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Hilary T. Smith
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Legend  - Marie Lu Okay, hypothetical scenario time. Let’s suppose I had the madness, the power ("You ever tried going mad without power? It's boring! No one listens to you!" - Russ Cargill), and the inclination to pit several recently published YA dystopian novels against each other in a brutal and bloody fight to the death a la The Hunger Games. (Please, just roll with my craziness). Now let’s suppose one of these tributes novels is Legend. How, in my mind at least, does it fare in the arena?Without a doubt, at the siren Legend comes sprinting off the plate at full speed and confidence. It takes out a couple of rivals at the kneecaps without even raising a sweat (*cough* Eve *cough* Delirium ) It gets into a vicious scuffle with Shatter Me and Divergent, mostly on account of their break-neck pacing and all having generous sponsors who give them shiny covers and plenty of hype. Legend holds it’s own admirably, makes a narrow escape. Gets it’s hands on a few weapons in the form of interesting characters and solid writing, so when Blood Red Road makes a surprise attack from out of nowhere, Legend puts up a decent fight.However, lurking menacingly in the shadows are the Chaos Walking trilogy and Shipbreaker. These books are comparatively seasoned, superior fighters, and use stealth to their advantage. And ultimately, Legend is no match for the facepunch of awesome that is Monsters of Men. Essentially, what I’m suggesting is that Legend is a strong competitor in the dystopian field, with some decent skills up it’s sleeve, but it’s not quite of the calibre of YA’s finest. To start with, the good:Legend is a fast-paced, action-based novel that makes for quick, immersive reading. Events are set in motion rapidly, gathering speed from the opening chapters, and if you’re willing to let go and enjoy it, it’s quite a ride. Lu doesn’t pull punches and she definitely had me shocked with one of her decisions towards the very end of the story. Although, arguably I should have seen it coming, with all the references to the likeness between John and Day.Lu’s worldbuilding is very visual – I found it easy to imagine the future LA she was describing: the squalor, the poverty, the land reclaimed by sea, the brutal military presence. The main characters themselves, teens Day and June, have good on-page chemistry and their dynamic is interesting, serving to complement, rather than hijack the plot. Likewise, I enjoyed many of the secondary characters (Metias, Tessa, Kaede).So far, so good. And now, the not so much:While I found the world of Legend ‘visually’ interesting, the worldbuilding is factually thin. There’s not a whole lot explained or fleshed out, in terms of what has happened to bring the world (or the United States, at least) to this state. I didn’t fully grasp the backstory of the Republic, the Colonies, or the Patriots. Likewise, there’s some reference to the conquest of China, but the issue is only given a brief line. In fact, this was probably my largest problem with Legend – the ideas are good, the concepts interesting – but I wanted more. This is a slim book that barely scratches the surface of the world Lu is presenting. And unfortunately I felt that this carried across to other elements of the story, most notably in June’s case. I can’t help but feel that it’s a fairly large risk on an author’s behalf to choose to write from the perspective of the allegedly most intelligent person. June’s logical thinking and attention to detail are certainly referenced in her narrative, but I didn’t buy her apparently prodigious intelligence. I could see what Lu was attempting, but I don’t totally agree that it was successful. It works a little better in Day’s case, translating to good instincts and street-smarts, but similarly, I wasn’t convinced that he was extraordinarily intelligent to the degree Legend purports. The climax of the story requires a fair amount of suspension of belief, if not throwing it out the window altogether. While the events are easy to get caught up in, they are a little too convenient to be credible. Like an action movie sequence, there’s a lot of distracting noise and commotion, not a whole lot of logic. At the end of the day, Legend is an entertaining book. It’s fun to read, particularly if you like fast paced books with a cinematic feel. I’ll be honest, I read most of it in one sitting and paid for it the next day when I had to get out of bed. That said, I don’t think it’s the most solid of dystopian novels out there. Beneath the glossy surface, there are definite weaknesses to the plot and the worldbuilding that don’t withstand tough scrutiny. I’d give Legend a ranking of 5 out of 10 before I sent it into the arena to do battle. Then I’d sit back and watch the carnage unfold like an Evil Book Dictator.