The second book in any trilogy always feels like that all-important second date. You’ve set the expectations, for better or for worse, on the first date and now the follow-up determines whether its worth taking things to the next level or you decide that the date simply never lived up to the promise of that initial meeting.
Legend did such a good job of introducing us to this dystopian world that Marie Lu has created, a world where the United States of America has fractured into two countries (the Republic of America and the Colonies of America) who are constantly at war with each other. She also introduced us to Day and June, two teenagers who – in their own different ways – are fighting for their own vision of what freedom and equality for all really means.
Prodigy picks up immediately where Legend left off, with June turning her back on the government that she’s always believed in after learning the truth behind her parents’ and her brother’s death. She’s on the run after helping Day escape his own execution with the help of a group of rebels called the Patriots. Desperate for help, and wanting to free Day’s brother Eden from the clutches of the Republic who is using him as a bio-weapon against the Colonies, Day and June become more involved with the Patriots, whose help comes with a price: killing the new Elector of the Republic.
This book is jam-packed with action scenes, plots, betrayals and revelations that will keep you turning page after page after page. I had some issues with Legend because I feel that the relationship between Day and June developed faster than I would have liked. I didn’t feel like they knew each other well enough for those feelings to be authentic and realistic.
However, Marie Lu addresses that issue by having the two of them deal with the fallout of the events in the previous book in this instalment. June comes to terms with the fact that she’s given up her life and her status as the Republic’s Prodigy in order to be with Day, and Day has to deal with the lingering resentment (and insecurity) over the divide between their status and the bigger issue of the fact that, deep deep down, he blames June for betraying his family to the Republic.
Mare Lu very cleverly kept them apart for most of this book, which allowed them to analyse their relationship without physical attraction getting in the way. Most young adult books don’t do that and would instead brush the issues aside because “love forgives all things” and all that rubbish. However, in reality love is not mutually exclusive of those issues; you can love and resent a person all at the same time and that’s what makes human relationships so layered and complex.
I respected the relationship between June and Day so much more in this book because to me it felt more real. That’s not to say that they didn’t annoy me a little in this book. I sometimes had to roll my eyes because I felt that there’s simply no room for that kind of adolescent nonsense when their is a war going on. But then I realise that if we stop living and stop having human emotions just because we live in state of constant war, then we’ve probably reached a point where there is nothing left worth fighting for.
There is so much more to this book than just the development of June and Day’s relationship. They each develop as characters and though their belief systems may differ, they each fight on the side of freedom and equality for all. We are also introduced to the new Elector who becomes a symbol of hope that the country can change for the better. Arden genuinely wants to make things better for his people and to correct the mistakes of the previous government, and he manages to somehow communicate this passion to June, which makes her doubt her decision to help assassinate him.
There are many more revelations to be had in this book and the action is relentless. June and Day even manage to make it into the Colonies of America and it is there that they realise that while the grass may seem greener on the other side, absolute power is still absolute power and the Colonies may just be another prison, just with different guards. That was my favourite part of this book actually, I thought that as a plot device it really helped readers understand why Day eventually did what he did. The first half of the book was June-centric, but its Day’s character that takes centre stage towards the end as he becomes the voice of the people, a stronger symbol of hope than Anden would ever be because he IS the people.
The book ends with a cliffhanger that made me glad that I am reading this book after all three have already been released and I did not have to wait another year to read Champion, the last book in the trilogy. Throughout all the action and fast-paced developments, Marie Lu keeps a strong grip on the narrative and is always in full-control of this world that she’s created. Prodigy is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor and will have readers reaching for the next book faster than you can say Hunger Games.