Allison's Book Bag

The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu

Posted on: April 5, 2014

Reading the last word of the last book of a great series wrenches at the heart of every book lover. Today I sadly turned the last page of the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu.

The action-filled plot that spans the three books is full of so many agonizing twists that my fingers ached to flip ahead and assure myself of a happy end. I also appreciated that while the books are obviously interconnected, each can be enjoyed by itself. Main characters, June and Day, are mesmerizingly real in their talents and hopes, as well their failures and griefs. Through chapters with alternating viewpoints, Lu shows how simple misunderstandings between June and Day lead to conflicts. Bravo to Lu as well for including a delightful canine in the cast. Finally, while some dystopia trilogies seem set in a mere clone of our world, the characters of Legend seem to truly live in a disintegrated United States of America.

After all this high praise, I almost hate to mention anything that I disliked about the trilogy. The most outstanding issue is that two main characters are outstandingly attractive. Not only that, but they’re also both exceptionally smart and physically adept, which makes me wonder if there is any room in dystopia for the common person? What redeems June and Day is that they are normal human beings on the inside, with feelings of hesitation and insecurities. Then there is the issue that I’m not sure why June and Day are even drawn to one another, except through physical attraction and external forces. The latter includes the fact that each had a role in unintentionally causing harm to the other’s family, which creates an emotional bond between them. Moreover, at one point, June serves as Day’s guard, after the Republic imprisoned him for crimes against the state. Some readers may also dislike that the two have a sexual encounter, notwithstanding that sex is becoming more prevalent in young adult literature. All these issues however seem miniscule in the broader context of a superb and riveting trilogy.


When I first delved into Legend, I felt struck by its similarities to other current dystopian books. The oppressive regime of the Republic in Legend reminds me of the capital control in Hunger Games, especially in the split between rich and poor. There’s also the trials, whereby individuals are sorted into classes, which kind of makes me think of Divergent. Then there’s the widespread plague, which bears resemblance to the storyline in The Lunar Chronicles. Given that the latter two trilogies were actually published around the same time as Legend, they obviously were not the source of Lu’s ideas. Or vice versa. Rather, these might be common themes in dystopian books today and perhaps indicate the issues which most intrigue readers. Definitely, the theme of two lovers who are thrown together in a fight against tyrannical forces is a common one, and Lu makes full use of it.

Yet she also creates a story that is unique in its own right. The original inspiration for Legend came to Lu while she was watching the movie version of Les Miserables. For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, nineteen-year-old Valjean steals bread to feed his sister’s children and makes various attempts to escape prison. At the same time, Police Inspector Javert repeatedly encounters and attempts to arrest Valjean. When Lu pitched the idea to her boyfriend of a teen rebel versus a persistent detective, he thought the idea would be more interesting if the inspector were a girl. And so Legend was born, with its story of a fifteen-year-old prodigy who is chosen to find and capture an infamous criminal. Before this raises any red flags, let me reassure you this isn’t just another cliché story of a soldier falling in love with a prisoner, any more than Hunger Games is just about a girl sacrificing herself for her sister and finding herself caught up in a love triangle. Remember, in Les Miserables, Valjeans steals out of desperation. And so Legend is also about the disparities which exist between poor and rich, and how that effects everyone. At least one scene in Legend is based on Lu’s memories of witnessing in person the student protest at Tiananmen Square, which was only blocks away from her childhood home. As such, Legend is also about uprisings, tyranny, and what makes one loyal or disloyal to one’s country.


Thankfully, Legend does not end with a cliffhanger. It has a satisfying end. So why was I was so eager to read Prodigy? A lesson authors might take away from Lu is that one doesn’t need to end with a cliffhanger. If the characters are interesting enough, readers will want to read more about them, even when the major threads have been wrapped up.

Some sequels fall apart in that the next book feel like a rehashing of the first. Even Hunger Games ran this risk, when Collins threw Katniss and Peeta back into the arena in Catching Fire. Naturally, then, I felt curious to know what Lu would throw at her characters in Prodigy. There would be an attempted rescue of Day’s brother, of course. But what else? For example, there’s the little matter of wanting to know what would happen next in the lives of the two lovers, who had run off together to find a new world and a new hope. What will they find?

Considered traitors by their country, June and Day seek refuge with the Patriots, a rebel group whom incidentally Tess has also joined. However, the Patriots are only willing to accommodate them in return for a favor: The Patriots want June and Day to assassinate the new Elector Primo (leader) of the Republic. Our two heroes now face some tough decisions. Do they become cold-blooded killers? If so, can they ease their conscience by telling themselves that all is fair and just in war? If they can’t, then what lays ahead? Will they forever be on the run? Or will they throw themselves on the mercy of the Republic? As they struggle with these decisions, June and Day find that not all is right in their new home. And are these situations familiar to all of us, both on the small scale and the grand? Every job has its perks and faults. So does every country or regime. Lu explores deep themes in her trilogy, which is one reason I like it as much as Hunger Games.


With Champion, Lu again writes a book which is both complete in itself and a fresh revisioning of the trilogy. Having endeared themselves to the Republic, June and Day are working for change from within. However, there are now a whole host of new issues to contend with on every level. First, a plague outbreak causes panic in nearby Colonies, resulting in a war which threatens the border cities. Second, escaped military prisoners betray secrets to the Colonies. Third, allies to the Republic hold off their support until it discover a cure to the plague. Fourth, the plague’s cure might lie with Day’s brother, who is reluctant to subject himself to further hospitalization.

In the midst of this political entanglement, there is also a very strong human element. You see, Day and June still have their past to contend with, given that both are indirectly responsible for causing harm to each other’s family. Then there’s Eden, Day’s brother, who is growing up and starting to insist on making some of his own decision. Day’s former friend of the streets is also changing and wanting more in her relationship with Day. Perhaps the richest development of character in Challenger comes through the new Elector Primo (leader) of the Republic. Although he wishes to make right the wrongs of his father, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes a leader must make the final choice. And sometimes a leader faces difficult decisions, when there is dissent within the government. Although there are some minor characters who remain two-dimensional bad guys, Lu is a marvel when it comes to creating complicated characters.

The film rights to Legend were sold to CBS Films in 2011. Director and screenwriters were named a few months later, and there have been some signs of continued progress, but as far as I can tell a cast has not been named and filming has not yet begun. I eagerly look forward to the time when it does, as I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy and would love to see it on the big screen.

My rating? Bag them: Carry them with you. Make them a top priority to read.

How would you rate these books?

2 Responses to "The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu"

Thanks for dropping by! I hope you enjoy the trilogy.

looks great! thanks for sharing!

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