Legend by Marie Lu was a pretty unconventional choice of reads for me in the sense that it has some pretty strong romantic undertones (you know… actual human feelings.) But I needed to pull the car out of the ditch and read something with some emotional depth rather than just for a good story. Fortunately this has both.
In my opinion, you can never go wrong with dystopian, but this one really played to my love of history. The book takes place, from what I can gather, about 100 years in the future and revolves around the lives of two distinctly different characters living in the flooded remains of Los Angeles, California in the “Republic of America”. Chapters alternate between the two characters, one being a 15 year old criminal known as Day, trying to save his younger brother from a fatal flu. The other, June, is a young, prodigious military cadet born into one of the Republic’s elite families.
After some unknown calamity (possibly a global flu pandemic or runaway climate change) the continental US is broken up into two countries; the Republic and the Colonies. Another faction is mentioned, the Patriots, who seem to be a terrorist organization working against the Republic government. The constant state of war among the groups reminds me of the civil war and brings to mind other works of fiction concerning a “second civil war,” such as many of the Harry Turtledove novels.
Every child on their tenth birthday takes a “trial,” consisting of physical fitness tests, aptitude tests, and a string of interviews with Republic officials. Those that pass are assigned various duties of the state (the higher the score, the more prestigious) and those that fail are sent to “work camps.” What makes June a prodigy is she is the only child in the history of the trials to score a perfect 1500, she flies through college, and is the youngest cadet the military has ever seen.
The differences between the rich and poor play a big part in this novel and presumably will continue to do so throughout the series. The elite are given free flu vaccinations each year, have access to education, and tend to have very few worries. While the poor (such as Day’s family) live in squalor, die of the flu, and are denied even the most basic of assistance. It’s no surprise then that the children most likely to fail the trials and be sent away come from the poor areas of the city.
Raised in an elite, military family June’s loyalty to the Republic is absolute and she is more than happy to perform any duty in the name of “Elector Primo.” But when she is sent undercover to capture Day, the Republic’s most notorious criminal and Robin Hood of Los Angeles, she begins to discover that her country, her superiors, and even her best friend are not what she was raised to believe. Conspiracies and corruption abound and June begins to question her loyalty to the system as she becomes more disillusioned by the actions of those around her.
An enjoyable read and what looks to be a great series forthcoming. It’s in the same ilk as The Hunger Games, Ship Breakers, and Divergent. Think of it as 1984 with a pandemic plague thrown in. 3.5 out of 5 stars. Make no mistake though; this book has the feel of a movie just waiting to happen.