Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Legend by Marie Lu
A dystopian novel following June, an extremely intelligent girl of the highest class, and Day, an equally intelligent terrorist. What begins as a murder investigation of June looking for Day soon transforms into an investigation into the Republic itself; whether it is really as altruistic as it seems.
The story begins quite promisingly. There are an alternating narrators and we start off with Day, the reported terrorist. Through him, we learn about the society they live in and get the basic background and insight into the world we'll be spending the rest of our time with. By the end, I was hooked since I wanted to know what exactly had just happened in the chapter and what it meant. The next chapter, June's, is equally as good. She's in the School Dean's office and we get an idea for her rebelliousness which helps in the grand scheme of things in terms of how events may go. Both set up the story quite well and give us a taste of what's to come. I found that while reading, most details end up being important in some way. This may be because both protagonists are highly observant which means that they are bound to notice more than others, but it leads to some heavy foreshadowing.
Which brings me to the main pitfall. I found this book incredibly predictable. Generally, this isn't all bad. Sometimes I can predict what happens, but find myself engrossed in how it happens. Other times though, it just happens uneventfully and I feel let down. Details are good, and I adore foreshadowing because it gives me a chance to guess at how things will play out. The problem here was that there was too much. I felt that after a few chapters, I had the next few mapped out in terms of what will happen; which I continued doing. There was a lack of spontaneity after a while, which may be the reason that I liked the first two chapters so much. I had nothing to go on yet and everything was new and interesting. Later on things were predicted and of varying interest.
But back to the good.
I really liked the world that was created. I got the feeling that everything seemed so perfect...until you saw the actions of the military and the people in charge. It started to feel more like an illusion pulled over June's eyes and, though it took a while, I enjoyed reading about her gradual discovery and reaction. So many dystopians seem to begin with our protagonist knowing or feeling it is wrong. Okay, Day falls into this category, but June doesn't. I found her change of heart mostly believable, helped greatly by the fact her ability to process new information quickly was evident. I would have been annoyed if she had just changed because it fitted the story. Admittedly some of this was a bit clichéd, but I wasn't too bothered by it. I figure that how better to hide something than in the most obvious way possible- that way they check less.
I also really liked the Trial element. It's this society trying to be supreme by having the most agile, intelligent and loyal people it can find in positions of authority and being well treated. Perhaps the fact that tests are such a big part of my life at the moment make this interesting, but I think most people would find the idea interesting. Its supposed to be that the genetically superior (in brains or brawn) are the ones who are celebrated. The Government wants the most powerful and perfect society it can and so it sorts people based upon their abilities. A happy little meritocracy, right? Obviously, this isn't the case. It becomes apparent that it is the loyalty element that is most important- and who are the most loyal? The rich and powerful because they receive the most from the Republic; do not bite the hand that feeds you and all that. So it becomes an aristocracy, of a kind, where the rich stay rich and the poor struggle on. Though still important, the Trial has become more of an excuse to test loyalties and to suggest that they are still fair.
I'm actually blushing to say this, but I seem to think I enjoyed the romance in the book (I'm writing this a week after reading). It was clichéd, yes, but I found myself smiling guiltily at it which I don't do too often. I found myself smiling a lot in this book since I think I'm kind of taken by people from different classes falling in love (the proof is in the Jane Austen obsession) so this appealed to me. Also, both of the people in the relationship are smart. I love smart people because I think their humour can be simultaneously more twisted, abstract and absurdly funny. Some people may argue their was a bit of a love triangle, but I found June quite clear in her rejection.
So this is a book I really liked. I've tried to avoid some of my negativity because though it has faults, it really is a great book. I loved Divergent and when I saw people saying this was similar, I think how good this book would be grew in my mind; so I wasn't reading it entirely fairly. If I was to be as negative as I felt, I would be giving a dishonest review which I couldn't abide. I want to give every book its fair chance, and having Divergent in my head diverted (forgive the pun) me from thinking completely clearly about what is a good, recommendable novel.