Legend by Marie Lu

 

Legend (Legend, #1)
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June is a wealthy young daughter of the Republic. She scored perfectly on her Trial exam and is being trained, like her parents and her brother to serve the Republic as a member of its military. When her brother is killed by the Republic’s most wanted criminal, she seeks revenge. But on her journey to avenge him, she finds he’s been hiding some of the Republic’s darkest secrets for her to find.

 

Day is a poor boy from the slums. Or was before he failed his Trails. Instead of being sent to the death camps like the rest of the children the Republic deems unworthy of service or work, Day manages to escape. Now he does his best to stay alive and wreak havoc in the Republic’s cities. When his brother is diagnosed with the plague, one of the many illnesses that ravage the poorest sectors of the city, Day must steal a cure from the hospital, one of the most well-guarded buildings in the city.

I’m a big sucker for the Robin Hood stories. Steal from the rich to give to the poor. They really don’t need the extravagance anyway. I also really like a show-off. Needless to say, I loved Day. He was witty and quick on his feet. Impulsive and protective of his family and his people. He lived by his own rules and his own morals, like many children on the street do.

June is meant to showcase the difference between the two worlds. They are essentially the same person – smart, showy, with extreme physical prowess – but one of them was raised as a legacy, with everything that entails. She inherited her family name and their home in the high rise. She attended their alma mater and earned a coveted spot in well-respected patrol. She was afforded chances that Day was not simply because of her name and status.

Meanwhile, Day comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s had none of June’s education and none of her family history to bolster him. As a result, the Republic decides he is unworthy and unusable. He’s sentenced to die and escapes because of his own skill, in the process turning himself into Public Enemy number 1.

The dystopian genre really is my favorite. It gives rise to strong characters; these are heroes that I look up to. They’re entirely normal people until, for whatever reason, they find they can’t be. Reading dystopian gives an insight into a human thirst for power and how it develops, manifests, and makes itself known. As far as dystopian novels go, this book was really enjoyable. Honestly, give me any book with an angsty teenager who hates the government instead of his mom or a young women who is the only one who can spark the rebellion and save the citizens. It’s like my crack.

Was it any more than fun? Not terribly. It’s the same overpowering government using the same control tactics we see in so many other dystopian novels. There was room for improvement in the history and world-building department. The characters’ pasts could have been better fleshed. But for a quick, addictive read, it was fun, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

Fans of Legend should also check and out Metaltown by Kristen Simmons. The two books have similar themes, ideas, and writing style, although Legend is a bit more high-tech and high profile.

 

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

 

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Freya is twenty-third (you heard right, 23rd) in line for the throne.  Tragedy strikes during a party that the current king was hosting and the whole line of succession before her is wiped out.  Suddenly, Freya is queen and insistent on finding the killer.  Oh and shes an inventor on the side.

 

The character development was nice to see in this book.  When we first meet Freya, she wants nothing to do with the ruling the kingdom or even going to the kings extravagant parties.  In fact, she would rather hole herself up in her make-do basement laboratory.  However, after she becomes queen and realizes the amount of debt the kingdom is in, she immediately starts thinking of new ways to fix their growing debt.  We also see that she is a compassionate ruler, after learning the town is being taxed for ridiculous reasons.

She goes from a timid character, letting her advisors do most of the work while she merely sits by and nods her head, to an outspoken queen who wants nothing in return other than knowing her kingdom is happy.

The mystery of who killed the line of succession is kept a secret very well.  I am impressed with how exceedingly difficult it was to figure out who the culprit is.  We also get to a look into basic chemistry whenever Freya conducts her expirements.

The small amount of romance is just that, small.  It doesn’t overwhelm the book, and it isn’t lacking either.   Fitzroy, who is the deceased kings bastard son, gets roped into helping Freya figure out who killed his father.  There is a bit of distrust in the two and Freya soon starts to trust Fitzroy with more than just information.   And Freya meets Madeline, who is her successor.

We know that Freya is a decent detective with all the information she throws at us.  She finds the back story and makes sure to make sure its a solid alibi before crossing any names off of a list.

I enjoyed this book.  It was definitely a good read for me.

  • 4/5 Stars
  • Mysterious and romantic
  • Great character development
  • Decent plot
  • Definitely recommended.

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

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The royalty of the Lone City live in the center of their small island, in a neighborhood titled the Jewel. The women of the Jewel are infertile, and no one can tell them why. So instead of looking for an answer, they look to the lower class. Any girl of child-bearing age who finds herself capable of performing feats of magic known as Auguries is taken from her home, trained to be a surrogate, and auctioned off to the highest bidder. The talent of your surrogate-slave is indicative of your wealth and power in the hierarchy of the Jewel.

 

I bought this book because it was cheap and I was drunk (this actually happens more than I care to admit. I like to think it’s my past self looking out for my future self). I also enjoyed the Handmaid’s Tale, both the book and the television series, so another series based on making slaves out of child-bearing individuals seemed timely. For the first time in a long time, I started reading a book with no idea what to expect.

Unfortunately, it fell flat. I found myself wanting more. Violet is nothing to me. She’s superficial and complacent. She blankly wanders through her life, being shepherded by her caretaker or her prep artist or her maid. Her solitary shining moment comes after the doctor has placed the first embryo. Violet was drugged and strapped down while they placed another’s women’s child in her womb, and she feels understandably violated, shell-shocked and mortified.

This is so disappointing because that’s one of my favorite things about dystopian. The character usually finds herself in circumstances that make it clear that complacence is no longer viable. The characters are usually down-trodden teens with a strong moral compass who decides enough is e-fucking-nough. Violet, enslaved as a walking womb, finds none of that strength. She is neither headstrong, nor inspiring.

Because I could care less about anyone in this book, I was fighting giggles in what was meant to be one of the most tense moments in the novel. Violet and her love interest were being chastised for their forbidden love (yes, chastised. Like teenagers who got caught sneaking out in the 21st century), and I’m trying not to laugh, even though somebody could be killed over it.

Ash is just as much a blank slate as any other character, and as a result the romance is sudden, undeveloped, and uninteresting. This relationship developed far too quickly, and it just… happened. There was no build up and no reveal to get excited about. We were told they were in love and we were meant to believe it. In fact, this was true for the whole novel. It felt like the entire book was a summary of what had happened. Nothing ever felt like it was happening in the moment.

This book wasn’t exciting or captivating. It was barely interesting.  It barely even crossed the line into interesting. Will I read the next book? Maybe, if I can check it out from the library.

The Last Star by Rick Yancey

 

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Cassie has reunited with her beloved Sam and he’s forgotten his ABCs. This ultimate loss of childhood reminds Cassie that this world will never be the same after the Others. As long as that terrifying green orb is in the sky, the humans left over will be afraid and alone; and that’s how the Others want it.

 

This was a terrible ending to a sub-par series. On top of everyone being so annoying, there was a lot of inconsistent characterization and plotting. There’s something to be said for trusting your readers to understand what you’re getting at, but leading them blindly and letting them walk off into the abyss is something else entirely. The plot was… questionable at best. At times, it was so fast I was like WTF is happening? Sometimes entire chapters would pass with nothing interesting happening.

Just a heads up: the conflict of this story boils down to climate change. And how even the the crazy aliens and military men recognize this is happening. This is really a mercy kill; they’ll kill 6 billion people because significantly fewer people can do significantly less damage. The aliens are altruistic; they’re doing us a favor. They get nothing out of it except for feeling philanthropic because they stopped the disaster that was the human race from destroying itself. Thought I’d recap, because it’s not like it’s ever plainly explained. It’s all dramatic allusions and riddles. 

Yancey never did answer why they don’t just kill everyone either. Yes, I get that they want to stop the cooperation of the human race; make it so they can’t trust each other long enough to cooperate and collaborate. So many of the world’s advances come from people working together; if they can end that, they end human advancement. But here’s what I still don’t understand. If they just killed everyone, there’d be no cooperation to worry about. Maybe that’s short-sighted of me. I guess eventually some new life-form would evolve from the ashes of everything the humans left behind. At least with a few paranoid humans left, there would be something there to kill it before it became problematic.

I’ve seen this ending to Cassie’s story before in films like Independence Day and Oblivion. That was the Divergent series ended, and people hated it then. They saw it for what it was; lazy story-writing. There are no loose endings left to worry about. We needn’t be bothered with the pesky emotional impact, because it’s the main character, and the only one who we were ever allowed to get emotionally attached to. With Cassie, this sort of selflessness is not something we’ve seen from her, so it’s not just lazy, it’s also out of character. The ending was overall unfulfilling.

Overall, it’s crappy story writing. Yancey attempted to be as profound as posssible while impersonating a teenage girl. He made Cassie a rambling, babbling, high school bobble head who went through an existential crisis when her existence was threatened. The plot was poorly planned, poorly paced, and poorly executed. The problems that have prevailed through the last two novels returned with a vengeance in this one, culminating in an unsatisfying ending.

I would not recommend this series. Rumor has it Yancey is planning a second trilogy surrounding these same characters and others in this world. I may pick it up from the local public library, but I wouldn’t count on it.

 

 

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

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Amani has crossed the desert with her foreign prince and joined forces with his brother Ahmed, the Rebel Prince. The Rebellion has taken half the desert with the help of the Blue-Eyed Bandit. When a mission to take back a rogue city in the Rebellion’s and a rescue from the capital go sideways, the Mirajin Army find the rebel camp in the oasis and ambush. Amani, hours after reuniting with Jin, is taken to the Mirajin capital of Izman, where the Sultan is paying top dollar for any Demdji.

Have you ever read a sequel that’s as good as the original or even better? Traitor to the Throne is. The plotting done so well. There are plots and sub-plots, intertwining brilliantly to create a fully fleshed story. Faces Amani knew in her old life come back to haunt her; those who were once her friends, help the Sultan keep her down. And someone she never trusted turns into her greatest ally. Once captured, Amani makes herself useful to the Sultan, giving him reason to give her a little more freedom and a little more trust.

Hamilton doesn’t really bother with filler. If a part of the story doesn’t serve a purpose or if we need catching up, we get it in her gorgeous prose, told as a story within a story. And I absolutely love reading the stories. The Mirajin mythologies and legends are all so beautiful and so sad. The last book was heavy on the legend of the Atiyah and Sakhr. This time we keep hearing the love story of Princess Hawa and Atillah. As per usual, the stories are based in truth, and provide valuable lessons that are important to the real events of the book.

I’m a sap. I love reading about love, and this book has a lot of mushy love stories in it. Amani and Jin, Imin and Navid, Madhi and Sayyida. It’s all so swoon-insipiring and sad. The actions of so many of these characters, and the events that occur as a result of them, are done in the name of the person they love. Jin’s a runner; we knew that back in Dustwalk. I just don’t think Amani thought he’d ever run on her. The time they spend apart in this novel only increases the impact when they’re together again.

I still don’t like Ahmed. Is he charismatic and inspiring? Yes, definitely. Would he make a benevolent ruler? Probably. He obviously means well. But, like Amani, I have doubts about his ability to hold a country against the foreigners fighting over Mirajin deserts. He’s having trouble holding half the desert with his forces, and I’m not sure he can do what needs to be done even with the full Mirajin army at his back.

5/5. Would recommend.

 

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

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Mare is being held prisoner by King Maven. She lives out her life trapped in the Palace, lightning suppressed by Silent Stone, and tortured by the whispers Merandus family. The Scarlet Guard is growing, expanding their operations. Once they were confined to the Lakelnds, now everyone in Norta know their name and they’re spreading to the kingdom of Piedmont. Cal, the exiled prince and one of the Guard’s strongest strategists, will stop at nothing to get Mare back. But once he’s got her, will his allegiances remain with the Scarlet Guard?

Is the writing style any better than the first two books? Not really. Is the world-building any more developed? Eh. Am I any more attached to these characters than I was in the first book? Heavens no. So why did I like this book any better than the first two?

I think the answer to that question can be summed up in one word: Maven. Let’s make one thing very clear: I couldn’t care less about this love triangle. I am so unattached to these characters, it hurts. Reading about their love life is so dull. But I did enjoy the insight into the mad king’s mind.

Maven is a lost little boy without Elara. She stripped him of anything that made him real. She took his fears and desires and emotions, and she filled his mind with what she thought would make him powerful. Elara loved her son, I know that. She did what she thought was best for him and for her family’s image of power. The Silvers decided a long time ago that love was weakness. So the queen took that from Maven. She turned him into this empty, plastic little boy filled with blackness and hate. And if there’s one thing Aveyard has shown she can write in a book, it’s plastic characters.

I liked the politics. I enjoyed watching the Silver High Houses continue to fight amonst themselves and alter their allegiances. It took Mare far too long to realize the war with Lakeland was less about resources than it was about oppressing Reds. Remember 1984? A constant war is the perfect distraction to tyranny and oppression; the people hate the enemy more than their own country. But Maven ending that fake war was genius. The people celebrate peacetime and the king that brought it to them. It was a great way for him to garner support where before he had none. In a way, what was probably meant to be filler was one of the most interesting parts of the novel.

Cal actually shows some kind of emotion besides rage in this one, so that’s something. We get to see him being the excellent strategist we’ve been hearing about. Cal finds himself shirtless more than once in this book, which was fun. He finally made a choice this time around. And he chose what everyone knew he would in the long run, even if so many Red Queen fans are disappointed by it. Does he love Mare? Sure. Does that mean anything to a Silver? No.

I still can’t stand Mare. She continues to be as self-deprecating as ever. That’s all I really have to say on the matter.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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Amani was raised in backwater Dustwalk, where you learned to shoot before you learned to walk, and she’s dreamt of leaving since her mother died. Amani plans to run away to Izman, the capital of the dessert nation Miraji. There, she can be her own person, not owned by her uncle or some husband she doesn’t want to be with. But first, she has to be able to pay her way there.

Which explains how Amani ended up in Deadshot, the crappy town next to Dustwalk. Specifically how she ended up meeting a handsome foreigner as they try to escape a riot at the pistol pit. It doesn’t explain why he runs into her shop with a bullet wound the day after being chased by the Sultan’s Army. Or why she rides off into the dessert with him on the back of an immortal horse.

I loved this book. It was exciting in so many different ways. I loved the characters and the mythology and the stories. My favorite part was Shihabian in the oasis. It hit me that Amani was celebrating the same holy day under the same sky, but now she was celebrating surrounded by people who had come to care for her, and with more food and drink than she’d probably ever been able to eat in her life. It was a brilliant testament to how much Amani’s life had changed. If I had one complaint, it was the pacing. Some scenes (especially action scenes) felt like they just dragged on and on forever.

This book was heavy on the romance. It was refreshing not to have to deal with the characters playing coy with each other. Amani and Jin started flirting the moment they met in the pistol pit. She made him laugh and he saved her from the rioters in the pit. He pulled her from her dead-end hometown and she saved him from the Sultan’s Army. There was never a moment where I didn’t think they would fall in love with each other.

I was not surprised that Amani was a Demdji. Jin had been hiding something the whole time, though I was admittedly convinced it was something deeply painful meant to turn him into a brooding stranger trope. But Amani was obviously special. Her strangely bright eyes were mentioned far too many times for it to be a coincidence, and her sharp-shooting ability was impressive, to say the least. She couldn’t be a First Being or a Djinn, because she’d have noticed. Too much magic in her and too much iron in her world for a First Being to go unnoticed. Being half-djinni makes sense once somebody mentioned that it was even possible. Iron weakened her enough that her abilities never surfaced, but it never hurt her, which was important considering how many times she held a gun growing up. But if I don’t see some repercussions to the fact that her gun, which has really been the most trustworthy thing in her life, is what was preventing her from developing her abilities as a Demdji and she won’t be able to shoot anymore, I’m going to be extremely disappointed.

Shazad is a secondary character worth discussing. She is no Mary Sue character. She doesn’t just think she’s great. She is phenomenal, even more so because she is not Demdji, and she uses her remarkable ability and strength to fight for a cause she believes in. She’s one of Ahmed’s best assets and I doubt the Rebellion would be anywhere close to where it was without her. I find her to be amazingly inspiring.

 

I’m surprised that I liked this book as much as I did, because I’m really not enjoying this Western trend at all. I am not big on the whole horse, saloon, gunslinger scene. I am, however, loving this shift toward the Middle East. The dessert sets a harsh and beautiful backdrop for any travels characters make. I aslo really love the look at Middle-Eastern mythos and culture. The Middle-Eastern fantasy mixed with civil disobedience and rebellion just vibes well with me right now.