Book Review: Legend, by Marie Lu

December 28, 2011 at 12:20 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

What was once the United States of America has now splintered into two nations. East of the Rockies, the Colonies try to conquer in the name of reunification. To the West, the Republic stands firm against any such thing, even as it teaches that there never was such a thing as a unified state. War is a constant, as is homegrown terrorism from either the Colonies or the Republic-born Patriots who work to bring the Republic down.
For wealth-born June, life has a simple direction. Once she finishes her accelerated education, she’ll join the military’s elite, the only person to have ever earned a perfect score on her Trial. She’ll make her brother Metias proud and she’ll go on to be one of the most celebrated people in the Republic army.
For slum-born Day, things are rather more complicated. Condemned to death after failing his Trial, he now scours the city as a sort of Robin Hood, sharing money and food through the slums to those who need it, including the family he left behind. Now, with his youngest brother sick with the plague that sweeps through the lower sectors, he’ll have to risk everything to find medicine his brother can’t live without.
Day and June live in separate worlds, worlds that are about to collide in a way neither of them could have imagined.

I was very, very excited for this book to come out. There was a lot of buzz about it, lots of bloggers were itching to get their hands on an ARC and then raving about it when they did get one, so I got very excited. Even after a month and a re-read, I’m still not sure if the hype was my downfall or if the book itself sold me short. I enjoyed this book, but it also drove me crazy.

The narration passes betwen Day and June, both of whom have very distinct voices. Distinct enough that the ink probably didn’t need to be different colors to represent them. I understand the impetus (and I’m not laying this piece on the author, I know it’s a pub decision) but the gold was rather difficult to read. If it’s hard for me to read the font, I get much less interested in struggling through the book, even if the story had been as riveting as I wanted it to be.

I loved Day, both as a character and as a narrator. Though his physical feats often border on the blatantly unbelievable, his personality is pure gold. He has an entirely protective nature. Everything he does, all the risks he takes, it’s always for other people. He’s charming and confident, without it actually falling over into arrogance, and he has a refreshingly practical look at things. He’s out to help people, and if embarrasing the Republic is a consequence of the best way to do that, so be it, but he doesn’t go out of his way to force the issue. He’s not out to make himself into the symbol he becomes. I love seeing him interact with Tess, love their history and the way they came together. He has an easy way about him that brings us into his confidence, that lets us see the desperation and the need that exists all around him- and within him.

June was, for about half the book, far less compelling. She’s arrogant, judgmental, convinced of her own superiority without even a thought for anyone who doesn’t meet her standards. Her defiance isn’t charming, it’s obnoxious. For a long time, I really just wanted to reach into the book and throttle her into some kind of sense. She does, however, redeem herself. When June finally falls off her pedestal, when she’s forced to start genuinely questioning things, when she sees another side, when she finally becomes honestly vulnerable, she gets a lot more interesting. She also finally wins my respect. I don’t necessarily need to like a character, but I need to be invested in them. I need to care what happens to them. If I’m more concerned with what happens to the dog while June is out on her hunt, there’s a problem. She gets there, though, for all I wish it would have happened about 150 pages earlier.

What it really comes down to, I think, is that I never really settled into this book. Obviously it’s largely a dystopian, but it also drifted into steampunk and medical thriller and others. I wanted something concrete about the world, something that made me feel like I’m someplace real and distinct. I never got that. We’re told that the schism between Republic and Colonies is essential, but we’re never given any history between them. We don’t know how far in the future we are, but we also don’t know why things from the past have apparently crept back into style (like corsets). We’re given lovely details about why the rich wear white at funerals but nothing about what created the Republic in the first time. Worse than the things that are never given are the things that are given but never fulfilled. Things and events that are certainly handed to us as extremely significant are then glossed over. Yes, this is a first book, so if we’re patient there may be answers in future installments, but there’s more to a full-series arc than leaving us in the dark. For example (and dancing around spoilers), June is introduced to a Very Important Person, introduced in such a way that it absolutely has to be significant, or why have it in there at all? And then…nothing. Not even a hint that it’s going to fulfill it’s significance in another book.

For all the pieces of this book that drove me crazy- like constantly being told by June and Day that the other is “so beautiful”, little too Twilight for my taste if it’s never actually significant in what it can do for them- there were things I really loved. I loved Day. I loved Thomas- his arc was, I think, perfectly executed and one of the best things about this book. It was exactingly paced, flawless in delivery, and brings up strong emotions. I loved the support of the common people for Day- though I wish there would have been small hints of it sooner, so it’s more of a reality than a symbol.

I loved Metias. Specifically- I loved his similarities to Day. They have wildly different personality traits on the whole, not to be confused for each other, but where they overlap is strong and impactful. Those parallels are a large part of why June finally becomes interesting and compelling, why she stops being someone I want to throttle and becomes someone I would- perhaps grudgingly- support in her efforts. There are things I won’t talk about because of spoilers that I want to see come to fruition, see how they continue to affect the story and the characters.

In the end, I guess my feelings for this book could be largely summed up as ambivalence. There were some things I loved, there were a lot of things I hated. Will I read the next installments? Absolutely! I want to know what happened to create this world. I want to know where Day (and, I suppose, June) ventures next. I want what I felt was missing from this book, and there was enough I thought was done superbly to merit that hope.

Until next time~

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Cover Love: October Edition

October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm (Cover Love) (, , , , , , )

And it’s back! Got a mix for you today as far as release dates go, some out now and some that don’t even have a release date yet, but there are a couple of them that may have made me bounce up and down in my chair and squeal like a little girl when I saw them, so without further ado: ta-da!

I loved the cover for Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood. It was all eerie shades of white and grey with a few vibrant strokes of black, and eye-catching violent sweeps of red. It told you right off the bat that this was a ghost story, and a violent one. Well, Anna’s back on the cover of Girl of Nightmares (no release date yet) and- just a guess- I’d say she’s back with a vengeance.

This cover is like a photo negative of the first. Here it’s the reds that hold most of the page, with darker shapes in the distance that make it unclear if we’re going through a hellscape or mountains. Either way, the cliff edges are tall and curling in, almost claustrophobic, and clearly an indication of danger. My guess would be hellscape, given the not-entirely there figures in the foreground, reaching for Anna. Here’s the question, though: are they reaching to her for help? Or to offer more danger? You can’t really tell from her face or her body language; if she’s afraid, she isn’t showing it. Her exact expression is hard to define- it could be a lot of things- and the way she’s holding out her hand is equally ambiguous. Is she extending an invitation? Or a dare? Just as the use of red in the first cover drew your eye to the bloodstains, here it’s the unexpected white of Anna’s dress that pulls in your attention. A sweet girl in a cute white dress…in a hellscape? It almost dares you to find out why. Sadly, we’ll probably we waiting until August for this one.

Here we’re going to switch to a contemporary (I know, how often do I do that, right?) but this is one that held be spellbound when I first saw the cover.

At first glance, it’s easy to miss what this is. An x-ray of a flower, maybe, or a magnified fractal image of a snowflake. But look again- those are dancers. People made to look so identical that they all blur together into a single design. Welcome to the world of ballet. It isn’t just the image is harmonious. It isn’t just that the repeating pattern lulls the eye into tracing the arms. Fractals are intriguing, they’re soothing. Here the image is delicate and elegant- and also a little frightening. Because again: THOSE ARE PEOPLE. And to create an image like they, they sacrificed all individuality, everything unique about them, to blend against the larger design. Ever watched a ballet and wondered how they survive being made to dance all the same? What about making your life all the same as well? I don’t normally go for contemporary, but this cover alone is enough to make me want to read this book. Bunhead, by Sophie Flack, is out in stores now.

To those familiar with this next author, this cover is QUITE a switch from her others- which gives some interesting promise that the story will be, as well.

I love instruments of time on covers. Hourglasses, watches, clocks, even sundials, anything that gives the impression that time is of the essence. That being said, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it come across in such a fantastically creepy manner. It isn’t just that the hourglass is filled with sand rather than blood- it’s that there’s blood on the outside of the glass, too. The two pieces are nearly equal in volume so whatever’s happening, there is a balance to it. Hourglasses, once empty, turn over to start the new process. But given that blood, unlike sand, is a perishable substance- do you suppose it needs to be replaced once it runs out? I love the background here, largely because it gives the ghost of images without destracting from the main focus. The vine-like designs in the upper corners, the suggestion of a face on the left side. It doesn’t pull from the hourglass in the way a busier background might, but neither does it detract in the way a completely plain background would. It is, like the levels of blood in the hourglass, the perfect balance. Every Other Day, the first of a new series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, is out December 27th of this year.

Ready for the next one?

Starting at the top of the cover of Fracture by Megan Miranda, we get a winterscape, cold and grey, skeletal trees caught between slumbering and dying, with a light dusting of snow. Bleak, relentless, frigid…already not a promising sight. Then, as our eyes travel down to the base of the cover, we see what might be a ghost, might be a reflection, of a girl. Her face is expressionless, caught in that same in-between aspect as the trees beyond her. Then, just a little further down, we see the girl herself, caught against the sheet of ice on the lake in such a way that she might almost be under it. She isn’t- but she might have been once, leaving behind the ghost or the echo or the reflection of the girl who looks back at her. Despite the parka, there’s something cold to her- something that has a lot to do with why she’s lying on snow or ice out in the middle of the woods. This is a book where Death is a constant shadow, reaching out a hand as skeletal as the bare trees to try to keep what it has claimed. What we’ll have to discover is what the consequences of escaping Death once might be. This comes out 17 January 2012, right in the dead of winter.

Last one for today, one I have been looking forward to so, SO much.

Even before you read the jacket copy, you know Marie Lu’s Legend has a military rigidity to it. It’s all polished steel like a gun barrel, with stark, sharp-edged contrast in the form of antique gold like medals and insignia. And that’s it. Spartan, severe, no frills or extra colors, it’s like a punch to the stomach if you step out of line. We are not going to go into this book expecting softness and cuddles. Look at the actual insignia though. The left side of it forms a stylized R (presumably for Republic), but look at the right side. In order to maintain the design, in order to keep the visual appeal without disrupting the identifiable nature of the R, there’s a free-floating piece. Essential to the design, but probably rather difficult to pin in place. Necessary, but troublesome. That free-floating piece? That’s our story. How that free-floating piece works within the larger design, the fragility of a portion without connection to the whole, that’s what we’re diving into the gun barrel to find out. If you’re like me, 29 November 2011 can’t come quickly enough.

Any covers you’ve seen in the past month that you want to share? Anything out now or upcoming that you think sells you on trying the book? Share below!

Until next time~

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