Book reviews: Legend series by Marie Lu

This year I’m trying to catch up on my YA genre trilogies, specifically the dystopias.  I read The Hunger Games several years ago, but never followed up on any of the books that came in its wake.  I did Divergent back in spring, and The Maze Runner is up next.  Right now, we’re talking about Legend.

legendLike Hunger Games, Legend (Marie Lu) takes place in a future North America, apparently post-climate change and at war with itself.  June Iparis has been training to be a military officer for the Republic of America since she entered university at the young age of twelve.  Now at fifteen, the murder of her older brother sets her on the hunt for his killer, leading to discoveries that will make her question her loyalty to the totalitarian government.

Although it has its faults, I very much enjoyed reading this series, which consists of Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, plus two short stories in Life Before Legend.

The biggest strength of the series is the two main characters, June and Day.  June is my absolute favorite female YA protagonist of all the current popular series.  I really related to the way she thinks and perceives the world, kind of soberly calculating.  Day, in contrast, wears his heart on his sleeve and never hesitates to act with his feelings.  (Plus the way he throws around the term “sweetheart” gives him a young Han Solo vibe.) They make such a great team: equals intellectually and physically, with different but complementary personalities.  And they have way more chemistry than just about any other YA couple I can think of!

I actually enjoyed the switches in perspective between June and Day; both feel very much alive and have wonderfully distinct voices in the chapters they narrate.  The use of different fonts/colors for each was actually totally unnecessary and a little distracting.

The template for the trilogy was pretty standard YA dystopia: beginning in tightly controlled totalitarian state, with the fight for freedom there spilling out into the larger world, which is no paradise either, having problems of its own.  I liked all three books about equally: Legend was a great beginning, Prodigy upped the complexity nicely (and that last chapter killed me!!!), and Champion had a fairly satisfying ending that fit the tone of the series: grounded (and maybe slightly melodramatic), but overall hopeful.

It was clear to me from reading these books that author Marie Lu is a gamer, so I think nerds especially will enjoy them.  Just the way she describes Day’s Running escapades reminds me of the kind of video game parkour seen in games like Assassin’s Creed (mentioned in her bio!), Prince of Persia, Mirror’s Edge, Infamous, etc.  And her conceptualization of Antarctica is a gamer’s dream country!

I was, however, a little disappointed with some of the sci-fi elements of the trilogy.  Specifically, the science involving the mutant virus in Champion is a mess; I’ll try to break this down in another post.  I wish some of the popular dystopias would take their science more seriously; I’d love to see more teens reading real sci-fi, as it’s one thing that inspired me to go into biology.

Tl;drAn engaging YA dystopian trilogy with plenty of action/romance and great characterization (and a bit of sketchy science) 4/5 stars

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