As I mentioned in my reading diverse authors post, I'm going to do my best to highlight some of the amazing books I'm reading while I go through this challenge (even though I swore I was rarely going to do reviews again. But...there's exceptions to every rule I ever make.
I just suck at following my own rules It's for a worthwhile cause anyway!) As always when I talk about series, SPOILERS ENSUE. But I will do my best to mark them ahead of time in case you want to read this but don't want spoilers. I'm so magnanimous :)
This series is so much fun and managed to surprise me even though I was CONVINCED each book that I wasn't going to be surprised! It's also one of the few series I read where each book that came consistently was better than the last. It might not be as obvious if you didn't like gorge the books in one sitting like I did, but I was really impressed by what Lu did in each book. I loved that any time I had a problem with the way a character acted/was portrayed, in the next book Marie Lu made it more explicit why the character acted a certain way and it made TOTAL sense. And it never used the explanation as a way to excuse whatever actions the characters took, whether they were "good" or "bad" ones - it simply gave a better look at the character and if you missed the "why" that would have been implied when you read it in the first book, she made certain you understood in the next book. A little bit of me wonders if people had mentioned things in reviews/asked her questions and she took that in consideration while she was writing or if she just planned it that way. Either way, it was very well done.
The first book lays out a pretty standard dystopia. Not much about the world sets it apart from any of the other millions of dystopias that have flooded YA books, but it wasn't bad. It just didn't stand out. That being said, I LOVED the characters. The main characters are both incredibly smart, and very good looking, and they don't try and hide the fact that they know this. I know that a lot of people tend to have a hard time with characters I love (e.g. Celaena Sardothien), but I absolutely LOVE confident, selfish characters. I find them more believable? And in both cases here, it's not the author just going these characters are THE SHIT. They kind of are, and they know it...but their arrogance isn't portrayed as an all good thing either. Particularly in June's case, it's a definite character flaw and you see her grow as her assumptions are challenged and because she's so intelligent she isn't crazy stubborn about fighting this. She tries to logically reconcile what she's believed and what she's been finding out and when the proof is insurmountable, she goes with the proof. I love that she's so unfailingly logical. And of course, Day is a rogue character. Pretty much ANY rogue character is just...I'm guaranteed to love them. (Sturmhond, Locke Lamora, George Cooper...you name them, I love them. Although I'm suddenly noticing a lack of female rogues. Are there female rogues?? I'm suddenly freaking out!! SOMEONE GIVE ME A FEMALE ROGUE. NOW.) So it was unsurprising that I loved him. I also thought the side characters are a lot of fun and over all in the series they have the most surprising and well rounded character arcs I think. It's also interesting how much of a role Metias plays in the whole trilogy considering he's only alive for the first few chapters. (Not a spoiler! It's in the description - I checked!) A lesser author would have simply used him as a plot point. Instead he's not only the focus of the first book, he shapes our main character's relationship, and he guides June in a way throughout the whole series. He has one of the biggest roles as a side character, which I really, really loved. I didn't love the way Tomas is set up in this book, he seemed a little one sided. BUT. Then book two happened.
Prodigy completely ups the game. The worldbuilding begins to be fleshed out, the characters relationships are tested, and it totally changes the whole relationship and aspect of a CERTAIN THING. Overall I think it's generally most people's favourite book in the trilogy. It changed my biggest drawback (other than the world building) in book one, and it felt so validating that Marie Lu gave us this background and explanation. It redeemed my faith in her characters, because really if you want to read this series, you need to be all about the characters. The dystopia itself, as I said doesn't really stand out to me. The world building and background DEFINITELY improves in each book, and I love that we find out so much about the politics both in this book and the next. But it definitely takes a back seat to the characters. Once again Marie Lu introduced a conflict with a side character. This time it's with Tess, who has been Day's faithful sidekick for years. She's growing up though and as she grows up, it's changing her relationship, especially now that it's not just Tess and Day, it's June, Tess, and Day. I hated all of the conflict there, but it also felt really believable. And in my favourite move in the whole series (ok maybe second favourite), once again Marie Lu really clarifies all of that in the last book, Champion. Tess has this beautiful arc from child, to struggling preteen who is trying to define herself as independent and finding a new family and just generally being a confused preteen, to someone who has figured out her emotions, is a badass medic, and who can stand on her own. Champion was an absolutely fantastic ending to the trilogy and was on par with Prodigy for me, and I think did some really amazing things that stepped it up the tiniest bit above Prodigy. And I was certain I knew the two possible endings for the series, neither of which I was totally loving (but would have been fine with). But once again, Marie Lu came out of NOWHERE and put in an option C that totally shocked me - in a great way. But here's where it's going to be ALL THE SPOILERS because I want to talk about that ending. So for those of you who haven't read it, here's where you step off and hopefully go pick up a copy of these books. For the rest of you, SPOILERS ensue in...
I figured that either we were going to get:
A. Day dying. Which obviously I didn't want to happen because DAAAAAY!!!
B. He was going to be magically cured. Which I also didn't want because it would have felt trite and devalued the whole series by ending with a magical cure.
But then Marie Lu went with:
C. Day goes through with the surgery because he's going to definitely die if he doesn't, and only very likely will die if he does. BUT...he's lost a lot of his memory - specifically his memory of June. (Yes, yes I know I mentioned that's my least favourite trope. But it didn't involve the rest of everything that goes with it - fighting with a mean girl, bullying, etc.) And because of their complicated past - her indirect involvement with the murder of his mother and brother, she decides to let him go because it would be better for him.
When that happened I was like...WAIT WHAT??? NOOOOOO!!! And it was perfect - Day doesn't die, but it isn't a magical cure so it doesn't cheapen it.
And then there's the epilogue, which I'm happy about mostly. I loved that June didn't wait around ten years for Day. She has a meaningful relationship with the other dude whose name I've momentarily forgotten. She doesn't sit around - she works hard, has a good career, is good friends with all sorts of people and in general just has a really awesome life. But then sneaky Tess brings Day back into contact with June and we're left on a hopeful note that they might end up happy together. I loved that it wasn't a definite thing either - we end on their first meeting after ten years. On the one hand I tend to love rip your heart out endings because I'm a masochist and I wasn't sure I actually wanted a hopeful epilogue after that ending...but on the other hand yay!! I didn't love that June really only loves one person fully, but I did love that she didn't just sit around pining for him either. She tries out other people and yay sex/not one true love positivity!!
So what did you guys think about that ending if you read it?