Note: There are big spoilers for Book One in this series, Legend, but no spoilers for this book, Prodigy.
I loved Book One of this series – Legend, considering it one of the best dystopias I read last year. (See my review, here.) One reason was the appealing parallels to the timeless stories of Les Miz and Tale of Two Cities, with their heartbreaking class warfare and the inspirational hope and determination of the “have-nots.” Another, and perhaps the biggest reason for me, was the character of the 15-year-old hero, Daniel Altan Wing, known on the streets as Day.
The saga begins in the future, in the “Republic of America,” one of two warring nations in the former United States. Narration alternates between Day (“the boy who walks in the light”) – a legendary wanted criminal, and June, who, although only fifteen like Day, is a prodigy, and therefore a young soldier of the Republic. The two reside in Los Angeles, albeit on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.
When June’s brother is killed, she becomes convinced that Day is the murderer, and she is determined to find and kill him in revenge. Eventually she discovers, however, that Day was innocent, but had been set up as the fall guy for the crime. At the last minute, she is able to save him from execution by the Republic, but at a terrible cost. Book One ends with the two just barely escaping, determined to travel to somewhere safe.
In Prodigy, we again have alternating narration between June and Day. It is nine days since their flight that ended Book One, and the two have made their way to Las Vegas to join up with the Patriots, the underground rebels of the Republic. They need help to rescue Day’s little brother Eden, and also to find Tess, an orphan who became like a sister to Day.
Although June and Day are together now, they still have a lot to overcome because of their radically different backgrounds. Day always had to scrounge for food from the streets, and June is from a wealthy Republic family with ties to the military. Moreover, when she was still a part of the Republic, she felt an attraction to the new Elector of the Republic, 20-year-old Anden Stavropoulos. But the Patriots, as part of their agreement to help June and Day, want them to assassinate Anden. To that end, they want June to return to the Republic as a decoy. She will lure Anden to the designated site, and Day will kill him. Neither one of them is happy with the plan, but they accept. June, though, has more reservations than Day, and as she goes back into the bosom of the Republic and gets to know Anden more, it is no longer clear whose side she is on.
Evaluation: In many ways Lu succumbs to the same trope temptations as other YA post-apocalyptic/dystopia authors, and yet, this one still rises above the rest, in large part because of Day. Day is one of those selfless heroes like Sidney Carton and Jean Valjean who is impossibly good, but in a way you can’t help but want to be true. As June muses at one point about Day:
“He is beauty, inside and out.
He is the silver lining in a world of darkness.
He is my light.”
Mine too! This is a great tragic drama, with passion and violence and love and loss, but always hope. As Day says at the end of Book One when he is explaining his name to June:
“Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time. … You try to walk in the light.”
Can’t wait for the denouement!
Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2011
Playlist: What else? “One Day More” from Les Misérables: