Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book Review: Champion by Marie Lu

I don't think there's a way around it: dystopian is the new black. Ever since the trilogy about a certain girl sporting a braid and a bow and arrow hit the shelves, the number of dystopian books have skyrocketed--and aren't we lucky! Marie Lu's "Legend" series garnered its own diehard fans with the story of June and Day that began two years ago, and, just last month, came to a close with "Champion." Luckily enough, the finale for this dystopian trilogy ended with a bang, keeping the stakes high and the tensions even higher.

Day is the legend, the hero and voice of the Republic's people. June is the prodigy, the strongest and smartest soldier who gained the Elector's trust from a young age. Both June and Day have sacrificed much for the Republic--including, perhaps, each other--and now their nation is on the brink of change and new development. The Colonies and the Republic are finally about to sign a peace treaty, reuniting what had once been America and relieving the tensions that had held reign for years. But when a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, war threatens the Republic cities. The only way to resolve the conflict is for June to ask the boy she loves to give up his own brother, to give up everything. Difficult choices have to be made: peace or love? Who will be the champion?

I imagine it must be pretty tough to juggle two different perspectives in a single book, jumping to and fro from each characters' voice, personality and thoughts. Yet Ms. Lu does a terrific job with June and Day's points of view, with alternating chapters from the two protagonists' perspectives. By giving us an in-depth look into the two main characters' thoughts and actions, she's not only able to make her readers invested in both of them equally, but also create tension and what a lot of people call the 'feeeeels.' And feels there were! Seeing the other person through the other characters' eyes really helped to develop June and Day's relationship in nuanced and complex ways, while at the same time making it incredibly believable and exciting to read about. In fact, their romance took leaps and bounds in "Champion," maturing in ways that allow them to grow as individuals as well.

Which, naturally, brings me to June and Day as characters. In the previous two books in the trilogy, June, to me, has always been a sort of foil character for Day, someone who kind of exists to make things more exciting for the 'real' main hero of the novel. But as I read "Champion," I felt like June definitely became more of a protagonist of equal standing. This is not to say that she used to be a faded side character. She has always been a kick-ass soldier, but she felt a little too stiff to me. In this novel, though, I definitely think that June develops a great deal emotionally, embracing her love for Day and her deceased brother, while struggling with not only the politics of being a Princeps-Elect, but also Anden's unrequited feelings for her. As for Day, he remains a dynamic and interesting character to follow throughout the novel, especially now that he has to deal with the possibility of his own death. Things have undeniably changed for both characters, forcing them to grow in ways that wouldn't have been possible without the pressing circumstances they face as important figures in the Republic.

The plot of "Champion" definitely does the trilogy justice, never letting the stakes drop and the story fall flat. Unlike a lot of dystopian series, where the finale ends up boring and stale, "Champion" remains exciting throughout the novel. When there isn't some punchy action going on, whether it's fighting enemy soldiers or jumping off of ridiculously tall buildings, there's always some emotional tension with June and Day's thoughts and the decisions that they have to make. The ending, especially, was original and fresh, and the epilogue kind of left things a tad bit hazy in a way that wasn't frustrating, but rather left things to the readers' hopeful imagination.

Overall, "Champion" is a thrilling finale to a great dystopian trilogy, with a pair of compelling main characters and an exciting storyline that remains that way until the final page. There's a reason the "Legend" series is so popular--I would definitely recommend the trilogy to anyone looking for an adventure!

Rating: 4.5/5

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