I remember the fortunate moment when I got an advanced copy of Marie Lu’s Legend in my hot little hands. I was excited. Very excited. It ticked many of my boxes. Dytopian? Check. Crazy smart heroine? Check. Learning to see like from another point of view? Check. Zombies? No. Alas. No zombies. But that’s ok, because I didn’t miss them (much). In fact, the only box it didn’t tick for me was nice, readable black font. I  liked June, I liked Day, and I thought the plot was fast paced and engaging. My one complaint at the time (other than the font color), was that I thought it was short. Like another fifty pages could have really added something to the characters. I let that go, though, knowing we were getting Prodigy (and of course the not-yet-titled third installment). And, dear readers, Prodigy delivered.

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector. It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong? In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.

I am going to get this out of the way and say that, once again, I didn’t like the colored font. That seems like a stupid complaint, but type face (and covers) play a big part in a book’s experience for me, and I found the color to, after a while, make it hard to read. Not as hard as Legend, which featured yellow font to Prodigy‘s blue, but still. And it’s something I am glad I was prepared for, stilly though it may be.

But on to the meat of things. June. June June June. I love June. I liked her a lot in the first book because she was the kind of girl who, even when her entire world is falling to pieces around her, keeps her head. It wasn’t precisely easy, but she somehow manages to make it work. I admire that resourcefulness in her. I admire her perseverance. And I especially admire that she could and did change her mind. I liked June in Legend, but couldn’t love her because there wasn’t much to her. We got the base of June in the first book, and then in Prodigy we got t see why she does the things she does – what makes her tick.

We got to see June’s inner workings by seeing her in action. And boy, the action. Marie Lu’s greatest strength, I think, is her world building and plotting. So many things happen, but it doesn’t feel piled on. Both the reader and the characters have time to absorb and figure out what the latest developments mean personally and to their plans. And the action that happens? It matters. None of it feels convenient or as a way to move a relationship along. It’s all sort of deliberate, if that makes sense.

But for all that success at plotting, Marie Lu did something in this book that is both annoying and brilliant all at once: she introduced a new love interest for June that left me feeling some genuine conflict. I liked Day in the first book. I thought he was a good guy with the makings of a great man. I liked the balance of his strength and his sensitivity, especially as involved his family. And I really liked that we got to see him afraid. And I found I enjoyed all of those things in Prodigy as well. He and June have excellent chemistry on the page (and in one scene in particular). But…all that said, I really loved Anden. I thought he and June had even more chemistry than she and Day, and I found their scenes together to be some of the most compelling in the book, made even moreso by June’s genuine confusion about how she is reacting to Anden and about her compatibility with Day.

I will say it’s frustrating, getting to know a couple and becoming invested in their relationship only to have an entire book suddenly question it. That’s the very reason I usually hate love triangles, but this added a needed emotional connection to a series that was otherwise largely plot (I refuse to call this a love square because of…well, because of reasons). I thought it showed me a lot about June and the struggles she’s already having with herself. And, for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can trust and be happy with whichever path June takes. Mostly because I trust June.

And that’s just the major players. Razor, Kaede, and the rest of the supporting cast all managed to add something to the book without feeling like soapbox characters – characters put there to conveniently espouse a certain point of view. There was plenty of opining, to be sure, but it all felt natural, something I thought was an improvement between Legend and Prodigy. The Patriots were suitably complicated and the right and wrong course therefore suitably grey. I will confess to wishing that the Patriots were a little more likable, but it’s a dystopian world and nothing can be perfect.

I’ve said before that my favorite thing about getting to read a book by a debut author is watching their storytelling and writing grow. Marie Lu’s certainly has. She took the fast paced, exciting plot of Legend and managed to grow her characters into something more in Prodigy. I cannot wait to read the final installment and find out what the heck is going on and what June’s going to decide to do about the world, herself, and her boys (maybe but not necessarily in that order?).’

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