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Legendborn – 5 Star Book Review

I was very fortunate and excited to be granted access to an ARC of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn through the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry Books via NetGalley. I cannot say enough good things about this book! It did release yesterday, September 15th, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll notice I was replying and retweeting whenever I saw Legendborn being celebrated. Why did I wait until today, the 16th to start shouting about this one from the rooftops? This book deserves more than a day’s spotlight crammed in between a bunch of other titles, and between my three book tour commitments and my review of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars which also released on the 15th, I didn’t think I could do Legendborn justice yesterday. Today? The rest of this week? Let’s get this book on the NYT best sellers list, baby!

PS. I did already tease this one in my Fall Book Tag entry.

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About the Book

Legendborn
Legendborn Book One
by Tracy Deonn

Genre: YA Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 512
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!

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.

Blurb from Goodreads.

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK

My Review

My Rating: 5 Stars!

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for granting me access to an ARC of Legendborn in exchange for an honest review.

Legendborn is a modern take on Arthurian legend and elemental magic with an infusion of Black American history. After losing her mother in a car accident, Bree Matthews is conflicted. The loss has changed her in more ways than she can express or understand, and she wants nothing more than to throw up a wall and move on as if nothing has changed. Bree and her best friend Alice are accepted into an Early College (EC) program at the Chapel Hill campus of UNC at just 16, and as it turns out, this is exactly where Bree needs to be in order to understand the changes she’s gone through since her mother’s passing.

She quickly becomes entangled in a secret society of students called Legendborn, descendants of King Arthur and his knights and their various squires and supporters, who defend the campus and surrounding area from unseen demonic threats. But Bree can see them. Is it possible that her mom saw them, too? Did she see something she wasn’t supposed to? With the help of a Legendborn named Nick, Bree is determined to find out what really happened to her mother and what it all has to do with this secret society.

I’ve been doing a lot of ARC and beta reading of Arthurian lore stories lately, but this is by far the best one! It’s a fresh take on the legend that was desperately needed with very compelling characters. It also confronts racism and xenophobia. As the only black page in this year’s page class, Bree has single-handedly made this year’s page class “the most diverse” the chapter has ever seen. She’s mistaken for “the help” on multiple occasions and always corrects that assumption with cutting whit. In the beginning, there is a police officer who assumes she’s made it into UNC on a “needs-based” admission and he reports that she “had an attitude” for telling him she got in on merit. The importance and prevalence of slave history intertwined with the history of both the campus and the Legendborns are integral in this book. These things are presented frequently enough to continuously remind the reader what the Black experience is like in the American south today and through history without making it the one and only plot point. This book has a lot to say about racism and a Black girl’s experience in today’s world, and this is handled well in a way that can be felt and understood by readers of all backgrounds.

Bree is not the only diverse character, either! We have a whole range of sexualities on campus, there are other black women teaching Bree about their own understanding of this magic she’s inherited, and her best friend Alice is a lesbian of Asian descent. This book also perfectly illustrates the very real reality that some (most?) people experience an abrupt disruption and distancing with their high school friends upon graduating and entering post-secondary education.

The magic system in this book is very well thought out and we get explanations of how it works as Bree learns what’s going on. Getting different explanations of the same magic from different perspectives (the Legenborn’s aether, the Rootcrafters’ root, etc.) is also fascinating and ties into the black experience in a white world storyline.

We do get some familiar YA tropes that may or may not be everyone’s favourite thing to read, such as instalove (remember the timeline of this book is only a couple of weeks), a surprise love triangle situation that adds little to the story, and the whole “chosen one” aspect. (To be fair, can you avoid the chosen one in an Arthurian story? I don’t think so.)

This book is advertised as YA and since the main characters are just 16 years old that does seem to fit. With that said, being that it takes place on a college campus, it also feels NA (New Adult) and feels more relatable to older readers like me (32) than a high school story. I think this book will appeal to a much wider audience than most YA titles.

I can’t wait for more from this author, and I hope I’m correct in assuming that this book is setting up a series. It certainly feels like it! I rate this title 5 stars out of 5, and I will be singing it from the rooftops for quite some time! I recommend this book to everyone, and I even think it would be a good introduction to fantasy as a genre for those who are looking to break into reading fantasy.

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK

About the Author

Tracy Deonn is a writer and second-generation fangirl who grew up in North Carolina. She is the author of Legendborn, a contemporary fantasy novel and ABA Indies Introduce Selection, with a sequel to follow. Tracy is a contributor in the 40th Anniversary The Empire Strikes Back anthology, From a Certain Point of View, out November of 2020 by Del Rey/Star Wars books. In addition to being a featured expert in the 2019 Star Wars fandom SyFy Channel docu-series Looking for Leia, Tracy was also a co-writer and consulting producer. Her nonfiction essay about growing up Black and geeky, Black Girl, Becoming, was published in the 2018 anthology, Our Stories, Our Voices.

Tracy Deonn is a writer and second-generation fangirl who grew up in North Carolina. She is the author of Legendborn, a contemporary fantasy novel and ABA Indies Introduce Selection, with a sequel to follow. Tracy is a contributor in the 40th Anniversary The Empire Strikes Back anthology, From a Certain Point of View, out November of 2020 by Del Rey/Star Wars books. In addition to being a featured expert in the 2019 Star Wars fandom SyFy Channel docu-series Looking for Leia, Tracy was also a co-writer and consulting producer. Her nonfiction essay about growing up Black and geeky, Black Girl, Becoming, was published in the 2018 anthology, Our Stories, Our Voices.

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.

Photo and about from her own media kit.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jenna is the artist/illustrator and author behind Westveil Publishing and its sub-banner platforms Jenna Gets Creative and The Westveil Archives. She live in Newfoundland, Canada with her husband, daughter, and feline overlords.

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