The world of Young-Adult / Dystopian seems to be the hot button in the world of literature at the moment, with everyone seeming to be producing their own version of the concept. This would normally make The Legacy to seem to be on the surface simply another entry in an already incredibly inundated market, but creeping below the initial viewing, you get the feeling that it has a lot more to offer.
When I read the plot synopsis originally, my initial reaction was: “Oh no, not this again.” BUT, and this is a big but, Delport manages to include all the exact same tropes and plot mechanics that have somewhat stereotyped and stagnated this genre, and has used them with just the right amount of tweaking and charm that her story is both fun and engaging. In many ways, it is good to be reminded that plot tools exist for a reason, and that clichés are not always bad, after all, they are the building blocks of our literary knowledge.
The novel is set some 20-odd years after a devastating nuclear war that decimated the world. The main action is confined to the rebuilt New United States of America, and features as a protagonist Rebecca Dane, who is the First Lady of the new President of the aforementioned NUSA. However, it is quickly established that he is a ruthless despot, and she is actually an undercover agent for a rebel organization, that has become involved with him in order to undermine him at a later stage.
See, this description alone already shows how The Legacy both embraces and denies these typical tropes of a leading protagonist. Like most YA protagonists, Rebecca is a gutsy young woman. However, she is not a brooding teenager, is not senselessly drawn into romantic triangles that deny her her personal identity, and she is an active agent of her own missions from very much the outset, rather than simply following orders. She is a very pleasant character to read, specifically as a female protagonist, displaying a full range of human emotions and desires. Part of this is that the story is told in an effective first-person perspective, which took me a while to get used to, but once I did, I found it rather engaging for the style the story took.
What I also appreciated about The Legacy is how quickly it jumps into the action; most of this style of novel takes ages and ages of exposition and scene setting, which is sometimes enjoyable, but which is often also very dreary. The Legacy meanwhile sets a stage in a few chapters, and with all the pieces in place, allows Rebecca and the other characters to begin moving them around, which heightens the tension and the excitement immediately in a way that flashbacks can’t. On the slight negative side of this, the author sometimes has a tendency to “Tell rather than Show,” which can become tiresome in a novel, but I found this annoying me only in a few places near the start, and very little by the end.
Surprisingly for a South African author, The Legacy also feels very American, in a good way, encapsulating the spirit and creed of that country. Some concepts are of course universal, but I thought that the “American Dream in a war-torn world” was brought out rather clearly and expertly. The novel also manages to avoid a final problem about YA series that plagues me: that it forces itself to expand into multiple novels for purely financial reasons. The Legacy series feels like one larger story that has been split into an appropriate number of novels in which to tell it, and I felt satisfied and hopeful for the next novel after reading this one, which is the aim I assume of making a trilogy in the first place.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Legacy, in the best way, and I would find myself looking out for the sequels on my own time and effort. A fabulous effort from a South African author that is clearly writing on a competitive level with global figures in this genre. Definitely worth making an effort to find if you’re a fan of this theme and genre.