REVIEW: ‘Rebel’ by Marie Lu is good but not necessary

 

There’s a lot to like in ‘Rebel,’ but it doesn’t quite justify its existence.

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Marie Lu expands and builds on her bestselling Legend series in her follow-up, Rebel. But while the book is entertaining enough, is it really necessary?

The blurb:

Respect the Legend. Idolize the Prodigy. Celebrate the Champion. But never underestimate the Rebel.

With unmatched suspense and her signature cinematic storytelling, #1 New York Times – bestselling author Marie Lu plunges readers back into the unforgettable world of Legend for a truly grand finale.
Eden Wing has been living in his brother’s shadow for years. Even though he’s a top student at his academy in Ross City, Antarctica, and a brilliant inventor, most people know him only as Daniel Wing’s little brother.

A decade ago, Daniel was known as Day, the boy from the streets who led a revolution that saved the Republic of America. But Day is no longer the same young man who was once a national hero. These days he’d rather hide out from the world and leave his past behind. All that matters to him now is keeping Eden safe ― even if that also means giving up June, the great love of Daniel’s life.

As the two brothers struggle to accept who they’ve each become since their time in the Republic, a new danger creeps into the distance that’s grown between them. Eden soon finds himself drawn so far into Ross City’s dark side, even his legendary brother can’t save him. At least not on his own ...

Picking up 10 years after the events of Lu’s Champion (what was, at its publication, the final book in the Legend Trilogy), Rebel is primarily the story of Eden Wing, the younger brother of Daniel — Day — Wing, one of two primary protagonists from the original books.

Readers won’t be unfamiliar with Eden. While he’s never truly in the spotlight, he plays a pivotal role in the original books, which makes him a natural protagonist in Lu’s follow-up. Day is front and center too, still coping with the aftermath of Champion.

At Rebel‘s core is a story of brotherhood — and that’s easily the book’s greatest strength. No relationship is perfect, and that’s true of the brotherly bond between Day and Eden. It was refreshing to see the two brothers recovering from their shared past in different ways. Even better, it’s beautiful to see how they need to rely on each other’s perspectives and experiences to become whole.

That said, other elements of the novel feel half-baked. June is back, but never really at the forefront, which is a shame, considering she might have been the original books’ best character. Ross City also makes its return, this time in much grander fashion. And while so much about this futuristic city is relevant to today’s society — China’s social credit system comes to mind — its critique of modern technology never feels fully fleshed out. On top of that, there are other moments, primarily toward the end, where the story risks toppling the reader’s suspension of disbelief, which cheapens some of the book’s better aspects.

The original trilogy has a strong sense of depth in its themes and characters, something Rebel, unfortunately, lacks through most of its run. And so one has to wonder what the book adds to the series as a whole?

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Is Rebel needed? Not really.

Sure, there’s plenty to like and fans will be eager to see what became of characters like Day and June. But at the end of it all, the Legend Trilogy had a great finale — why drag it out?

That’s not to say Lu shouldn’t have written the book. She certainly has a right to expand her world, and she’s hardly the first to do so in recent years. You don’t have to look further than J.K. Rowling, Veronica Roth, Victoria Aveyard and Christopher Paolini to find other authors who have chosen to expand after penning the final word. Even Disney’s Star Wars films and the ‘Breaking Bad’ film, ‘El Camino,’ prove that it’s the “in” thing to do right now.

But with each addition comes the need to justify its existence. What is there left to say? What will this story add that the previous couldn’t? What loose ends need to be wrapped up?

Unfortunately, like so many others, Rebel struggles to answer these questions.

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A story of brotherhood

3.7
Plot
Characters
Writing
Theme/Message

+ Plot: Exciting most of the time but occasionally bogged down by ideas and logic that are hard for the reader to swallow.

+ Characters: Eden and Day are some of the strongest elements in Rebel. Just wish there was more June.

+ Writing: Entertaining enough but the writing never truly convinces the reader that the book needs to exist.

+ Theme: Rebel‘s message of brotherhood is beautifully done, but the book falls flat when exploring the intersection of social inequality and technology.

Saul Marquez founded Bookstacked in 2014 and serves as the site's Editor-in-Chief. He primarily covers news for Bookstacked. He also co-hosts Bookmarked: A YA Book Podcast.

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