Review by Sally Bray- Teacher Librarian, St Michael’s Grammar School.
Legend is a dystopian fantasy, set in a future USA which after a series of major natural disasters and is divided into two warring nations: The Republic and The Colonies. The two main protagonists are 15 year olds from two very different socio-economic backgrounds within The Republic. June is a privileged child prodigy from a wealthy background who has been trained to excel in military life, focusing on strategy and physical prowess. Day is a criminal from the slums, constantly working from the shadows to help his family and others, as they struggle to feed and protect themselves. He is renowned for working alone, pulling off daring, almost physically impossible raids and subversive acts – almost Robin Hood-esque as he steals from the rich and gives to the poor.
When June’s older brother is killed, Day is blamed and June is set loose to track him down. At first she is very focused on revenge and outraged dignity, hating the boy who killed her brother and continues to thumb his nose at The Republic. As she works undercover in the slums, June becomes more aware of the daily difficulties; poverty, the plague, corrupt law enforcement, faced by those less fortunate than herself.
The Republic is not all it seems and as Day and June are thrown together, they discover some disturbing truths that change their lives, and their allegiances…
The story unfolds from two points of view, with alternate chapters narrated by both June and Day. This means the book would be easily read and enjoyed by both girls and boys. A good book to read as a lead up to the more complex and graphically violent Divergent by Veronica Roth and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
Legend is suitable for Upper Primary, Lower Secondary and perhaps reluctant readers at a higher level. It could easily be used in the classroom for Literature circles or guided reading.
Although the book is quite violent, there are guns battles, street fights and several deaths, the world is very believable and the characters are well written and not too obnoxious. Both June and Day are intelligent teenagers who make the most of the situations they find themselves in. They can make snap judgments and be occasionally childish, but are on the whole thoughtful and caring for those around them.
Review by Celia Rice, Teacher Librarian at Hoppers Crossing Secondary College.
Marie Lu knows what kids like to read. Legend is a high action yarn set in a futuristic world in which the United States has been broken in two, resulting in the Colonies and the Republic. June is a proud member of the Republic. She passed their Trial, a test to sort out the children with good genes from the bad, and enjoys all the luxuries the Republic has to offer its chosen ones. At fifteen she has been recruited for the army, and upholds Republic values.
Day is a rebel. Born outside of the privileged class, and failing his Trial, he has seen the darker side of the Republic, the truth that June knows nothing about. He spends his days with his friend Tessa, disrupting the Republic and trying to look after his ailing family. He manages to stay out of the clutches of the Republic until June’s brother dies, and Day becomes the prime suspect. What follows is a thrilling adventure as June swears to avenge her brother’s death, and she and Day play cat and mouse with one and other. Along the way June learns some disturbing truths about her brother’s death and the Republic itself.
Marie Lu works for a video game company, so it is no surprise that she has managed to cook up an exciting and engaging futuristic thriller. This is a fantastic debut from a talented author that already has a film lined up, and two further books planned.
This book will be enjoyed by both boys and girls from tweens to older teenagers. A little like the Alex Rider novels and a little like The Hunger Games, this book will have mass appeal for both boys and girls, so is suitable for use in class. It could be used successfully in reading circles, especially with reluctant readers. The novel is broken up into two voices, those of June and Day, who speak alternately in short chunks, so it is extremely easy to read. It is not a short novel, but the action should engage all but the most cynical reader.
The dystopian nature of the text means that it may be useful in some classrooms in which this genre is being studied, although it lacks the heavier themes that might make it suitable for a class novel. It is also a great addition to any school library, as its appeal for wider reading should be immense. A note to those trying to get students to read this – there is a great book trailer for this novel on Marie Lu’s website.
Review by Peta Egan, Senior English Teacher/Teacher Mentor – Paperback Writers, Ormiston College.
Marie Lu’s first novel, Legend is an entertaining and adventurous read. This futuristic novel is targeted at young adults aged 14 years and over. Told from the point-of-view of two protagonists, the plot is fast-paced and interesting and it is clear that Lu has taken the time to research various topics associated with the military and weaponry.
Legend is the story of Day and June; two fifteen-year-olds who come from very different walks of life. Essentially they are mortal enemies. Born into an elite and privileged family, June is a military genius being groomed for a leading role in the Republican Army. She is beautiful, highly-trained and vulnerable. Day, on the other hand, is a fugitive. Hailing from a poor, struggling family, Day (or Daniel) failed the ‘Trial’; a test of physical, mental and psychological aptitude taken on a child’s tenth birthday. Since then, he has been on the run from the ruling Republican government and he fights for no one but himself. His mother thinks he is dead and for her safety – and that of his two brothers – Day would like to keep it that way. Along with his young ‘side-kick’ Tess, a street orphan, Day spends this time making life for the Republicans difficult, only increasing his most-wanted status.
Set some time in the future, Legend takes place in the area we know as the United States. Things are very different in the future though. The USA is no more and the citizens of the Republic of America think the United States is a legend (something like Atlantis I suppose). Society is in disarray and the majority of people live in slums. Social services are almost non-existent, and people are often forced to engage in fights (called Skiz fights) to earn enough money to survive. Life is cheap, the plague is rife and military Plague Patrols scan the streets of the Sectors on a regular basis. In a nutshell, life in the future is tough and only the smart and resilient survive.
Following a personal tragedy, June is given the task of tracking and capturing Day. This is where their worlds collide with explosive force. The reader is then engaged in action and adventure. Undercover agents, military pursuits, explosions, spies and raids confront the reader and add much excitement to the novel. It’s an engaging read – not especially challenging – but the language is colourful and descriptive in parts. There is very little swearing but adults should be aware that there is heavy use of weapons and some violence in this novel. For those young readers who play military computer games, the ‘blood and guts’ in this book will not be unusual at all.
Structurally the novelist alternates her chapters between the protagonists, giving the reader a different perspective every few pages. The ‘voices’ of the characters are reasonable well-crafted; although the differences between the male and female voices could have been a little more pronounced for this reviewer. The plot is also quite well-developed but I wanted to know more about the sub-plot associated with Day’s brother, Eden – perhaps Lui has a sequel in mind!
Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I am sure that a wide range of my students will too. It is an enjoyable read that keeps you guessing about what is around the corner for both Day and June. There is certainly room for follow-up stories in this plot and I look forward to seeing what the author does next.