Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Prodigy by Marie (Xiwei) Lu

Prodigy, the second installment in the Legend series. If Legend was great, Prodigy is  amazing and just as thrilling as its predecessor.

It opens with Day and June Iparis on a train traveling to Las Vegas, now a military city, to meet up with the Patriot rebels. Shortly after arriving, the Primo Elector suddenly dies and his son, Anden Stavropolous takes his place. Day and June are in disguise, walking along the strip attempting to locate the rebels. His injured leg is in dire need of medical attention and as a result Day is barely able to stand and is slipping in and out of consciousness.

Fortunately, they are found by Kaede who takes them to Venezia, a high-rise military barracks. In an eighth floor officer's suite they are introduced to "Razor", who is a Patriot rebel leader. Razor is Commander Andrew DeSoto who is in charge of three of the capital's patrols. Razor has connections to the Colonies and is able to bring a great deal of money to the rebels, whose ultimate mission is to bring down the Republic and reunite it with the Colonies, reinstating the United States of America. Razor agrees to shelter Day and June, and to heal Day, provided they agree to help assassinate the new Elector. Day and June both agree to this, although June has some reservations, which she keeps to herself at this time.

The plan is for June to be captured by Republic soldiers and taken to Denver, CO to speak with the Elector. Once she meets him she will warn him of an imminent plan to assassinate him. This however, will be a diversion from the real assassination, which June will lure him to. Meanwhile, Day, Kaede, Tess and Razor will head to the warfront with the Colonies to organize the assassination. Despite her lack of love for the Republic, June pushes down her reservations about Razor's plan.
"What exactly are the differences between Anden and his father? What does Anden think the Republic should be -- and for that matter, what do I think it should be?
I mute the screen again and walk away. Don't dwell too deeply on who Anden is. I can't think about him as if he were a real person -- a person I have to kill."
Author Lu gradually unveils in more detail exactly what the rebels, specifically Razor, have planned for Day and June. Not only will June lure Elector Anden to his death, but Day is expected to be the assassin and the murder will be broadcast live in order to foment a revolution by the Republic's citizens.

As planned, June is captured by the Republic soldiers, although the entire capture is rigged by Razor who has Thomas' patrol capture her. Thomas ensures that June is not harmed and she is taken to Denver, CO to meet the Elector. Meanwhile, Day and Kaede manage to sneak aboard the RS Dynasty and are taken to the warfront where they connect with the Patriots at their underground headquarters.

But things quickly begin to unravel. When June meets Anden, she senses that he is not at all like his father. Anden isn't the cruel ruler his father was - he considers the war to be madness.  June is struck by the fact that he cares about his public image and that he seems to be telling her that things might not be as they appear. June discerns that Anden genuinely wants to win over the people and this is confirmed by Anden telling her that he wants to work with the Patriots to establish a new Republic. June learns that he is clashing with Congress over these policies. All this leads June to begin questioning why Razor and the Patriots want him dead when he is on the side of the people.

When Anden tells her that he will be freeing Day's brother, Eden, along with all the other children who are prisoners,  June knows that she cannot participate in the murder of the young Elector.  She sends a signal to Day not to follow through on Razor's plans. June realizes that she needs to find a way to warn the Elector without raising the suspicions of Razor and the Patriots who are watching her every move via security cameras. Can June save Anden and help him in his fight with Congress, while also helping Day get what he wants?

Day too is filled with self-doubts and is strongly conflicted over his mission. Day's doubts begin when he receives June's signal to "stop" . However when Tess tells him not to trust June because, at heart, she is still a Republic soldier, he is confused over where his loyalty should be.  All Day wants is to free his brother Eden, who is being used as a bioweapon, and to escape to the Colonies, which his father told him are cities of beauty and light. But after seeing a captive young boy being used as a bioweapon, Day's resolve to kill the Elector is further strengthened and he now decides to follow through on the rebel's plans. But even the best laid plans can go astray.

Lu creates incredible suspense by using two narrators to tell the story. The reader follows the story from two perspectives; that of June who is captive and dealing with Anden, and that of Day who is part of the Patriots assassination plot. Each advances the storyline by adding what they know, and struggling with what they don't know. This all leads the reader to question who has the truth, June or Day? Is Anden sincere or is he just playing June? And what about Razor, who seems to have set all this in motion without much suspicion on the part of the Republic?

Both June and Day fall back into the roles they had in Legend; June is the brilliant, highly esteemed soldier who is to be repatriated back into the Republic, while Day is the tough, streetwise rebel and charismatic symbol of the Patriot rebels with his signature white blond hair and daring deeds. But Day is very different from Anden. He doesn't care about the future of the Republic. He simply wants to free his brother Eden and flee to the Colonies. Anden however, wants to save the Republic and the Colonies and reunite America.

Author Marie Lu advances her reader's knowledge of the Legends world considerably in Prodigy.  Of great help is the map at the front of the book of the United States post-catastrophe. Most of the Eastern United States is now flooded. This flooding resulted years ago in mass migration to the western states, followed by anarchy and succession from the country. Through Anden the reader learns how the Trials came about and how the Republic came to be a military dictatorship. This leads us to understand better why the people are rebelling and why Anden might be so desperate to change things.

Our world view is developed when Day is shown a world map at the rebels camp. There he learns that China and Africa are now world superpowers; most of Europe's population has fled to Africa; Antarctica is a beautiful place; and that only Brazil, Chile, and Argentina remain in South America. This was all the result of severe climate change caused by changes in the sun. These changes led to massive melting of Antarctica and flooding of the continents. We also get to experience the Colonies in Prodigy and learn that this part of North America is not the utopia Day and June think it is.

Besides filling Prodigy with well-paced, thrilling action, there are several complex romantic relationships; Day, Anden and June, June, Tess and Day, and Day, Tess and Baxter. There is also a fair measure of tragedy in this novel, not the least of which is the unexpected tragedy at the end.

Prodigy is a well paced, strong,  second novel, that will keep Legend series fans hungering for more -- and soon! This is the only dystopian series that can come close to competing with Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games. The writing is polished, the plot secure,  the characters engaging and realistic and the backstory developed.

Book Details:
Prodigy by Marie Lu
Toronto: G.P. Putnam's Sons    2013
374 pp.

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