Book Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Publication Date: 15 September 2020

Genre: YA – Urban Fantasy (retelling)

Pages: 512

Publisher: Simon Teen

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.

I’ve been putting off this review since I finished savoring the last few pages of Legendborn because my review will not do this book justice. This book is easily one of the BEST fantasy books that I have ever read.

Following the death of her mother, Bree Matthews decides to attend UNC–Chapel Hill’s residential program for high schoolers, which was her mother’s alma mater. Bree quickly finds herself immersed in a secret society that may have been involved in her mother’s death. Bree is just supposed to join the Order to get answers. Even though Bree isn’t particularly welcomed in the Order since she’s the only Black person, she finds herself starting to care for some of her new friends. As many truths are revealed, Bree has to decide if she wants to take down the Order or join them in the upcoming apocalypse.

Legendborn is Tracy Deonn’s debut novel. She delivers a compelling and enthralling urban fantasy that tackles themes of grief, inherited trauma, colonization, slavery, and growing up as a Black woman in the South all while turning the traditional Arthurian legend on its head.

The world building is absolutely incredible. While the Order and their world is rather complex, as a reader, we don’t go through that dreaded info dump that most fantasy books have. Since Bree is completely oblivious to the Legendborn world, we experience it alongside her, which facilitated an immersive experience. In addition to the world building, the magic system is unlike any I’ve read about. I don’t want to give anything away, so know that there are two different magic systems and the cost for each is steep.

The cast of characters in this book is amazing. Bree is our Black female MC who is intelligent and quick witted when it comes to banter and comebacks to bigoted nonsense. Alice Chen, Bree’s best friend, is Taiwanese–American and lesbian. Within the Order, there are two bisexual characters, a gay character, an established f/f relationship, and a nonbinary character.

There’s so many more spectacular things about this book, but it all boils down to this: READ THIS ONE NOW!

Thank you to Simon Teen for providing a review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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