Marie Lu spent most of her youth writing, although Legend is her first published novel. In writing Legend, Lu was inspired by the stage version of Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. Hugo's work and its subsequent adaptations follow Jean Valjean, a petty criminal who steals a loaf of bread and is chased by the police officer Javert for twenty years. Lu liked the idea of writing a story about a detective chasing a famous criminal. However, Legend is very different from Les Misérables, which portrays Javert as a villain and does not offer his perspective.
Legend is the first book in a trilogy, and it is currently being adapted into a film. The book received positive reviews when it was released, with critics praising the novel's fast-paced action and alternating viewpoints. However, some reviewers commented that the plot was "formulaic" and that the prose was "mostly pedestrian" (Minzesheimer, Pearson). Prodigy, the sequel to Legend, was released in January 2013.