I really should have seen it coming. After reading for about 150 pages with the nagging thought of "Jeez, it's like a teenager wrote this"... SurpriseI really should have seen it coming. After reading for about 150 pages with the nagging thought of "Jeez, it's like a teenager wrote this"... Surprise! A teenager *did* write it!
Cayla Kluver evidently wrote Legacy when she was 14/15... and it shows. Don't get me wrong, she would have been a wildly talented and creative 14-year-old, but that doesn't mean we need to publish it. The world she creates is inconsistent and patchy, but its scale is large and there are certain plotpoints that aren't bad at all, even if the details and the characters fail.
Alera is the eldest princess of Hytanica, a deeply misogynistic land where the King only has two daughters, so obviously whoever marries Alera will be the next king. The time/setting appears to be kind of pseudo-Rennaissance era, where Christianity is the only religion and the monarchy presides over a relatively small country. Hytanica's other defining feature (besides the belief that women are weak and useless, I mean) is fear of its mysterious neighbor, Cokyri. Hytanica should have been demolished sixteen years prior in a war with Cokyri, but the enemy mysteriously withdrew from their advantage (after kidnapping and then leaving the corpses of nearly fifty Hytanican male babies at the gates the day they left). Only one child's body was never recovered -- so I think we can all guess what's coming with this little tidbit. Everyone seems to know this much about the war, but that's about the extent of Alera's knowledge (beyond wildly "feminine" things like embroidery, dancing, and household management). But that's all politics that Alera has obviously never been interested in before, or else she might know even a single fact about all that. Instead, Alera's biggest problem is that her eighteenth birthday is, traditionally, when the princess is supposed to marry and her only real option (or the only real option her father is gunning for) is Steldor, who resembles Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. After Alera blunders along for a while, doing things like turning in her best friend/trusted guard for knowing a wee bit too much about Cokyri than he lets on after a Cokyrian prisoner goes missing, we eventually get to the point where another Cokyrian named Narian is captured -- but no! It's actually the missing Hytanican child, son to nobles, who grew up to be Alera's romantic counterpart, though obviously he cannot be trusted and Dad's still pushing for Steldor and what's what you say? A war might begin unless Narian is returned to them because he's the key to a prophesy for bringing about the downfall of Hytanica? Mm-hmm.
Seriously, guys, I think the publishing world has only done Kluver a disservice by publishing this work. Legacy could have been something excellent had she spent a few more years living/revising. As I understand it, Legacy was originally self-published and now Harlequin Teen is picking it up, but apparently, they didn't want to waste money on an editor (or Kluver had enough pull to be able to reject every rational change). It feels like no work was done on this manuscript to help Kluver patch up the inconsistencies or guide her to add some depth to her characters -- even if she couldn't create characters that you don't want to punch in the face. Repeatedly. Alera is boring and rather slow on the uptake -- a painful example of a heroine that we're supposed to like just because we're told to, without any reasons. She's not very smart and she has no hobbies, wit, sparkle, or emotional depth. She makes poor decisions, going along with whatever others propose, and seems to have lived her entire life without an ounce of curiosity -- prior to now (else how can we explain her total lack of knowledge of her own country's history or its conflict with Cokyri?). Steldor comes off as self-absorbed and cruel, but Kluver wants you to think he's more than that, and so she tosses in enough contradictory behavior (which only succeeds in making him look bi-polar). Though I will say that while the ending of the novel moved in obvious directions, for Steldor and Alera, I didn't expect Kluver to let things go so far. Narian's appeal rests in his mystery, which is relatively maintained by his mostly mute state. The only semi-likeable character in the entire book is London, Alera's bodyguard who was once a prisoner of the Cokyrians -- and I think I only liked him because he seemed like a bit of an ass, but a slightly likable ass with honor and a brain (aka the only character in the book that seemed to possess an ounce of intelligence). At first, one wonders if Alera is supposed to fall for him, as he's not *so* very much older and Kluver has difficulty in differentiating the affection one feels for a romantic interest versus a father-figure, but no, we're just supposed to question his motives and then all-too-conveniently bring him back when his expertise is needed. The most annoying figure of all, however, is a young bodyguard whose behavior would easily have earned him a beheading after one or two scenes, and yet he was peristently judged a decent figure to protect the princess. Personally, I would have been delighted if London killed them all in a post-traumatic-stress fit.
I know this might seem harsh, but I'm really disappointed in the general group of adults who didn't do enough to help Kluver develop this manuscript more and instead pushed it out in this state, as there's the potential for semi-decent fantasy/romance YA in all this mess, but it's just not ready. There's a lot of description of clothing that's supposed to pass as interesting detail, so it's not like Kluver didn't try where she could, but this is a highly disappointing novel and I can't even hope that Kluver will get better, as attention like this to work at such a young age could only stunt her growth by suggesting she doesn't need to work harder at her craft. Readers, if all you're looking for is to be impressed by a 14-year-old's writing, then go ahead and check out Legacy (or get a job as a high school English teacher and hunt down the nerds who scribble in their notebooks all day), but if you're looking for good historical YA, treat Legacy like the scene of a terrible accident. Keep moving along, folks, there's nothing to see here.
Please note that I received an advanced egalley of this novel courtesy of NetGalley for the purpose of review....more
There's just something about Max's chocolate-smeared face that made me love this book as a kid. (Why oh why didn't I think of this book as an Easter pThere's just something about Max's chocolate-smeared face that made me love this book as a kid. (Why oh why didn't I think of this book as an Easter present when my godson was younger?!) "Max, how could you do this to me?"
Something else to note! I read this book online for free at www.wegivebooks.org -- We Give Books is an organization (created by the Penguin Group and the Pearson Foundation) that allows you to read a book online and click to DONATE A BOOK FOR FREE to various worthwhile pre-designated recipients. You sign up for an account and can read all the books they have on offer, then click to donate. It costs absolutely nothing, you get to read a free book, and you get to help others read, too. Seriously, this is the definition of win-win....more