Author: Tracy Deonn
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pub Date: 09/15/20
Genre: YA Fantasy
Edition: Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC)
Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.
After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
Legendborn is spectacular. Point blank period. Anything I write will pale in comparison to the author’s writing, but I will try to come up with coherent reasons for why this book should be on everyone’s radar (and I mean everyone).
For one, the amount of Blackness in this book made me so happy. Bree worries about not sleeping with her satin scarf and has to spend hours doing her hair on wash days. Those seem like such tiny things, but after rarely seeing these elements of Black culture in books, I really cherished those moments. On the flip side, even though I never guessed the actual villain in this story, racism felt like the true villain to me. I was so outraged and upset every time someone said a racist statement or microagression toward Bree. It felt so relatable at times, especially when someone mentioned that she only got to the school because of affirmative action. After having too many people say the same thing about my acceptance to Cornell, I just wanted to fight them all for Bree.
But oh did it feel amazing to see Black girls winning in this. I want to see every retelling/reimagining with Black characters at the forefront now because this book spoiled me. The author beautifully captured so much of the emotion of feeling disconnected to previous generations, the impact of slavery and the institutions that still uphold it’s key figures, and the strength we can find when we tap into our ancestors.
This ended up feeling more like a reflection than a review, but it’s so hard for me to review this without mentioning how much it meant to me as a Black woman. I was fascinated with the characters and the plot, and constantly ready to see what was going to happen next. I feel it’s so hard to talk about this book without spoiling it though because so much of it is laying the groundwork for the mind-blowing ending. But I can tell y’all, I screamed. I laughed. I got emotional. I just felt so much while reading this book which is why I fell in love with it and promptly went to pre-order a finished copy when I finished reading the ARC at 5AM in the morning. Sometimes the lore went over my head and that’s completely fine cause I picked up on things I missed as I went along. And I still know when I read this again, I’m going to find information that didn’t click the first time.
Also there was a scene with a piggyback that reminded me of Tavia being held by a gargoyle in A Song Below Water, and I just want to know where my creature is that’s gonna hold me 🙁
Overall, Legendborn is simply THAT book, and you need to read it. One of my favorite books I’ve read this year. The relationships, the lore, the fighting, the swooning, the twists: All perfection.
Picture this: It’s 2022. A TV show for Legendborn just got greenlit. This is who I think is coming out on top. Now I know Marsai’s not tall like Bree, but sometimes sacrifices must be made. Also if Hollywood does that thing where they cast older actors to play younger ones, just know Austin Butler could play Nick and Sel (at the same time okay). I did 3 important characters in the book, but since I pre-ordered a copy of Legendborn, I want to revisit this when I reread and fill in the other characters in the book because there’s so many interesting ensemble characters.
*I don’t own the rights to any of these images*
Tracy Deonn is a writer and second-generation fangirl. She grew up in central North Carolina, where she devoured fantasy books and Southern food in equal measure. After earning her master’s degree in communication and performance studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tracy worked in live theater, video game production, and K–12 education. When she’s not writing, Tracy speaks on panels at science fiction and fantasy conventions, reads fanfic, arranges puppy playdates, and keeps an eye out for ginger-flavored everything. She can be found on Twitter at @TracyDeonn and at TracyDeonn.com.
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Thank you so much for reading my review of Legendborn. If you want to see all the other amazing posts on this book tour, check out the schedule on Hear Our Voices.
*Thank you to the publisher and HOV for a free copy of the book. All opinions are my own*