When I saw Icebreaker’s post about this book, I thought it sounded interesting. You don’t get many dystopian books where the two leads are a criminal and a government official in training, do you?
Summary: What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Story: 4/5: This is a different take on a dystopia, at least for me. You don’t have many of them that focus both on the haves and have-nots. Typically it’s one or the other. Also, as I mentioned in my Psycho-Pass review, I love my dystopias with a crime/thriller edge to them, which Legend definitely had. The whole idea about the apparent murder at the hands of a wanted criminal and the soldier tracking him down is something not seen in many dystopias that was handled very well here.
If I had complaints about the plot, it would be that a few classic dystopian cliches fall here, which includes the necessary romance, the looming government rebellion, and just a bit of predictability (spoilers).
Characters: 3.5/5: Day and June were both fairly well written characters. I love that the POV switched between the hunter and the hunted. My main complaint would be the fact that both June and Day are the best of the best in their land, even though they’re only fifteen. That was really iffy for me. Like, for them to have the most promise to become the best is one thing. They are both talented prodigies, which I like. But to be the best at fifteen…I dunno, I don’t like it.
Day is the world’s most wanted criminal. He’s intelligent, athletic, and fast thinking, so why did he fail his Trial? That’s a mystery for a lot of the book. He proves to have a good layer of depth, as he still looks out for his mother and two brothers from a distance, with only one of them knowing he’s alive.
June took me more time to like. She just felt so arrogant, overly obedient to the Republic, and so close minded that she just frustrated me. But she grew on me as her character changed and developed. June is a true prodigy, with an incredibly high intellect and observation skills like Sherlock Holmes.
Two other supporting characters would be Tess and Metias. Tess is a child side character, but unlike most, she’s actually really endearing, especially in her interactions with Day. She’s mature and smart. Metias may have only been in this story briefly, but he did manage to make a strong impression, and you understand June’s fierce desire to avenge him.
My complaint is the antagonists. They are just so obvious, and give off such a strong bad feeling. Thus makes them less compelling and relatively, in my opinion. I couldn’t find them that interesting due to the lack of subtlety, which frustrated me.
Writing: 4.5/5: This writing style…Lu has an amazing way with words! Adjectives that come to mind about her writing include: clean, elegant, professional, organized, precise, detailed. You have the sense she knows what she’s writing about, and knows exactly where she wants it to go. It’s hard to describe, but her writing style was one of the best parts of the book.
Details: 3.5/5: The book struggled a little here. It mainly came down to small things that I felt should have appeared earlier. I wanted a little more backstory on Day’s earlier times surviving on the streets. I wanted June to have suspicions on the Republic doing some frankly obviously shady things. Like, I get that she was kind of brainwashed into thinking the Republic was an amazing place, but there is such a thing such as intuition.
Other than that, the details were good. June’s observations were really cool, but I wished that she would explain how she came to those conclusions.
World Building: 3.5/5: This had similar problems as the details. It didn’t have a lot of background as to how that world came to be, and I found the whole Trial system really problematic. How did a society come to grade ten year olds on their intelligence and athletic skill and use that to decide the rest of their lives? I know I’m doing better academically and physically now than I did at the age of ten. I just found that to be illogical.
Besides that, I did appreciate how it showed the difference between the haves and the have nots. Most dystopias only show one side of the world, when really, both sides are important.
- Writing style: Marie Lu has a good writing style. Even if it is more on the tell side rather than show, this was her debut novel, so some writing problems are to be expected. It was overall very professional, gripping, and even elegant.
- Action scenes: Lu’s fight scenes are brilliantly written. Let’s just leave it at that.
- Good idea: The idea of hunter and the hunted in a dystopian thriller, with touches of mystery, action, and crime? Yes, please!
- “Special Snowflake Syndrome“: A review on Goodreads helped me find the words to help me describe the more problematic aspects of Day and June. While they’re both great characters, the fact that they are fifteen and the best of the Republic doesn’t ring true.
- Has a bit of insta-love: While it isn’t insta-love in the classic sense, I did find the romance rushed. It should’ve been pushed back to the next book.
- Somewhat predictable: There were plot points I saw miles away because they sadly fell into the dystopian cliches. It made this a little too predictable for me.
Final Grade: 3.5/5: I was tempted to give this a 4, but ultimately, my complaints about the logic in this world and the cliches pushed it back just a little. I still enjoyed this book though, and I will definitely read Prodigy in the future.