Review: In Prodigy, Marie Lu Follows up her YA hit Legend

I enjoyed Marie Lu’s Legend, the first book in a YA dystopian epic about two teens — Day, a plucky street fighter and working class hero, and June, an elite warrior-in-training who is sent undercover to capture him. They meet in the rough lower-class section of Los Angeles, the center of a crumbling Republic of America ruled by a glorious Elector, where yearly plagues keep the poorer population weak and helpless.

As an author, Marie Lu has created a cast of likable characters, who are aware of their gifts and abilities but still human and concerned about others. And although there is no shortage of YA novels set in dystopian near-futures, I thought Lu’s Republic, ever at war with the surrounding Colonies in neighboring states, was believable and interesting.

Prodigy, the second book in the Legend series, is equally well-written and fast-moving. But it falls prey to some of the problems that often beset ongoing series.

Prodigy picks up right where Legend left off, with June and Day escaping from Los Angeles to evade the Republic forces that are after them. But with no time elapsed, Lu fails to give herself an opportunity to catch readers up on what happened in the last book, which came out over a year ago. A couple chapters in, I decided I needed to go back and re-read Legend so I could follow all the plot points involving Day’s friends and family and June’s Republic associates.

Prodigy does introduce us to the Patriots, the resistance fighting to overthrow the Republic. And we get to see the Colonies, where life is very different from the Republic. I did like Lu’s imagining of the Colonies’ society, which has major differences but some similarities with the militaristic Republic.

The chase scenes were exciting, and like the first book there’s plenty of action. Both Day and June are known for their physical abilities and their cunning, which keeps the book from bogging down in political world-building.

But Prodigy suffers from a lack of new things to offer the reader. We already know the characters, and the love connection is already established between June and Day. A wrinkle is thrown into the mix when June is brought together with Anden, the son of the Elector, who is suddenly thrust into power when his father dies, but with dashing Day as his rival, the new pairing doesn’t seem likely to last long.

Another weak point is that the main conflict in Prodigy is a continuation of what was set in motion in Legend. While it does reach a satisfactory ending of its own, many of the major plot threads are by necessity left unresolved so there can be a next book.

Ironically, I think a movie of the Legend series — where the action and handsome characters would take center stage — might be more appealing than the books. They are well-crafted, and fans of Hunger Games will find that they make a good follow-up, but on the page they just don’t have the same heart-pounding effect as more popular YA series.

That said, if you’re looking for a quick-paced adventure series, and especially if you enjoyed Legend, definitely give Prodigy a try.

 

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