Monday, January 30, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

by Marie Lu
narrated by Mariel Stern and Steven Kaplan

Series: Legend Trilogy #1
Copyright: 2011 Penguin Audio
Duration: 7 hours 48 minutes unabridged
Genres: science fiction, dystopia, young adult
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews
Click the image to visit the publisher’s website.

PUBLISHER’S 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.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

©2011 Marie Lu (P)2011 Penguin Audio

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Great Republic of America,
to our Elector Primo, to our Glorious States,
to unity against the colonies, to our impending victory!

Not quite the same pledge you and I grew up with, eh? Is it just me, or is there something very chilling about those lines? America is divided. The western part of the country is united under a single government, the Republic of America. Everything else is enemy territory: the colonies. Most people that live within the boundaries of the Republic are happy. Ignorance, they say, is bliss after all and the information that’s made available is highly censored.

Fifteen-year-old June was bred to excel in this world-gone-wrong. Her mind and body were developed from early childhood to be the best, and apparently it had been a job well done; she was the only person in history to get a perfect score of 1500 on the Trials, a series of tests administered to all 10-year-olds to determine their life course. She entered the top college in the Republic at age 12 and still finished in only three years. The plan is for her to join the military, to be the ultimate leader, to bring victory once and for all over the colonies.

On the other side of the coin is Day, also 15-years-old. Day came from a poor family. He took the Trials at age 10 like everybody else and failed miserably, or so he was told. Normally this would mean a lifetime of hard work in the labor camps, but in Day’s case, something went wrong. Instead of being taken to the camps, Day wound up in a hospital with unusual procedures being performed on him. The next thing he remembered was waking up in a roomful of dead bodies, having somehow survived the experiments. So he went on the run, and vowed to hinder the Republic in any way he could.

It seems inevitable that these two should meet. Day becomes the most wanted criminal in the whole Republic, and June is assigned the task of hunting him down, a task she is eager for after Day apparently killed June’s older brother. And meet they do.

Their meeting does not go quite as expected, however. June was a little too smart for the Republic’s good as it turns out. She uncovers some disturbing facts about Day that had been carefully hidden and begins to question some of the basic truths she has been brought up to believe in. There’s no question that the Republic will go to great lengths to keep its secrets. Do a couple of teenagers stand any chance against a corrupt system?

While reading Legend, I couldn’t help but be reminded of George Orwell’s classic 1984. The government controls everything, led by the Elector Primo (who is not elected at all). Citizens are told at a very young age what they will do for the rest of their lives: what kind of education they will get, what kind of work, etc. The population is controlled through a mild form of brainwashing via the jumbo-trons, which constantly broadcast wanted posters, good news about the war, and of course the daily pledge of allegiance. It’s not a good time to be alive.

This is Marie Lu’s first novel and it’s an impressive piece of work. There’s plenty of action to keep the story moving and Lu’s pacing was good; she drops in new pieces of the puzzle in all the right places via June’s research and interactions with other characters. She ended it all up with a big finish too, and left things open just enough to allow for more novels in the Legend universe. I think we can expect a lot more good fiction from Marie Lu.

Legend was performed by dual narrators, Steven Kaplan for Day’s parts, and Mariel Stern for June’s. This is a nice method for stories with more than one main character and Kaplan and Stern were both appropriate to the parts although neither really moved me. Stern and Kaplan are both new to me so I googled them but didn’t come up with much so I’m thinking they are both relatively new to audiobooks. Overall they both did a decent job and I wouldn’t mind hearing them again, especially if Lu writes more books around Day and June.

Legend is a great debut novel from an up-and-coming author. It’s my first young adult audiobook of the year and, I think, a good way to kick off 2012. If you enjoy this type of story I also highly recommend The Hunger Games if you haven’t already read it.

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Special thanks to Penguin Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

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