The Bittersweet End: Champion by Marie Lu Review

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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.

***

The final instalment of the Legend trilogy is by far the best in the series. The story of the first two books has been shed off and allows this final novel to spread its wings and just be the action book it was meant to be. The world of Legend is once again expanding further by the chapter, giving us a world we’ve never seen before. This series has always been able to surprise me, I keep expecting that I know where it’s going but I have been shocked at every corner, especially by how it kept breaking my heart, (but in a good way, I swear)!

It was so fast paced, even more so than the previous one. It was unrelenting and unstoppable as it just goes at full speed and never lets up on the tension. I couldn’t put it down for more than ten seconds without rushing back to it to read another chapter.

I love returning to these characters, even if it is for the last time, it practically feels like I am living their lives beside them as I read, we learn as they do, debate every argument they have with them. There is no more good versus evil, its people in a shit situation arguing, and that is not as appalling as it sounds, it’s really hard to know which path is the right one to take and I don’t know any better than them.

 

Communication is STILL KEY!

At the start of this book, it’s eight months later, but Day is still a big mess after the last book, enjoying (as best he can) a normal teen life and being obsessed with June. It’s cute and though I was very worried that he and June wouldn’t talk about his diagnosis for AGES. However, it quickly is resolved, and the story begins pretty soon after.

 

“Hey—with your metal leg and half a brain, and my four leftover senses, we almost make a whole person.”

~My broken messes, how are you going to survive this

 

On the Edge of My Seat

At first the tension didn’t really grab me, but what hit me was how dark it quickly became. There were new obstacles to tackle all of them incredibly murky and grey in quality. Especially for Day and the inevitable, which isn’t often tackled in YA fiction and I really think it adds to Day’s character. All sides are making valid arguments to explain complex matters of the class system and mortality and feels more down to Earth than ever. There can been no true happy ending, the USA cannot be reunited, and I love that because no clear ending can be predicted. It’s a mystery to everyone.

As the story progressed however it quickly ramps up the pressure. The fight scenes are especially tense given Day is no longer on form and is slowly losing his mind. Throughout the book it feels like they are constantly on defence and unable to win any fight. It makes it really hard to read as I’m afraid that someone is going to die on the next page. Though, despite that, Day’s ability to avoid bullets for the majority of this book is still ridiculous.

 

The Villains

I love the Chancellor, he’s an amazing villain because he can take EVERYTHING and more from Day. But June’s villain (Commander Jameson) is less threatening. She’s fine except for the fact she tries to say she and June are the same. It’s a cliché I don’t care for because…well June is nothing like Commander Jameson and she’s a clever otter, she should see right through it. Come on June, you’re better than this! But other than that, I loved the opposition, I’m glad Thomas’ arc got resolved as well. I love the Colonies for threatening Day because he isn’t a superhero in this book, he’s dying and if I were him, I’d side with them because there’s nothing the Republic can give him, but he stays loyal and I love him for that stubborn determination.

 

“I’ve been searching a long time for something I think I lost. I felt like I found something when I saw you back there.”

~Ah my heart!!

My favourite couple and how they destroyed my poor heart

I love these two, by God I love June and Day, they are adorable. The eight-month gap between books really helps cements the awkwardness between them, even if I don’t want it to be there. And so, when June and Anden started to gain feelings for each other, I was heartbroken, but I understood it. They’re in this horrible situation and both want something to make them feel human and protected, it’s cute. But of course the soulmates get back together eventually.

But then the ending happened and…I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s unnecessarily sad. It’s very bittersweet and I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but it just wasn’t needed. I’ve been inconsolable for days!

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Kingly Duties

King and Throne

The crown was made of wood and yet weighed a thousand times that. The throne felt worse, though it was where he found himself. It was like tar, consuming him where he sat and the longer he stayed there, staring down at his hands, the less likely he could free himself of it.

Hell, he couldn’t be free of it, the throne was his until he died, what would even be the point of moving from it? He’d carry the throne and the crown’s weight wherever he went.

He sighed. His hands were calloused and dry. In several places the skin had cracked, and dried blood flooded his palms. Were these the hands of a King? Did a King bleed? He huffed, apparently so.

He had murdered men with his sword with these hands. Now they could command the deaths of anyone he chose. The people had handed their lives to him and had done so wilfully after he’d killed his predecessor.

Would they cheer if someone better came along and cut off his head?

“Your Majesty?”

He looked up, the hall was waiting for him to speak. For the first words of their King, but if they didn’t approve of them they would turn on him.

Sure, the ruler ruled all, but the ruler was ruled by all.

Writing Tip: 208#

Helen Benedict

‘Another common mistake is to fall so in love with your research that you stick in facts all over the place, thus clogging the narrative and making you sound like a show-off: “She donned her necklace, made of a rare blue amethyst discovered by Richard Burton in the mines of Eastern Peru, and went down to dinner.” This leads to fiction filled with factoids but without a believable character in sight.’

-Helen Benedict

Tireless March

The drumming sun,

Alights the red plane.

A thousand machines,

Manned by a million workers,

Heave and clunk into life.

 

The city churns and rocks,

Juddering as it toils away,

Eternally working as it makes,

Its weaponry and yields,

To be spread to all.

 

But a million savages claw at its walls,

To churn the land,

To turn the red machinery grey,

Until only dust remains.

A war begins.

 

Thousands die.

The red turns to rust.

But when the city wins,

The red sun still beats

And the machinery breathes once more.

Devil On My Shoulder

“Slow down Dan,” Andrew said clinging on for dear life as the car tore up the country road.

“Floor it Dan!” Damon on his other side screamed.

“At least put your seatbelt on!”

The car continued round the sharp bend, the three passengers leaning with the car, two in delight, one of them terrified.

They were going so fast, they barely felt anything when they ran something over. But they had enough time to see a bike and a pair of ridiculously green running shorts before the cyclist went under the wheels.

The car screeched to a halt on the empty road and the three of them breathed heavily in stunned silence.

“What are you doing?” Damon hissed, recovering quickly, “Drive! Get us away from here!”

“No! We need to see if he’s alright! You know, see if he needs any help!” Andrew hissed, looking through the rear window. Dan refused to move, his hands tightening on the steering wheel.

“Help?” Damon cackled, “they’re probably now part bike!”

“Dan-”

“Stop talking.”

And so, the car fell silence, Dan only hearing his panting breath and the sound of blood rushing in his ears: it echoed and swirled leaving him feeling dizzy.

Still he did nothing, staring straight ahead. Slowly, he loosened his grip on the steering wheel. The sound of the belt unbuckling scared him, despite it being him who had done it.

Again, his movements stilled.

He could still just drive away.

He opened the door.

Just go home and get drunk.

He inhaled sharply through his teeth. What was he doing? He stepped out, Andrew and Damon following him as he did.

He saw a foot pressed under his back tyre and doubled over. Oh, why hadn’t he just left?

Damon whistled, now hovering over the body, “that is not pretty.”

“Oh no,” Andrew whispered, coming to join him while Dan just stumbled, “oh no, oh no.”

Dan couldn’t look at any more of it, not when he could already see the pool of blood steadily growing.

“We could just leave,” Damon said to him, now back over his shoulder.

“We can’t just leave!” Andrew barked in his other ear, “We have to tell someone, the police for goodness sake!”

“Guys let me think.” Dan put his hands up in surrender.

Damon continued undeterred, “if we tell the police, we’ll be put in prison. If you wanna go to prison be my guest but don’t you dare drag me down with you.”

Dan sighed, holding the bridge of his nose, their voices were too loud and giving him a headache.

“So? It’s the right thing to do.”

Dan spun to face Andrew, “do you really think we’ll go to prison?”

Andrew blanched, “well…you’ll go to prison.”

“Yeah, goodie-two-shoes over here is trying to ship you down the river.”

Andrew looked guilty, but snapped at Damon, “Hey, that’s not fair! We’re both here to help Dan.”

“Yeah Dan…so what do you need help with?”

He turned to the smirking Damon.

“How do I get rid of a body?”

***

It turned out burning a body and cleaning the side of the road was a lot of hard work for Dan, the others merely standing there giving not-too-helpful suggestions.

But finally, he collapsed down exhausted in front of the fire, waiting from the clothes and flesh to disappear completely. As the fire burnt higher, Andrew sighed and sat down on Dan’s right shoulder. The little angel looked up at him.

“Should we go get drunk?”

Damon laughed at that, the demon smacking his knee, “best thing you’ve said all day goodies-two-shoes.”

Angels and Demons

Writing Tip: 206#

Leo Babauta

‘You don’t have to write historical fiction to find your story ideas in history. You could use reports from a disastrous battle and its historical fallout, for example, as the basis for a fantasy battle and its immediate and lingering effects in your own fantasy novel.’

-Leo Babauta

Leonora Meriel – Author Interview

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

I had the pleasure of interview Leonora back in January

***

What inspired you to write Unity Game?

I wanted to write about New York City, where I had lived for several years and where I started my career. However, I needed to find a new perspective on the theme, and it felt right to draw parallels with an advanced planet far from Earth. This is how the novel became Science Fiction, and then I decided to go a step further and add an after-life dimension. The inspiration started with my work on Wall Street when I lived in NYC, and the desire to write about this in an original way.

What’s the hardest challenge when it comes to writing?

Knowing when a novel is done. A novel takes years to write, and as you write, you improve your skill as a writer. Thus, by the time you have finished your novel, you could re-write it better, and then re-write it again – each re-write taking six months to a year. It’s a tough decision to know when to leave a piece of work and start a new one – which will necessarily be superior to the last. Many artists have the same problem with applying the final strokes of paint.

How much of first draft actually made it into the final manuscript?

In my first novel, only about 30 – 40% made it into the final manuscript, as I changed the plot a great deal and re-wrote large parts. In my second novel I think 60 – 70% made it through. I’m hoping this percentage will increase as my writing skill improves!

What advice can you give to aspiring novelists?

The main thing to do is write, write, write. Learn how to complete a piece of work professionally. Set a word count (short story, novella, poem, novel), then write the first draft. Edit the work as well as you can. Then let it go. Write another one. It will be better. Then write something longer. This way, you build up confidence in your ability to work professionally, and also learn to grow and develop your skills.

Are you an avid reader? What kind of books do you like to read if so?

Yes – I am an utterly avid reader. While my favourite genre is literary fiction, I try to read as widely as possible. I read across countries and across genres, I read independently published books and traditionally published books, I read fiction and non-fiction. My favourite books to read are those which have pushed some boundary of literature, for example Virginia Woolf, in her use of language; Haruki Murakami, in his expression of the borders of reality; David Mitchell, in his extraordinary word-crafting. Anything that is doing something new inspires and delights me.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a single writing space?

I do my main creative writing in cafes, for the most part, and I like to have a corner seat where I can set up my coffee and computer and enjoy observing the bustle of a café. The lives I can see happening around me always inspire me with new ideas and thoughts and possibilities for my work.

My editing (which is 70% of the writing process) is done at my desk in my house in London, with a lit candle and flowers and my favourite Magritte paintings on the walls. This is my perfect creative environment for focusing on the language and plot of a draft and spending hours improving it.

Did you prepare by researching for Unity Game?

I had lived in New York for several years, so the main character and setting of the novel was very familiar to me. I also grew up in London and knew the legal world well, and also knew Canada. The final setting for the novel is on a distant planet, which I just needed my imagination for. Because of this, the first few drafts of the novel didn’t need any research at all, and it was only the final drafts where I had to double check every detail.

What are you planning on writing next?

I’m currently working on seven different projects, some of which are short term and some long-term (10 years or more). The piece that I plan to publish first is a literary fiction novella set in a meditation centre, that takes place inside the minds of the characters. My first two novels have been quite experimental regarding genre, and I am planning for this to be straight literary fiction – no magic, no other planets, no dead people. It’s my personal challenge to see if I can keep one novel solidly on the Earth.

What’s your most/least favourite writing trope?

I think both my favourite and least favourite trope is the metaphor. A brilliant metaphor can light up a passage and make it unforgettable. It can bring the reader deeply into the story or give them a clear insight into a character or a place. On the other hand, a bad metaphor can spoil pages of great work by deeming it ridiculous. It’s a high-risk technique but when it works, it’s wonderful. An example of a great one is Khalil Gibran on writing: “All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.” Bad metaphors are usually clichés, for example, “her eyes were gleaming emeralds” – this is so obvious it takes you out of the story for a groaning session and casts doubt on the writer for the rest of the book.

What’s the worst advice to give a writer?

To write what you know. I think it’s a good plan to start off with something you’re familiar with, but I also think that writers should be courageous with setting and subject matter and character. If writers just wrote what they knew, we wouldn’t have any Sci-Fi at all, and no elves or hobbits. I would modify this advice to: start off by writing what you know, and when you go wider, be ready to learn how to research!