Book Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Posted June 21, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

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Legendborn

Legendborn

by Tracy Deonn

Series: Legendborn #1
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 15, 2020
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIAP+, Retellings
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Black
Content Warnings: Blood, Car Accident, Death, Death of Parent, Physical Abuse, Racism, Slavery, Violence

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at Bookshop.org

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.

 

Even though I understand Legendborn was not written for me, this book filled such a void in my recent reading.  Even in the early chapter, something about it felt warm and familiar.  Eventually, I was able to identify that fuzzy feeling – nostalgia.  Legendborn reminds me of the types of fantasies I read growing up.  World building and writing style evoking Vampire Academy and City of Bones and that whole genre of “young woman discovers magic abilities and is swept away into a secret club where she learns about a hidden world” feel… I loved it, I loved it so much.

Bree is a beautifully complicated character.  She has hopes and dreams, but the events of the book have made so many things unclear for her.  She struggles with anger and love and loss.  There’s every shade of emotion in this book and it doesn’t quite fall into many of the tropes that plague this kind YA fantasy.  I am such a big fan of Bree – but not just her.  I’m interested in Alice, William, Selwyn, Felicity… just about every character in this book has a journey and they’re all interesting.

And the writing?  Tracy Deonn is a brutal writer.  Legendborn does not pull punches when it comes to betrayal and heartbreak.  There were a lot of twists I didn’t expect.  Deonn does a great job of keeper the reader rooted in the moment and absorbed in the story – the ending surprised me chapter after chapter and I am looking forward to the next book.

Deonn wove her own culture into this story and carved – literally and figuratively – a place at the table.  Books like Legendborn remind us how underrepresented non-white protagonists have been in the past, and how they continue to struggle to be seen, much like the audience for whom they are written.  Like my first readthrough of Children of Blood and Bone, I was impressed with the representation, although I am not the appropriate person to say whether or not it is sufficient.  Please do read reviews from Black female-identifying readers for confirmation on the rep!

From the magic and mythology to the character arcs, carefully constructed plot, and smooth writing, Legendborn is an easy five-star read for me.  There’s nothing in this book that I can say is mediocre or lacking – it is entirely enjoyable as a YA fantasy and refreshing from some of the repetitive themes I’ve seen lately.  For me, it’s a revival of the style of stories I grew up loving and I can’t recommend it enough.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

5 Star Rating

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Are you familiar with the legend of the Round Table?  I thought the twist on Arthurian legend in Legendborn was fantastic.  If you know of any other really good Arthurian fantasies, please recommend them!

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2 responses to “Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

    • Amber

      Thanks, Jess! I hope you love it when you get to it – I tried not to get my expectations too high because I was afraid I’d feel let down, but I definitely didn’t, it was so much fun.