Plot: June is a prodigy, the only person to have gotten a perfect score on the Trials. The Republic has grand hopes for her military career. Meanwhile Day grew up in the poor sectors and failed his Trial. He is the most wanted man in the Republic, made famous for his daring acts of theft and vandalism. Their paths have no reason to cross until he becomes the main suspect in the murder of June’s brother. She is determined to track him down and avenge her brother’s death but in doing so discovers disturbing truths about the government that she serves.
This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy.
I cannot believe that this is a first novel, it was absolutely enthralling: memorable characters, non-stop action, intriguing mysteries and subtle social commentary. Not to mention that it is well written and paced. I could not put it down.
This is a distopian novel in the truest sense: a military Republic runs the western US and wars against the eastern Colonies in a near-future devastated by natural disasters. It is a society that pretends to be a meritocracy but is deeply divided by class. June is intelligent and strong but I especially apreciated that she is a product of her upbringing: she believes in the Republic, hates the Colonies and the people of the slums and is completely unaware of her privilege. But she isn’t simply obedient: she tests and she questions and this leads her to discover shocking truths about her country and about her brother’s murder. Meanwhile Day is a kind of Robin Hood and the public’s fascination with his showy exploits are completely understandable.
Day and June are both perfect, by design: they are intelligent, observant, athletic and beautiful. It’s almost unbelievable, really, and it could have been annoying but the tragedy that both of them experience, their love for family, their selflessness and the courage with which they persevere all contribute to make them more human. They are so alike, opposite sides of the same coin, that the romance is almost inevitable. It is not the most exciting romance I have read recently but, honestly, who has time for love when the government is out to get you?
Putnam has done something interesting graphically as well. Chapters narrated by Day or June look very different, written in a different colour and font (gold for Day and a more severe black font for June). There are more subtle ways to differentiate between narrators: Sarah Monette accomplishes this beautifully in her Melusine series, giving each character distinct speech paterns (which Lu does as well to a certain extent). But this method works too, it colours the way the characters are perceived and makes for a more attractive book.
Legend will go on sale on November 29th 2011. There is no mention of a sequel at this time but the ending makes it clear that Day and June’s adventures will continue. I look forward to it.
Challenges: 2011 Debut author challenge (6), The East and South East Asian Challenge (3), Futuristic/Sci-Fi Challenge (9)