Sunday, December 4, 2011

Legend by Marie Lu (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read an excerpt HERE
Order the book HERE
Watch the Trailer HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Marie Lu was born in China but grew up in Texas, she was born in the year which is also the title of George Orwell’s most famous book. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Political science. She has previously worked as a flash & concept art developer at Disney Interactive studios as well as the lead artist designing MMO games for Hollywood Interactive Group, Inc. She also created Fuzz academy, a children's brand featuring a host of school-attending fuzzy animals that emphasize education and environmentalism. Marie Lu has also held the art director position at Online Alchemy, a video game company. Legend is her debut book and has also been acquired by CBS films with Jonathan Levine set to direct the movie.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country, she is being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums of the Republic’s Lake Sector, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother is murdered. And Day becomes the prime suspect. Now, caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival while June tries desperately to avenge her brother’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 in order to keep its secrets.

CLASSIFICATION: The Legend series is a dystopian YA series set in 2130 AD wherein the main series of events takes place on the flooded coast of former Los Angeles. The main stage of theater is led by the two warring nations of North America—the Republic and the Colonies. The book follows closely the path set by Suzanne Collins Best-selling Hunger Games trilogy of having YA protagonists in a dystopian world.

FORMAT/INFO: the ARC of Legend is 301 pages long spread over two titled sections and further divided over forty non-numbered, POV-titled chapters. Narration is in the first-person for Day and June Iparis. Day’s chapters are printed in gold while June’s are in the usual black ink. Legend is self-contained and is the first book in the Legend series.

November 29, 2011 marked the North American Hardcover and e-book publication of Legend via G.P. Putnam & sons.

ANALYSIS: Legend by Marie Lu is a book which has garnered huge amounts of pre-release publicity due to movie rights having sold off to CBS Films in a pre-emptive bid. Also helping was the fact that this book was acquired by its publisher in an auction bid. The author’s background also helped with the interest and publicity for the book as she had created a Facebook game around the world of the books, also called Legend that currently has over 13,000 subscribers. I was intrigued by all of this information and was looking forward to see how the story would be.

Legend begins with Day who is a person scorned and hunted by the republic of California for his activities against them. He however is a faceless person to them as never being identified has helped him to a life of anonymity. Things however soon take a downward turn for him as when he’s visiting his family in the lake sector; he finds that his younger sibling seems to have contracted a plague of sorts. To help his sibling Day has to break in the state hospital which leads him to meet Metias Iparis and things go south from there. June Iparis is the golden poster child of the Republic, having secured a score of fifteen hundred on the Trials which every child has to take at the age of ten to determine their future. These trials determine the social status and what type of future the child has. Every child has to take this trial which consists of written, oral and physical examinations and the children who get below a certain score are sent to work in the labor camps, thereby cutting off their contact from society & their family all together. June however is taking things to an extreme in her school often giving her teachers fits with her outrageous stunts as well stunning them with her grades. She however is shocked to learn that Metias has met his death at Day’s hands. She is inducted in the search to apprehend him and is sent undercover on the streets.

This book was inspired by the plot of Les Miserables as the author wanted to see what would happen with a rivalry between June and Day, two charismatic individuals who happen to be on the opposite sides of the coin in this world. The entire story hinges on these two individuals and the author has vividly created two smart and contrasting personas that are both pushed by familial reasons to do what they must. The plot opens up pretty quickly introducing the reader to a dark world wherein class barriers are erected by the state and enforced strictly. The author explains the situation and the characters quickly and without the use of excessive info-dumps.

The pace never slackens and this helps tremendously as the author introduces the twists in the story. This point was more akin to a thriller book as the POV shifts after every chapter as the author builds the tempo and leading up to a fantastic climax. The entire story has a very cinematic feel to it and it is very easy to imagine as a movie which will help when the movie actually releases (though I’m not sure how much similar it will be to the book it since its being helmed by the producers or the Twilight Franchise). The author has a very accessible prose style which helps in portraying the scenario as well as to not overwhelm the reader by the story’s inherent darkness. All these points efficiently convey why it has been getting so many positive reviews.

As much as I liked this book, I have to point out that there was a primary drawback to this story which is that the author only hints at the background of the world and nothing is sufficiently spelled out. One can make out that in the future the East Coast Colonies and West Coast Republic have been fighting a long drawn out war and there will be many more secrets revealed in the future. This can be a deterrent to readers who are looking for explanations. Another factor which irked me was that two crucial story twists hinged entirely on guesses/coincidences and this just went against the character history established so far. For that character to react that way was a bit stretched and in this regards the author fails to truly convince the reader about the direction which the story is taking.

CONCLUSION: An engaging story that is made very accessible by the author’s writing style makes this debut an exciting one. Marie Lu’s Legend will definitely find fans and it will be worth watching what she does in the sequel books. Fans of dystopian & YA fiction will like this new salvo by Marie Lu, check it out if you want to read a good book with interesting characters.

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