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 previous life, family memories, or her childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at a local university 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 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 reveals Bree’s own, unique magic and unlocks a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that she knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, Bree will do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn by becoming one of their initiates. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur and his 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 (Legendborn, #1)Featured
After she is hauled back to campus by a police officer which results in some punishment. She is assigned a student mentor and her father decides to have her see a therapist to help her deal with the loss of her mother. As Bree meets her student mentor, Nick, and begins to learn there is more going on around campus - possibly connected with her mother, Bree decides to investigate further by pledging at a secret society with Nick's help. Once there, she learns about magic, the legend of King Arthur and the round table and the roles that the people around her are supposed to play.
Bree's quest to learn the truths around her mother's death lead to self-discovery as well as deeper understandings of her ancestry and the world around her. And there's a big twist at the end that I would never have seen coming.
What I loved: This book captures all the romance and mythology of King Arthur and bring it into the modern day with demon-fighting, so I am definitely on board. This book goes so much deeper into the mythology and magic that exists in the world as well as how it can be viewed differently by different people. For instance, among the white King Arthur European American crowd, it is aether and they are Legendborn. Among Bree and other Black Americans, they call it root and practice Rootcraft with willing connections to their ancestors while the Legendborn are actually Bloodcrafters, a forbidden practice of unwilling binding to ancestors. Rootcraft is based on historical Rootwork from enslaved African Americans. Bree is learning about both simultaneously and skeptically viewing the indoctrination that she is given in the secret society, The Order of the Round Table.
Most importantly, through her eyes, the reader can see the many microaggressions that Bree experiences as a Black student and the history of oppression that surrounds her life experiences. We get further exposure to this as Bree also travels through memories of her and others' ancestors. These powerful messages are included throughout the book and really add an important context to the story as well as modern life and Black fatigue.
Bree really comes to life throughout the book, and I loved her journey to healing and self-discovery, embracing her ancestry. The loss of a parent is difficult, and Bree's grief is a theme throughout the book that speaks to the heart of the reader. Her search for truth and understanding is a huge motivator for her story and an undercurrent that helps to define her and make her standout as such a strong character. There are so many other compelling characters that also make this such an engrossing and highly devourable read, such as a Merlin (the line of wizards that protect Arthur's descendents), Bree's romantic interest, a healer who is particularly commanding, and a non-binary pledge/page - so many characters to love as well as the inclusion of LGBT couples that works so beautifully. This story made me gasp, sigh, and gave me chills- it is really well-written and masterfully plotted.
Final verdict: LEGENDBORN is an epic fantasy that takes the reader on a journey through the magic and mythology of King Arthur and Rootwork with twists and turns, a unique plot, unforgettable characters, and the perfect touch of friendship and romance. Highly recommend for fans of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, THE EARTHSINGER CHRONICLES, and/or THE HAZEL WOOD. This is a highly devourable read that will leave readers eager for the next installment.