Monday, 20 February 2012
|Legend - Putnam Juvenile|
Published November 2011
“What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbours. 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’ 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.” Synopsis from goodreads.com
Let me start this one with a question: Do you remember your tenth birthday? I don’t want specifics, but in general I’d expect some sort of party, cake, and games ... the worst thing possible not getting the right present. Now imagine that as soon as you turn ten you are scheduled for a test and physical trial that will determine the rest of your life – if there is going to be any “rest of your life” to speak of. Failing means going to work camp. At the age of ten failing is not an option. Sounds grim? Now imagine that the country you live in is constantly at war with its neighbours, which makes working in the military the most desirable career choice. In addition to that the population is periodically befallen by a deathly plague. Protective inoculation is only given to one part – the wealthy part – of the population and the only cure is too expensive to obtain it legally if your family is not rich. This is the world of June and Day.
June has lived with her brother since she can remember. The death of her last family member upends her life, but her reaction is different from what could be expected. At fifteen she’s the Republic’s wunderkind with a perfect test score and thus on a fast track to become a high ranking military official. She easily believes that Day is responsible for Metias’ death and will do anything to get her revenge. Her training and personal connection make her the perfect agent for the Republic to get rid of a thorn in their side. June trusts the establishment, which so far has done nothing but make her life perfect – and very different from that of her opponent.
Day doesn’t exist. At least not on any official records. The reason for that is as simple as it is incredible: When Day was ten he failed the test. And anyone who fails goes into work camp, right? Wrong! Day barely escapes with his life, leaving his old identity behind for dead. He has made it his mission to sabotage the Republic whenever possible (which is often, hence the most wanted criminal warrant). When his family’s house is marked as plague infected he has to get his hands on the cure. But his break-in at the hospital doesn’t go as planned. He disables his pursuer at the last moment and disappears.
A few days later, Day and Tess, his shadow of sorts, are out for money to somehow purchase the medicine when they rescue a girl from a street fight. They take her with them to recover. What they don’t know is that this girl is June on an under-cover mission to find Day. June doesn’t realise who her companion is at first. When she does she can’t believe that this is the person who killed her brother. It actually takes some serious blows to damage her believe system, which is equally admirable and disturbing. She has a very analytic mind, possibly due to her training. Day, too, has to be very logical, but where June has learnt to keep her emotions in check, he will drop everything to protect the ones he loves. The split narrative emphasises both their similarities and differences and makes for an appealing read.
Legend is the first book in a dystopian trilogy. I find dystopias to be tricky. They have to have the right balance between things you recognise and things that seem outrageously impossible to make you believe that if all goes wrong this could actually happen. Legend manages this balance just fine. Marie Lu has created a believable scenario with an engaging plot and likeable characters. If I have to criticise one thing, it’s that apart from Day and June the minor characters were really just that. I liked Tess as a supporting character and would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of her. There is always hope for improvement in book two. The cliffhanger at the end is of a general suspense nature rather than immediate which fits well with the general tone of the story so far. A rough diamond for the collection and I’m looking forward to the shape it will hopefully turn into.