Book Review: Rebel by Marie Lu
Hey everyone! Welcome back to another post! Normally, I’d be posting a January wrap-up or a February TBR, but I was so excited to write this review that I couldn’t wait. I do plan on putting up a January wrap-up at some point (hopefully soon, since we’re already almost a week into February), but today, we’re just going to focus on one of them: Rebel by Marie Lu.
I know. I finally got around to reading it. Unfortunately, though, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. That’s the reason why I wanted to write this review: I have a lot of thoughts I want to get out.
So here we are. I’ve divided this review into two parts. The first will be a more general, non-spoiler review, and in the second part, I’m going to dive into all the spoilery details about my feelings for this book. Let’s get started, shall we?
Okay, this is going to be kind of short because I’m not great with the whole non-spoiler thing, but I’ll do my best to be as helpful as I can. Also, please be aware that this section is only non-spoiler regarding the events of Rebel. It will still most likely contain spoilers for the original Legend trilogy because everything about the plot ties in heavily with what happened at the end of the original trilogy.
Overall, I thought Rebel was good. The writing was engaging, as Marie Lu’s always is. The setting was cool, though it did seem pretty much the same as the world of her other series, Warcross (though according to her author’s note at the end, the idea for Warcross actually came from her original idea for this story, so I guess that kind of makes sense). The pacing was as great as it always is, but the plot itself was so-so. The characters were also pretty bland, even the old, familiar ones from the original trilogy.
I don’t think this book ruined the original trilogy for me, but I also don’t think it was necessary. I really liked the way the original trilogy was a little bit open-ended in regards to June and Day’s relationship and other aspects of the characters’ future. This book tied everything up in a little bit too neat of a bow for me.
But I can’t say much more about that without delving into spoiler territory, so let me just say that this book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either. Although I love the original trilogy and plan on rereading it again at some point, I don’t think I’ll include this book in that reread when I do. This isn’t the kind of book that’s going to stick with me.
On to the spoiler section.
I could talk about a lot of things here, and it could all be just one big mess, but in the interest of keeping this review coherent, I’m going to group my thoughts into categories.
Like I said above, the characters felt really bland in this book. Even June and Day, who are so interesting and dynamic in the original trilogy, don’t feel anything at all like the way they do in the original series. I mean, yes, there is a ten-year difference between the end of Champion and the beginning of Rebel, so it makes sense that these two characters would have matured. But I don’t buy that they would have become boring. And that’s really what they are in this book. We even get Day’s (er, sorry, Daniel’s) perspective in this book, which would normally make him feel more fleshed-out, he was still very blah and one-note in my opinion.
I also had some issues with the way their relationship worked out. That last chapter, where Day proposes to June, made me the most emotional than any other part of the book. It was total fanservice, and at the time that I read it, I loved it. But after giving it some thought in the week or so since I finished the book, I have some mixed feelings.
It just didn’t feel realistic to me. June and Day were together, then Day forgets about her for ten years, and two or maybe three months after he remembers her, they get engaged? To make matters worse, for the first month, they didn’t even speak to each other. They reconnected one month before the beginning of Rebel, and had a nice hour or two or reminiscing, and then Day left to go back to the completely different country he now lives in, and they didn’t speak for the entirety of that time, with the exception of one short exchange a couple weeks before the beginning of Rebel, when June let Day know she was coming to his country. Then, when she gets there, the whole thing with Eden goes down, and they’re working together, but they don’t really have much time to talk or really be together.
I know that in the epilogue, it says that they spent several weeks going on dates and getting to know each other, but it still felt like by the time they got engaged, they were still basically strangers.
Moving away from June and Day, though, we have Eden. Eden is one of the POV characters in this book, which makes sense, of course, because he does play a very important role, but honestly, every time we had an Eden chapter, I really just wanted it to get back to Day (which is saying a lot because, as I mentioned, Day’s chapters weren’t very interesting, either). He’s supposed to be twenty-something in this book, but he acted like a whiny teenager. I swear that at least once in every single one of his chapters, he had some variant of “my brother just doesn’t understand me.” I get that it would be hard to have to live in the shadow of someone like Day, but his attitude seemed a little over the top to me. Maybe that was just my bias for Day showing through, but I just really didn’t care about Eden.
I also didn’t care about his romance. That’s another thing that felt way too easy in this book. June and Day got together too easily, and Eden and his love interest (whose name I can’t even remember, and it’s only been a little over a week) got together way too easily, too. At the end of the book, Eden and Day are going to move back to the Republic, and Eden asks the girl if she will come with them—and she says yes, just like that. I mean, sure, her father is dead at this point so it’s not like she has much tying her to Antarctica, but she has spent basically her entire life in that place, and she’s just completely okay with leaving it for some guy?
This book was really going ham with the happy ending, and it was honestly a little much.
The main plot of this story is two brothers, Eden and Daniel/Day, trying to reconcile and reconnect. Mixed in there we also have an evil mastermind attempting to overthrow the government, causing Eden and Daniel (and June) to have to work together to stop it (though the whole reason why the evil mastermind got the ability to overthrow the government was Eden’s fault, but that’s beside the point). Eden is drawn to the rough side of town, trying to get back to his roots in the Republic, while Day is doing everything he can to avoid going back to that place. The two don’t see eye-to-eye, and they also refuse to listen to each other. Eden gets mixed up with Dominic Hamm, the most notorious crimelord in the city, who seems to understand him in a way “his brother never had” (like I said, he really milks that phrase). Then Eden and Day have to go back to the Republic, they spend one night opening up to each other, and suddenly, they’re on the same side again.
I think the concept behind the storyline is a good one, and I think it could have been done really well—but it just felt too easy, like so many of the other things in this book. I just have a hard time believing that after ten years (or maybe a little less, since Eden idolized his brother at first) of them having these issues, it could just be cleared up in one night. I do admit that the scene when they finally open up to each other was really nice (if the last chapter was the place where I got the most emotional, this was probably second place), but it didn’t feel like enough to me.
Then, they head back to Antarctica to beat the bad guy. Eden takes his love interest in with him to infiltrate the bad guy’s lair, and I was expecting that maybe she would turn out to be on Dominic’s side and turn against Eden or something, but that didn’t happen. Then they win, and there’s a happily ever after. Even though all the writing and the action was super exciting during the ending, I was left feeling lukewarm.
I had a lot of trouble finding the motivation to pick up this book, especially during the first two-thirds. Once we got to the third act, and there was a lot of action, I was excited and engaged and read the pages a lot faster. Action is really where Marie Lu’s writing shines.
It can shine in other places too (I mean, I didn’t have the same problem in other books of hers), but not in this book. I think this one started at a disadvantage.
Like I said in my non-spoiler section, this book relies heavily on the events of the original series, and I honestly think that was its downfall. It’s basically the fourth book in the series, but because it was published so much later and is technically a companion novel, the author couldn’t bank on the fact that readers will have already read the first three books. As a result, the book spends a lot of time telling the reader things that happened in the original series and kind of explaining why it’s important, in case they haven’t read it.
The first four and half pages of the book are literally just Eden telling you who he is, and who his brother is, and why that matters, and where they live. Not exactly riveting stuff. And even after we get to the actual story, there’s still a lot of exposition, hidden in dialogue and in narrative text. As someone who has read the original trilogy, it was boring, but I imagine that for someone who hadn’t read it, it would not only be boring, but also confusing and largely unhelpful.
There you have it. All my thoughts on Rebel by Marie Lu. This review turned out to be a lot more negative than I wanted it too, especially considering that I still did give this book 3 stars. Maybe that means that I should lower my rating, but I can’t bring myself to do it. There are some good parts in this book, and the nostalgia that I have for the original series is really bringing up my fondness for the book.
Thanks for reading, everyone! I’ll see you next time.