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Literature / Legend Trilogy

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A series of dystopian Young Adult novels written by American author Marie Lu.

In a dystopian future, the USA is divided into two rival nations: "The Colonies of America" and "The American Republic". Every year, all 10-year-olds of the Republic must go through the "trial". Those who are successful move on to the the best schools and universities, usually followed military and government careers. Less satisfying results lead to a life of poverty, or worse.

The story is told in dual perspective, narrated by the two 15-year-old leads: Day, a boy from the poor, plague-ridden sectors of LA and a wanted criminal turned legend, and June, a prodigy born into one of the Republic's elite families, and the only person in the history of the Republic to receive a perfect score on her trial.

Their paths cross when June's brother, Metias, is killed on a military patrol. The blame falls on Day, and June vows to capture and bring him to justice. She sets out to the poor sectors, disguised as a street rat, in pursuit of Day. Their encounter sets off a chain of events that inevitably changes their lives, and the fate of both nations.


The series was originally envisioned as a trilogy (see the page image). However, Lu ultimately decided to revisit the series and wrote another entry, turning it into a tetralogy consisting of:

  • Legend (2011)
  • Prodigy (2013)
  • Champion (2013)
  • Rebel (2019)

There are also three novellas:

  • Life Before Legend (2013)
  • Life After Legend (2018)
  • Life After Legend II (2018)

Legend's film rights have been sold to CBS Films, with Twilight producers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen set to produce. Jonathan Levine was set to direct the film but eventually departed. The project appears to have slipped into Development Hell.


The trilogy contains examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • June. The Republic's prodigy, trained in combat from a young age. In her first narration, she clues the readers into having skipped class to climb a skyscraper.
    • Kaede also qualifies.
  • After-Action Healing Drama:
    • At the beginning of Prodigy, when Day and June are on the run from the Republic, one of their biggest concerns is finding a way to fix Day's leg.
    • Later in that same book, after Anden's foiled assassination, June collapses from illness when she and Day flee to the underground tunnels, and he's forced to carry her all the way through to the Colonies so that they can find her a hospital.
  • After the End: The Colonies and the Republic are located in what used to be the United States. On a global scale, the End is the global warming that melted the polar icecaps, which had submerged certain areas and certainly changed the demographic and sociopolitical situation, but it's by no means the End.
  • Amnesiac Lover: The ending of Champion has a cruel one between Day and June: due to the fatal shot, the former remembers everything but his relationship with June. And unlike other examples, June decides that it may be best for them to part ways for good. However, the epilogue implies that Day eventually regains his memories, something confirmed in the Life After Legend novellas.
  • Artificial Limbs: In Prodigy, Day has to get a part of his leg replaced, after being shot in Legend. They replace his bad knee (damaged by Republic experiments when he was 10) while they are at it.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Day and June by the end of Legend.
    • Elector Primo and his wife, who served as Senator Princeps, used to be this back when she was alive, as well. In fact, it seems that their relationship had cemented the tradition that the Elector and Senator Princeps are couples, causing June's brief dilemma when Anden offers her the Princeps position.
    • Rebel features Eden and Pressa.
  • Big Bad: Each book has a different one.
    • Legend has the Republic's top brass and by extension the Elector, who directs the tests and Day's torture. Thomas serves as a personal one for Day, as he's responsible for framing him as Metias' killer, which means that he's indirectly also one to June.
    • Razor serves as the main antagonist of Prodigy, being The Mole who manipulates the Patriots into working for the Republic.
    • Finally, the Chancellor of the Colonies serves as the main antagonist of Champion.
    • Dominic Hann is the visible villain of Rebel However, both Day and Eden note that Antarctica's flawed societal system is more to blame for the book's events, rather than any single person.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Metias to June, since he has been basically raising her since they're parents died.
    • Also Day to both Tess and Eden. Heck, the whole plot of Prodigy is basically to show how far Day would go to rescue his only living family.
    • John to Day as well, whose instinct consists of being captured and executed in place of his brother.
  • Big Damn Heroes: After June's skiz fight with Kaede, she's cornered by an angry mob, made up of the gamblers who lost money betting against her. Enter Day.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • As of the end of Legend, Day has been saved from execution, but his mother is dead, his older brother John dies while taking Day's place in the execution, and his younger brother Eden is in the hands of the Republic. Also, after saving Day, June has become a fugitive, while her brother's killer, Thomas, walks free.
    • By the end of the Prodigy, it seems like things will finally pick up for the Republic after Anden takes over as elector. Both Day and June have been pardoned, with Day being hailed a hero, and June being offered the role of Princeps-Elect. Eden has been freed and is receiving medical treatment. However, Day and June have not worked out through any of their issues. Eden might be permanently blind and in the final chapters Day discovers that he is dying, which prompts him to break up with June, leaving both of them heart broken.
    • By the end of Champion the war has finally come to an end and the Republic and Colonies, while not reunited, are slowly mending their differences and beginning to build border cities to cement it. Eden is also able to regain his sight due to a surgery provided by Antarctica. However, Day's almost-fatal shot has erased his memories of the last several months, including his relationship with June. While heartbroken, she's glad that he survives and decides to leave him for 10 years. Nevertheless, the epilogue puts some hope that the two may recreate their relationship back.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Thomas kills Grace Wing. Later, he himself suffers the same fate.
  • The Brute: Kaede. She's very tall, and is described by Day as "hitting like a bull".
  • Bury Your Gays: The only confirmed LGBT characters, Metias and Thomas, are dead by the end of the series.
  • But Not Too Black: Day is half-Asian and half-white but is described as having blond hair and blue eyes. The author explains how this is possible here.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Both Day and Anden are half-white and half-Asian. In the former case, the Asian part is known (Mongolian), while in the latter, the white part can be guessed (presumably Greek).
  • Child Prodigy:
    • June is the only child in the history of the Republic to get a perfect score on her trial or so we think. Her status as prodigy is so much a recurring theme that the second book is even named Prodigy.
    • We later learn that Day did just as well on his trial, but it was covered up by the Republic.
    • Eden, Day's younger brother, is described as the smartest member of the family- which says a lot, considering. In one particular example, Day and John asked him to help them fix an old radio. He was four at the time.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Day gets this after he's caught by the Republic. Especially from Thomas.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Elector Primo, who has been running the Republic for decades, largely responsible for the rotten state its in. In Prodigy, this changes when he dies, and his son Anden takes his place as Elector.
  • Crapsack World: The Republic, where if you're not born privileged or rich means a horrible, horrible life for you and your entire family and where you'll be sent to labor camps or rather death camps if you're not merited enough for military or even if you're merited but considered to be too rebellious. The entire world as a whole seems to be this at first, judging by June's comments about sea level rising due to the melting polar icecaps; June mentions that South America has broken down into a series of islands. Subverted in the later two books, where it's revealed that only the United States is crapsack. Other countries are doing fine; Mexico and Canada still exist, the melting icecaps had turned Antarctica into a habitable zone, China is devising a plan to live above water, and Africa is growing richer due to the flow of capital coming from Europe, which had in many places become submerged. In fact, Africa is one of the three world powers, together with Antarctica and China.
  • Crapsaccharine World:
    • The Colonies. As it turns out, all the capital and shining buildings are built due to strict corporatism, where your life depends solely on your company.
    • Antarctica is revealed to be this in Rebel. Despite what the higher-ups tell, it is a textbook example of a developing country, in that there is a very wide gap between the rich and poor. The Level system is extremely flawed and disproportionately targets the underprivileged. As June notes, it's basically the Republic with a good PR and less military.
  • Dark Action Girl: Commander Natasha Jameson.
  • Disappeared Dad: Day lost his father to a war with the Colonies.
  • Disney Death: Day in the climax of Champion. Complete with June's Please Wake Up and his near-death experience.
  • Disney Villain Death: Jameson suffers this fate in Champion, just to make sure that she dies if not from the gunshot wound.
  • Distant Epilogue: The epilogue of Champion takes place 10 years after the Colonies' invasion.
  • Divided States of America: The story takes place with America being divided east to west: the dystopian Republic where the ghetto sectors are used for plague testing and the Colonies, which are suggested to be a shining utopia. In Prodigy, it is discovered that the Colonies is a heavily consumer dominated, corporate police state.
  • The Dragon: Commander Jameson.
  • Dystopia: The United States is split in two again for the second time in history, with the main characters living in the nightmarish military-based Republic.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After a lifetime of suffering, Day and June decide to move together to Los Angeles at the end of Rebel. The book is closed with Day proposing to June near the place where they first met.
  • Genki Girl: Tess, though she temporarily stops being one in Prodigy when she becomes jealous of Day's and June's relationship. She is back as this by the time Champion comes around.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Chancellor of the Colonies serves as one for the first two books thanks to being the leader of the opposite side but not actually figuring much to the plot. He steps down as the Big Bad in Champion.
  • Hufflepuff House: China is this among the world powers, being the only one not to take sides during the Colonies' invasion.
  • In-Series Nickname: Day rarely goes by his real first name, Daniel until the epilogue. June's Affectionate Nickname from Metias is "Junebug".
  • Inspector Javert: Thomas shares many character traits with Javert, including a strict separation of right and wrong (in his own opinion), being born and raised in the slum districts of Los Angeles (the same place as Day, but while Day uses his childhood as proof that the government is working against poor residents, Thomas uses his experience as proof of the benefits of hard work and obedience, a la "The Confrontation" in Les Mis), and most importantly, when his view of the Republic superiority is shattered by the Colonies' troops entering the capital, he chooses to commit suicide by engaging in a one-man suicide charge.
  • Kill the Poor: The Republic's justification for murdering children who fail the test, as well as contaminating the water source for the poor sectors with chemical weapons.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Day survives his brain illness at the end of the series at the cost of his recent memories. He remembers his mother's death, but not his romance with June.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Tess > Day > June < Anden.
  • The Mole: Razor, who attempts to manipulate the Patriots into killing Anden and then framing them for the murder so he can ascend as the Elector.
  • Multi-Ethnic Name: The half-European half-Mongolian Day has the full name Daniel Altan Wing. His brothers, meanwhile, are John Suren Wing and Eden Baatar Wing.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Thomas killed Matias, his best friend, due to Matias' treasonous hacking into government servers. Despite being sentenced to death for following orders and engaging in a lengthy dialogue with June about how he feels abandoned by the Republic while Day, a barely reformed criminal, and until recently, traitor, is now a national hero, he chooses to engage in a suicidal attack against invading Colonies soldiers, shouting patriotic slogans, no less.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Thomas obeys Commander Jameson's orders to fire into a crowd of protesters, killing dozens. During his trial in Champion, he continues to show obedience and courtesy to Anden, who just handed down a death sentence (as opposed to Commander Jameson, who used her time to speak at the trial to constantly insult Anden and other leadership figures).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Daniel Altan Wing as Day. He reverts back to his real name at the end of Champion.
  • Parental Abandonment: June and Tess start the series with both of their parents dead. Day joins them later.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Republic's leader, Elector Primo, has been reigning for 30 years and counting through rigged elections, though the elites (including June, at first) don't mind much. He has also designated his son, Anden, as his heir, effectively making it a hereditary republic. While Anden does ascend as leader after Primo's death, he is interested in reforms and actual democracy may finally be ushered after the war.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Champion does this regarding June and Day's Ship Sinking. Day may or may not have recalled some of his memories with June, and might regain all of them if they start befriending again. Even if he can't, he and June can simply start everything from scratch. The post-series novellas reveal that he does indeed regain his memories, although not entirely.
  • La Résistance: The Patriots, who work Colonies to undermine the Republic and finally bring it and the Colonies together. Subverted when it turns out in Prodigy that they are being manipulated by the Republic's cronies all along, but by Champion has managed to regain their sense of independence.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Grace, Day's mother.
  • Sacrificial Lion: John, Day's older brother, and Kaede.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: June and Day's first time in Champion swiftly cuts to the next morning.
  • Sherlock Scan: June. She even tends to randomly analyze what materials objects in her vicinity are made of.
  • Ship Sinking: The finale of Champion manages to sink both main shippings; June's relationship with Day abruptly ends because of the latter's amnesia, while June and Anden both agree after dating for a few years that they're Better as Friends. However, the epilogue indicates some hope that Day and June may get together again.
  • Shipper on Deck: Tess graduates into this in the epilogue of Champion, as she arranges for June and Day to finally reunite after 10 years. Yes, the same Tess who earlier showed jealousy against June for taking Day's attention.
  • Shoot the Dog: Commander Jameson orders Thomas to shoot Day's mother in the head in order to lure Day out, which Thomas does without a second thought.
  • Space-Filling Empire: There are only a few countries left in the world, most of which are expanding through defunct ones. What's known is that Africa, the Middle East, and Europe each unite together as single constituencies.
  • Spanner in the Works: Legend is Spanner in the Works: The Novel. Who thought that sending an attractive teenage female super-spy to capture an attractive teenage male super criminal was a good idea, again?
  • Straight Gay: Metias and Thomas. In fact, this is why June never learns about their secret relationship until much, much later.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Elector Primo, who is set up as a major antagonist in the first book only to abruptly "die of old age" in the opening of the second book.
  • Take That!: In Rebel, after his visit to Los Angeles' National Museum, Day reflects that no matter how horrible the world is, it's still better than the era before the division, i.e. when the Republic and Colonies were a single country called the United States, since at least they didn't discriminate people based on nothing but skin color. He expresses disgust upon finding out that the country's first civil war was caused by such a flimsy reason as race.
  • They Do: Day and June hook up for good in Rebel, after having been separated for ten years. At the end of the book, the two are engaged.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Poor, poor Day.
    • Even before the narrative takes place, at the age of 10, he is experimented on and then left for dead by the Republic. By the end of Legend, his mother is shot dead in front of him, he's captured and tortured by the Republic, and his older brother John dies to save him from execution. Not to mention his younger brother Eden is in the hands of the Republic, and most likely dying of the plague mutation.
    • By the end of Prodigy, he finds out he's dying, which causes him to part ways with June, who by this point is one of the only people left close to him.
    • As Champion opens, Day has spent the last 8 months plagued with headaches and slowly dying. He has also not spoken to June during that time, which just adds to his misery . Ironically, the epilogue is probably the only time where he is able to be left happy, and it requires forgetting June and most of the things that happened in the previous months (he still remembers his mother's death, though). By this, he has little regrets and is able to move on with his life, just as June has planned.
  • Trilogy Creep: The series was written as a trilogy. It ended up being a tetralogy, plus three short stories.
  • Urban Warfare: The final war with the Colonies takes place in Los Angeles and is very haphazard indeed.
  • Where It All Began: The series starts in Los Angeles before the two heroes travel to other cities to carry out the rebellion. However, they return to Los Angeles once again for the final war against the Colonies.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Republic hadn't even the slightest hint as to Day's identity or whereabouts for years. Enter June.