Saturday, April 26, 2014

Champion by Marie Lu - ouch... 3 Star Review

Champion (Legend, #3)Champion
by Marie Lu
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion

Champion was a near-DNF for me.  Argh.

First, what I really liked:  

1 - After Legend and Prodigy, I was extremely committed to June and Day and the fate of the Republic. There's no way I could leave their story unfinished, so I had to read - and finish - Champion.

2 - The storyline of Champion is good, as I expected it would be. The writing

3 - The ending was satisfying.  I'm going to guess that "satisfying" is not the general consensus - I'd bet, although I haven't checked out other reviews, yet, I'd bet that "frustrating" is more common than "satisfying", but the author created a new type of tension that I thought was really great.

The really great tension:

Day meets June under really horrible circumstances and it effects their romantic relationship. I found this aspect very realistic and created a type of Romeo & Juliet tragedy. When they had each other, they really couldn't... and when they didn't have each other, each felt the loss too greatly. I loved this dynamic from beginning to end. I think it could've been even stronger than it was.

Now... what drove me nuts to the point of wanting to put the book down:

To complain about this thoroughly, I must refer to my previous reviews of Legend (5) and Prodigy (4.5). I was set up to anticipate an increase in the pace of the story when the point of view alternates between June and Day. However, in Champion... the story slows to a crawl. The majority of pov swaps takes the reader back a step to re-live the moment before progressing. So instead of speeding along, the story halts, lurches, creeps. *bleh*

To add insult to this injury... the characters falter.

What I loved about June was her invincibility. Her trained instincts to analyze a situation were MIA. Her crazy-great skills were toned down. Her fear of Jameson was exaggerated to unbelievable. And when she actually faced Jameson - at any time - the scene was irritating. June was suddenly human, faulty, incompetent... the opposite of her super incredibleness in the first two books.

Day is sick. He gets weaker and slower and has moments of being incapacitated. He was just so amazing in the first two books. He wasn't perfect, but I really loved him. In Champion, his fight for health is dominant in his life and, frankly, it's not as thrilling.

Plus... Eden, Day's sweet brother, is like a living ransom threat. Day can't blink without worrying about Eden. The kid's already had a rough life and now he's being smothered by an over-protective brother who is continually protecting him. This relationship is a drain on both of them, but they can't escape it.

Commander Jameson.  In Champion she is highlighted as the ultimate nemesis. I remember her from Legend, especially, and she makes an appearance in Prodigy, as well. But I feel like saying... "I don't get it" regarding her.  Yeah, she's selfish and evil and an experienced fighter.  Yeah, she's got good reason to get under June's skin and freak her out. But the extent of her power got too big too fast for me. Everyone's quaking in their boots around her, like her baleful glare has its own power, like she's suddenly everyone's cryptonite. Then there's Jameson, herself - she knows so much, she pops up in weird places. Frankly, I thought the leader of the colonies was better done. He's mega-creepy!! Jameson was too vulnerable to be as scary as she turned out to be. I'm not a fan of her badness.

So the timing of the book was slow... the characters disappointed me... what else?

Thanks for asking:  Flashbacks & info-dumps.

Rather than action, there's a lot of back story. There's a lot of replaying stuff that happened in Legend, for starters, that got me thinking of two people in rocking chairs discussing "back in the day" even though they're supposedly 20 years old, still, or less. There's some new back story... only some of it comes up more than once. Like the Day remembering when he sabotaged some fighter jets and first got on the Republic's Most Wanted list. Day remembers it - and I remember him remembering it from one of the earlier books, too - then Pascao reminds him of it, so his next flashback goes into more detail. I feel like I've been reminded of this event AT LEAST 3x, maybe more, and the flavor is "the good ol' days" like Day's psyching himself up to 1) never be so awesome again, and 2) at least try to shadow his former awesomeness.

0.0  Really? Was he really that great before and so lame now?  Was that his glory day? Never mind the fact that he's older now and wants to fight FOR the Republic - or is that the problem? He is clinging to the days when he thought there was a "right" and "wrong" instead of "better" and "worse"?

The amount of information delivered in each flashback feels like an info-dump and there's a lot of 'em. Some repetitive ones, too (as I've already mentioned in case you didn't catch it the first time.) (Ha!)  Each info-dump or flashback is delivered an objective way, which sucks the life right out of the delivery.

Life of the story.

As a whole, this series - or the first two books - are so VIBRANT and quivering with LIFE. The only way to arrive at the final resolution is through Champion. So let me repeat, the conclusion is satisfying, so it's worth ending the story, although...

If someone ever comes up with cliff notes for the slow parts and leaves in the 100 or so pages of great action... that would be a very thrilling conclusion to the series.

4 Stars for the good stuff, 2 generous Stars for the bad stuff... equals 3 Stars for Champion.

I must beg the author to continue writing. The writing is beautiful beginning to end.

Marie Lu, please excuse my fussing... I just had expectations due to the unique awesomeness of Legend & Prodigy. I definitely look forward to reading more of your books. You write the sweetest action sequences which I can't look away from. Your characters are so alive and unique. I'm a forever fan.

Epilogue - After checking out some other reviews I find that a few readers are frustrated by the ending, but most feel it was satisfying, like I did. Some readers were not as thrilled with Legend as I was, primarily not feeling a connection to June. I loved June from the beginning and struggled to remind myself why Day was so great. Lol. So... there you go.

I write young adult novels, and have a special love for dystopian books. Ironically, I was born in 1984. I like food, fighter jets, afternoon tea, happy people, electronics, the interwebz, cupcakes, pianos, bright colors, rain, Christmas lights, sketches, animation, dogs, farmers' markets, video games, and of course, books. I suck at working out. I also get lost very easily, but am a halfway decent driver for an Asian girl. At least, I like to think so. :) 

I was born near Shanghai, but settled down in Texas until I went off to college at the University of Southern California. California weather sweet-talked me into sticking around, so I'm currently in Pasadena with my boyfriend, two Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and a chihuahua mix.