I have been circling Legendborn by Tracy Deonn for some time now. A part of me felt that this book was going to be amazing, and I wanted to make sure I had the time and space to sit down and appreciate the story unfolding around me. Two years later and a month before the sequel is published, I decided to see what the hype was all about.
Three months after losing her mother, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews moved into a dorm at UNC–Chapel Hill to begin an early-college program. Bree is feeling restless under the weight of her grief, and it leads to some poor decision making. The first party she attends lands her in some trouble with the dean, but the outing isn’t a total loss. That night, Bree had her first run-in with the Legendborn after seeing a magical creature wreaking havoc at the party. This sets Bree on a new path, one of discovery and healing, as she tries to untangle the mystery and events surrounding her mother’s death.
Do you know how refreshing it is to have a YA novel with great worldbuilding? I cannot remember the last time I encountered this level of storytelling within the genre. The world of the Legendborn is fascinating and intricate, and it possesses a wealth of lore tied to Arthur and the knights of the round table. The Legendborn could have easily dominated the story, but Deonn doesn’t stop there. She introduces a second magic system with its own incredible history, and the two realms of magic make for interesting power dynamics. At first, the two systems seem wholly separate from one another, but Deonn uses both to make the world even richer and creates a complicated environment for Bree to navigate.
Deonn portrays the grief and heartbreaking experiences of a young black girl navigating many worlds. Bree contends with the racism running rampant in the dominantly white Legendborn society. She finds refuge with another black woman on campus but is also admonished for interacting with the Legendborns. Bree is caught between two worlds but needs both to help her find the answers about who she is and what happened to her mother. Between her grief and the many secrets she keeps, Bree can never wholly be her entire self, no matter who she surrounds herself with. Even with a magical backdrop, Deonn captures the essence of the real, lived experiences of a girl who has to fight against a bigoted system at every turn.
Bree is a fantastic protagonist; she is strong-willed and determined, and I love every boundary she breaks. Her best friend Alice is fun and serves as a great connection to the real world, but she disappears in the middle of the story. Her absence was notable, and it was odd that she is left out for a good chunk of the book after being an important part of the book’s beginning. The hole she leaves is filled by our new homeboys, Nick and Sel. Our introduction to golden boy Nick couldn’t get any better, and I enjoyed his empathetic nature. But Sel, our troubled Selwyn, is the mysterious bad boy I want to figure out. There is a lot of fun stuff that unfolds around Bree and Nick, but my attention always diverted to Sel when he appeared with his bad attitude, dark hair, and tattoos. I want to see this bad boy shine, and I am counting on Sel to steal the show in book two. I hope Alice comes back, too, and has a more prominent place in the story as well.
I am an accidental genius by reading Legendborn only a month before its sequel, Bloodmarked, is published. Instead of spending two years waiting in agony after book one’s ending, I only have 30 days to wait before I get answers. Because believe me, I will jump right into book two and root for Bree every step of the way.
Rating: Legendborn – 9.0/10