Legend by Marie Lu, published by Puffin on 2nd February 2012
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' 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.
Dystopian fiction is one of my favourite genres. I can't read enough books that are set in an unknown future but 'Legend' by Marie Lu is one of the most impressive titles that I've come across so far. Billed as the first in an epic dystopian trilogy which is loosely based on a retelling of Les Miserables, it delivers the goods in spades. So much so that it's already set to be made into a film by the producers of the Twilight Saga.
The story is set in Los Angeles, California but it's an America that's unrecognisable to modern day USA. Split into two warring factions - the Republic and the Colonies, this is an America where children are recruited at a certain age by taking a trial to assess their intelligence, fitness and mental astuteness. Those who fail are never seen again. June got the only perfect score ever recorded and is one of the Republic's best recruits. When her brother is murdered, she vows to hunt down and capture his killer.
The narrative alternates between June and a fifteen year old boy called Day, who is one of the most wanted criminals in the Republic and the target of June's quest for vengeance. Sharp and fast paced, the narrative swiftly immerses you in June and Day's world where the one and only thing that matters is surviving. I really enjoyed getting to know both characters and I loved the fact that we were presented with both a male and female perspective which often meant differing opinions of events and people. Sometimes I wasn't entirely sure about which of them could be trusted until some of the layers of the plot began to unravel and the various agendas of some of the characters became clearer. There are also some great secondary characters in the book including Tess who's almost like a sister to Day and Thomas, a friend of June's brother who's hiding some dangerous secrets.
I thought that the world which Marie Lu created was absolutely incredible. The image of a government controlling people's lives to such an extreme was both eerie and chilling. I wanted to know more about the Colonies and the Patriots but I'm guessing that a lot more detail about them will be revealed in the next book in the series.
'Legend' was one of those books which defines the term thrilling. Compulsive and gripping, it was full of action and excitement and you'll find it very hard to put down for a second. It's sure to garner fans of dystopian fiction who are looking for that next amazing read and I can't recommend it highly enough.