And its finally over.
This amazing series finally come to its conclusion with Champion, the third book in the series. Its really hard to discuss and review this book without issuing any major spoilers so if you haven’t read the first two books, consider this your SPOILER ALERT!
The last book ended with a big reveal about Day as well as an end to his relationship with June. He’s left the capital of the Republic to care for his brother Eden as well as to get treatment for his own steadily worsening condition. June, meanwhile, is in training to become the Princeps, the second highest position in the republic (and a position usually held by the Elector’s wife. Hmmmm, coincidence?). The country is on the brink of a treaty with the Colonies until a new plague outbreak threatens to break the tenuous peace that June and Day have fought for, and subsequently brings them back together.
I have to say I was very very impressed with this book. From somewhat naive teenagers, June and Day have grown leaps and bounds into really sensible individuals who, while still prone to the occasional adolescent angst, can think things through before coming to a decision. I am impressed with the level of maturity Marie Lu has given these characters. It is the highest praise I can give when I say that in terms of YA characters these two annoy me the least.
Marie Lu did a very good job of contrasting the different perspectives (and decision-making process) of the main characters in this book: Day, Anden and June.
Those of us who lead with our emotions tend to see the world in absolutes, in black and white, never seeing the shades of grey in between. Guided by our supposedly lofty set of morals, it would be easy to judge another person’s actions as good or bad. Its often a different story if we experience firsthand what it would be like to be responsible for the fate of so many, to have to sacrifice over and over again our own morals and personal beliefs for the sake of the greater good.
The contrast between logic and emotions is exemplified in the characters of Anden and Day. The former, as Elector, has to make decisions that are often contrary to his desires but are ones that he knows will save the country. He cannot afford to rule with his heart because the truth is, emotion is not something one can afford when facing war from both within and without your country’s borders.
Day, meanwhile, is all emotion. Without the weight of an entire country on his shoulders, he can afford to care for the poor and disenfranchised, to protect his remaining family member as well as the girl who is the closest thing he has to a sister. He can afford to fight the daily battles without thinking about what’s next for his country after the dust of battle has settled.
In a way, June represents the balance between these two men. It was very clever of Marie Lu to have this tale narrated through alternating perspectives (June’s and Day’s). We get to read so many scenes of June attempting to strike some kind of balance and compromise, still doing what she knows is right but also being able to look at it from a more global perspective. Its what differentiates June Iparis from other wannabe dystopian heroines: while she is still vulnerable to emotions and matters of the heart (I hate the way she lets herself be affected by Anden’s attentions in order to fill the Day-sized hole in her life), during moments of crisis she is genuinely able to function rationally and be the kind of leader her country needs.
For me, the whole series seems to be Marie Lu’s subtly way of warning us of the dangers of excess and absolute power. Any government where there are a group of individuals who presume to know better and to act in behalf of their people, rather than giving them freedom of choice, is really just tyranny. I’m glad that while this series is somewhat political, it was also so much more than that. Its about one’s personal journey, staying true to your beliefs and what it means to truly care for another person.
The ending was perfect. While some readers may disagree and yearn for something more decisive, I think I like the uncertainty of a happy beginning rather than the finality of a happy ending. I thought the ending was really poignant and, if you paid close attention to the previous books, also very fitting with how June and Day’s relationship has developed.
This is what a dystopian novel should be like: the perfect mix of action, backstory, romance with a side order of politics. Overall, this was a very satisfying end to a fabulous series and I look forward to reading more of Marie Lu’s body of work in the future.