Title: Prodigy (Legend Trilogy)
Author: Marie Lu
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Amazon Summary: June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.
It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.
But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?
In this highly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Legend, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.
Let me begin by saying that I loved this book and that I love this series. I am pretty much over-the-moon for this story and I thank Ms. Lu for giving us the gift of a well-crafted tale. You may wonder, with that introduction, why I’ve rated this story at 4.5 Stars rather than 5? The answer to that question is the ultimate “theme” to this review. If I’d had to rate the first 200 pages of this story, I might even have given it a 3 or 3.5 at times, whereas the last 150 were off the charts for me. Let me elucidate:
I recently read a blog post discussing book rating systems that suggested that a truly good book would elicit a lot of 2s and 3s and 5s, rather than a slew of 4s. The idea being that a book that is either a YES or a NO for readers is definitely better than a book that is a PRETTY ENJOYABLE for most. It’s an interesting theory. I find that the second book in my trilogy, Seeds of War, has elicited a lot of 3s (“Kind of a bridge book”) and 5s (“Best book ever!!!”), whereas my first, Eden’s Root, got a lot of 4s. I see the blogger’s point. If what you want is to be evocative, then you needn’t fear the “nays” because the “yays” will be so overwhelming.
What’s fascinating about PRODIGY is that it’s got both, IMHO. It’s a bridge book in the first 2/3 and a fast-paced, high-intensity thrill ride in the last 1/3. (BTW, best way if you can bc you leave the reader panting once again.) I want to be clear that I rate the first 2/3 as I do because I felt it was “bridge book” (I get judged the same way and it’s tough…but impressions are impressions.), NOT because of Ms. Lu’s writing, which I love.
In the first half of the book June and Day are often separated and there is a lot of uncertainty about who is working for whom and who can be trusted. Also, there is the groundwork for a love triangle that is…interesting. Believable, I guess, when you consider June’s analytical nature. I’m not insanely pro or con when it comes to love triangles. What was a bit frustrating in the beginning of Prodigy was that Lu put a lot of different love triangle scenarios together. I wanted them to settle out and some do…
But in the last 1/3 of the book, it gets absolutely AMAZING!!! There were twists and turns and unexpected outcomes, and I loved the way that she showed the trust that Day and June have in one another, followed swiftly by arguments and recriminations that HAD to take place. These two have been through so much and have, whether intentional or no, caused each other so much pain. How strong a love must they have in order for that to survive.
Side Note – Before I get started on the detailed reivew, I have two side notes. One – Legend showed Day’s POV in BOLD. I liked this because I could come back to it in my Kindle app and immediately know who was speaking, allowing me to pick up where I left off. They didn’t do his in Prodigy. Two – the covers. I like the single symbol thing. It works, it makes sense. But I think it’s kind of tied to the Twilight approach and I personally like covers that give me wild and beautiful visuals of the type that are found within the book. The backdrop of the Colonies with a struggling June and Day, perhaps?. Just my preference.
World-building – I actually am very impressed with Lu’s world-building. She fills in a ton of blanks in this story and you KNOW I loves me answers! (BTW, this is one aspect that makes it a bridge book so, you know, people, what do you want? Some backstory is necessary.) Her supposition of the corporate state taken to its ultimate conclusion, along with the fall of the northern giants of the first world and the subsequent rise of the developing world…all very believable and interesting. As soon as she widened that lens for me, the REPUBLIC snapped into clarity and I saw: North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba… That reference was critical for me to understand the REPUBLIC from both the inside and outside.
The Colonies! – I love portrayals of corporate-driven futures. Not only do I find them believable, I find them chillingly entertaining. As a sci-fi buff, the changes of the modern world have begun to resemble the stories I’ve loved since childhood and I can’t help feeling eager for the ride that is to come, however chaotic it may be. I hope I live long enough to see a lot of it. The Colonies were no exception in my corporate-wasteland “wheelhouse.” Bright and sparkly and overstimulating, everything costs money, including services that we now take for granted will be funded by taxes like police protection. What if everything were privatized? Where would that leave the poor?
In offering this alternative DYStopia to the Republic, Lu is both realistic and thoughtful. Sure the Republic is wrong, but are the Colonies right? How can we find a middle ground? And why are the poor the single most consistent facet of human existence no matter the time, place, or circumstance? If you can write a story that simultaneously makes me sit on the edge of my seat like a 12 year old waiting for the protagonists to kiss AND think about the direction of human society’s development…you’re my kind of writer.
Day – It’s funny, many reviews of Lu’s little novella, Life before Legend, seemed to dwell on how much they liked June and how they wished Lu had given them more of June. Well, I can never get too full for more servings of Day, personally. I would love a book entirely about him from his birth to the start of Legend. I LOVE this boy. LOVE him. To be fair, he’s a blonde with blue eyes and I’m a leetle partial to that type. Also lean and athletic (not hulking), smart and compassionate, brave and terrified. *Sigh* I just love him, yeah? (Every time he says, “yeah” it gives me goosebumps. It’s truly a great little piece of him.) Even in the sections of this book that were a little slower, I loved every second of Day.
June – Equal opportunity love. I love June. Usually I love my female MCs more than the male MCs, but in this case I do love June just a tiny bit less than Day, but then, she’s not the more sympathetic character. She’s been raised and groomed by an evil regime. All of her symbols and heroes have been nothing but paper tigers, but it’s hard for her to undo all that programming in a snap, even when she knows the truth. It makes her a little harder to love. But it makes her really easy to RESPECT. Make no mistake, June is bad-motherf——- a–.
She counts the passage of time in the background of her mind at all times, she scans the details of environments, people, and situations like the Terminator, and she chooses to fight illness without medication just to challenge her immune system. (Actually, to a degree, I agree with this myself.) And on top of it all, she’s gorgeous. Lu’s portrayal of June rings true. Someone having to wrestle with those kind of changes would not necessarily transform all at once. Instead June changes little by little. It’s so fortunate that we can be inside her mind or we wouldn’t know that she wants to tell Day that she loves him, but she can’t. You wouldn’t know that she has no language for her feelings, only for details and work – professional interactions. That’s why she loves Day so much. Because, as Lu points out, he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Adding Depth to Thomas – In my review of Legend, one of my only “knocks” was that it seemed like the villains had so little depth. There was no explanation for the severity of their cruelty and depravity. I’m ok with the occasional completely psychotic villain with no soul, but usually I prefer that these characters have some meat to them, just like the heroes. In Prodigy, Lu gives you more depth to Thomas. He’s still really disgusting and reprehensible, but you *get* him better. An unexpected twist, too. I liked it. I still think the other villains need a little body, but I trust Lu. If you give her time, she’ll give you what you wanted.
Normally I list things I didn’t love, but I think I covered that in saying that the beginning was slow and “bridge-y.” I still think that part of the story was necessary. I liked the first 2/3 a lot, it was just the kind of thing that I could put down and come back to…as opposed to the last 1/3, which had me reading in every spare second that I could find. Otherwise, there was NOTHING I didn’t like.
Ok…well, that’s not entirely true.
SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! DON”T READ ON IF YOU HAVEN”T READ THE BOOK. GO READ IT!!!
Sigh. *Scuffs foot and stares into the sun, burning away the tears.* I am going to trust Lu with the unexpected twist at the end of Prodigy. I am. I AM. But it’s hard. If she goes in the direction with Day that she suggests, it will make her incredibly brave, but it will break my heart. If she leads me down the path and then somehow gives me the end I think I want, that would be awesome. Somehow, I think she may do something in between. I’ll be looking forward to it with bated breath. Don’t keep us waiting, Ms. Lu. Unless of course, it’s going to be as worth the wait as Prodigy.