It’s a good year to be a fan of YA dystopian series – a handful of popular series have their final books coming out all within about six months of each other, so many well-loved stories are coming to an end. The most recent series to join that list is Marie Lu’s Legend series, which recently concluded with its third book, Champion. Before I get into the review, here’s your friendly reminder that this review may contain spoilers for the first two books in the series, Legend and Prodigy.
If you’re like me and you don’t remember many details from the first two books, don’t worry too much about it – Lu catches up readers quite seamlessly by integrating past plot points into current plot progression in Champion. Now, if you haven’t read the first two books, I would absolutely recommend reading them first. You won’t be lost without them, but the story means so much more with them.
Champion continues the style of back-and-forth narration between June, who is settling into her new political role as a Princepts-elect for the new young leader of the Republic, and Day, a former revolutionary who now also works for the Republic and quietly suffers from a potentially fatal brain tumor. The basic set-up for Champion is that just when the Republic starts to get things together to make the country livable, the rival Colonies threaten to attack the Republic due to a new outbreak of a Republic-created virus (the one Day’s brother, Eden, suffered from earlier in the series) within the Colonies. The Republic needs a cure to prevent war, and Eden is the ticket to that cure.
This brings June and Day together for the first time in nearly a year, as June attempts to convince Day to allow Eden to be experimented on in hopes of finding a cure. Meanwhile, to prepare for the worst, June and the Republic leader, Anden, head off to Antarctica to try to make a deal for military help, and Day teams up with his old friends in the Patriots to fight the good fight on the ground.
Like both the other books in the series, Champion is packed with action and plot development. What’s interesting, though, is that despite everything that’s happening, I never really felt a sense of urgency with this story. This was also a problem I had with the first two books, so it may just be a mental block for me as far as Lu’s style of writing. Which isn’t to say Lu isn’t up to snuff – in fact, she writes very well, with thoughtful plotting and charismatic characters. There is just something about the style that doesn’t keep me on the edge of my seat the way I would like when reading an exciting dystopian story. If a character’s life is in danger and I’m not feeling at least a little worried, that’s problematic for me.
Fortunately Lu has created some fantastic characters that helped carry me through. I was invested in the outcome of the story because I wanted a resolution for June and Day. Both characters have grown and changed a lot throughout the series, but in Champion they are both a bit out of their element at first – June in her political role, and Day so physically far removed from his former abilities as a Runner. It was a little sad for me to see these characters unable to do what they love, and perhaps the one thing I missed most in Champion was spending more time with June and Day in their glory. But don’t worry – they don’t stay on the sidelines for good!
One of the cool things about the Legend series is how Lu pulls from real history and current events to create her dystopian world. In Prodigy we got to see what the Colonies were like, with their corporatized leadership feeling almost a little too believable. In Champion we get to see a different vision of the near future in Antarctica, where technology allows the continent to maintain a comfortable climate and encourages positive societal contributions via a videogame-like points system. While the idea had me giggling a little when I imagined it, it was also pretty on target as another realistic potential spinoff from our current culture. These little touches enable Lu to build a dystopian world that is not all that unbelievable for readers, giving the story a bit more immediacy and relevance than some of the other more out-there dystopians.
Resolving a complex dystopian series is not an easy task, but Lu was up for the challenge. Champion provides a perfect amount of closure for its characters – in fact, some of my favorite parts of the book were the final chapters that dealt with this, which is unusual. I often find the final chapters of series like this to be a little anticlimactic, so it was really a special treat for me when I found the end of the series to be one of the most compelling parts of the whole book. Lu also created a believable resolution for the political and social issues within the series, and I really did get a nice sense of closure for the series after reading this book. While I may not consider Champion an all-time favorite, it was still a great read that provides a satisfying finale to a solid series.