finale with rounded edges or seamless sheen. They can't just forgive and forget. They don't have time to reconcile themselves with their actions because they're too busy fighting off the next wave of enemies who'd like to see them suffer. It's dystopian, but not as we know it - there is so much ferocity, so much hope, such a feeling that something very real is on the line here.

That's the thing about the Legend trilogy. Its dystopian label doesn't do its justice. Dystopia has, in the last year, become more of a symbol of a dread for me than something to look forward to. As someone who was disappointed by Divergent the first time around, it's probably fair to say that I'm hard to please when it comes to the genre. I'm the kind of reader dystopian authors must hate meeting - the kind that makes the genre a hard sell.

Champion gives me hope for the future of dystopian.

(Hold on, I think even I might need a second to absorb the irony of that statement...)

Champion doesn’t conform to tradition. It’s enchanting and frantic, raw and emotional. The storytelling is dynamic, In Champion, there is the ever-present threat of a countdown - everything is so very final, but you keep praying for it not to end. It’s like a fairytale; glorious and dark at the same time.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect. No book ever is. Knowing this was the last adventure I would get to share with June and Day, I wanted to see more personal moments between them, more of those little Easter eggs that make it all worthwhile. My attention drifted in the first quarter, maybe because I kind of saw where the plot was going or maybe because some of the returning characters didn’t seem to crackle with life as they once did, but by the halfway point I was enthralled again.

Champion is the kind of book that makes you want to forgive its faults no matter what. Marie Lu doesn't give the fans exactly what they want but she doesn't throw in the entire left field, either. There was a danger that after three books in such a high pressure series things could have gone very wrong, but I found the poise and consistency of her writing to be phenomenal. The detail and care taken with every word - inspirational.

I won't talk about the ending too much, as for me it's up to each reader to decide for themselves what they think of it, but I will say that I really, really loved it - it's maybe not the one I would have wanted, but it worked really well.

In short: Champion is a magnificent conclusion to an electrifying and intense trilogy. It really did not disappoint. Incredible. One of my favourite reads of the year by far.
 
 
Arianne's Rating: 5 out of 5

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Overall Series Rating: ALL THE STARS!

7 comments :

  1. ChristinaBookAddict10 January 2014 at 12:56

    I have always been VERY curious about this series and now I'm convinced I'll have to add it to my TBR list. I hate series where the second book always lets you down or the ending of the trilogy stinks, but it appears that is not the case here! I'm definitely looking forward to checking them out. Great reviews, Arianne!

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  2. Completely agree! I didn't have really high expectations for this series when I started it but I ended up being completely blown away. This is by far one of my favorite dystopias of the moment and I think it will be for a long time to come. I loved the ending too - it isn't what I would have chosen if I had been the one writing, but it was perfect in that it made so much sense and gave me so much hope.

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  3. I read Legend quite a while ago and enjoyed it but it didn't particularly 'wow' me. However, your glowing review of the other two books has convinced me to try Prodigy. Thanks!

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  4. Orli @ Blame My Bookshelf11 January 2014 at 10:12

    I've heard about this series all over Booktube and I've been umming and aahing on whether or not to buy them - I think I might have to. It's interesting that you gave the second and third book a higher rating than the first, that seems to be a pattern with other reviews - is it necessary to read the first book first? Or do you have to read them in order? I think, if I manage to pick them up, I'll probably read them in order even so! Great reviews, I really love the way you put things! :P

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  5. They're definitely worth a read, Orli - I had no idea I'd love them so much, and I only wish I could experience the joy of reading them for the first time all over again.


    As for reading in order, I'll let you in on a secret: I read Prodigy first. I won it in a giveaway and knew the basic premise of Legend, so I thought, why not? And it was amazing, even if I did have to work a bit harder to keep up in the early chapters. I don't usually advocate out-of-sequence reading, but maybe in this case the order you read in doesn't matter too much - it's just the reading them that counts :)


    Thanks so much for commenting, by the way - I'm so glad you enjoyed the reviews!

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  6. I'm glad I could help! I don't write 'glowing' reviews often, so you can take it from me that Prodigy is definitely worth reading!

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  7. Officially one of my favourite comments of the day! Dystopia has never been one of my go-to genres, but Marie Lu's approach is so fresh and different it just gets me every time. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this way! :)

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