Legend is one of those books whose title I’ve seen on Goodreads time and time again. It’s often mentioned in reviews of other novels, specifically as a tool against which to measure those other books. The fact that it’s being used as a standard for other novels to aspire to intrigued me, and I decided to find out for myself what makes Marie Lu’s book stand out.
The answer became evident almost immediately: it’s the characters.
The plot is exciting and fast-paced, and the world building is better than in many other futuristic novels I’ve read, but even if this weren’t the case I would have raced through Legend solely to spend time with June and Day, the book’s protagonists. They share the task of narrating the novel, with chapters alternating between their points of view. I’ve always liked this method of narration, but when reading books of this type I usually tend to prefer one character’s viewpoint over another and find myself growing impatient with the sections narrated by the “lesser” character. Surprisingly, this did not happen in Legend, likely because June and Day are so well-matched that it’s impossible for one to overshadow the other.
June and Day have a great deal in common; they’re both intelligent, driven, resourceful, and highly observant. They train their bodies as well as their minds, are passionate about what they do, and are spirited but cautious, calculating risks before they take them. The only difference between the two is their circumstances – June is the Republic’s wunderkind and Day their most wanted criminal. It’s inevitable that the two Republic legends must stand off against one another, and I couldn’t wait to see which of the equally formidable powers would emerge the victor.
I was hoping to avoid gushing about how amazing Day is in this review, but I can’t help it – I have a crush. This is because he reminds me a little of Robin Hood, my life-long literary heartthrob. Although Day doesn’t traipse through forests wearing Lincoln green and shooting a longbow, he does flout authority in order to help the poor and downtrodden. He’s a clever, resourceful rogue whose legendary reputation allows him to walk in plain sight through the streets of the Republic. He’s daring without being rash, a watcher and a planner, and I just could not resist him.
The only complaint I have about Legend is that there are times when the protagonists’ actions seem unrealistic given their age. I understand that Day and June are supposed to be child prodigies, but it’s difficult to believe that two 15-year-olds can forever be one step ahead of all of the adults around them, especially when those adults have military training and are the government’s best and brightest.
The way these adults act around June and Day is a bit improbable as well. June is admired, respected, and even courted by men many years her senior, and when she orders soldiers around they obey without question. Likewise, in one scene Day flirts with a bartender who seems to be quite a bit older than he, and she is surprisingly responsive. It struck me as hard to believe – these kids are 15, and no matter how attractive or suave or smart they are, I feel like most adults would still treat them as children instead of equals.
Other than this, and a scene or two where things get a little too sappy for my taste, I thought Legend was great. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series, and I look forward to seeing more of June and Day – Day in particular!