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 programme 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.
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aka. My FAVOURITE BOOK OF 2020.
Is that a bold statement to make even though we still have 2 months left.
Yup. But I said what I said.
The emotions I went through in 48 hours – where do I even begin?
I think I even screamed out loud at one point.
TRACY DEONN DID THE DAMN THING.
If this book doesn’t get the hype it deserves over the next year – I promise I will RIOT.
You see how big Children of Blood and Bone is. Legendborn deserves to be on that kind of level. Everyone needs to read this book – I mean everyone.
Legendborn came onto my radar before it had even come out. Not only was the front cover one of the most beautiful book covers I’ve seen in a while but so many popular bookstagram and booktuber accounts that had received arc copies had posted about how amazing it was. I decided to try it out and pre-ordered the UK copy. Then, after a bit of issues with font sizing and a re-ordering of the US Hardback copy, I finally settled down to read it a couple of days ago.
When I first started, I was nervous. You know when a book has been hyped so much that you’re terrified it won’t live up to the expectations? That was how I felt.
But I finished the book unable to process everything I had just read. I couldn’t pick up a book for the next two days. I just had to try and understand that I’d read a flipping masterpiece.
Tracy Deonn used the King Arthur legend to explore themes of legacy, racism, grief, history, love and with a large dose of Black Girl Magic. It’s dark and action-filled. There’s moments where you literally feel like shouting or you stop to close the book just to collect your thoughts before diving back in. I always take it as a good sign when I’m trying to stop myself from reading so fast.
The pace was excellent
The character development was incredible.
The plot was just exceptional.
The entire book was magnificent.
I won’t lie, I did struggle to understand all the different Arthurian connections. It was difficult to keep up but it was nice learning everything alongside Bree. I would say just be patient. Everything does just click into place, eventually.
Also, this book is exactly what I mean by representation! It was done so effortlessly. It didn’t feel like the author was trying to tick off a checklist – something I resent.
I can’t not start this review by talking about how Tracy Deonn handles grief. Often Black girls have to cap their emotions. If we’re too passionate, excited or annoyed, we’re depicted as loud and angry. A stereotype specifically designed to control and belittle Black girl’s and their emotions. What often happens is that Black girls learn from an early age not to show how they feel.
Bree, the main character, was the complete opposite of everything I had ever known. She wasn’t forced to cap her emotions – she was allowed to just feel. Bree got angry. She acted irrational. She was desperate. But not once was she portrayed as the ‘angry black girl’. Bree was free to be emotional about something that was very traumatic. Tracy Deonn was advocating for just how importance it is to let Black girls just be themselves.
A huge thing for me was that therapy was portrayed as a normality. And there’s a scene where Bree is sititing with other Black women she mentions that she finally feels that she has a ‘safe space’, somewhere to be herself.
Guys, I felt that. I felt that with my whole entire soul.
I’ve gone to predominantly white schools my whole life. At Secondary and University, I surrounded myself with group of black girls that soon became my safe space for me to just BE MYSELF. There was no-one who was going to tell me that I was being too loud or I was getting too emotional about an incident that felt a lot like racism. I could cry, laugh, scream and shout around these girls and no-one would judge me. I can’t express how much it helped mentally.
This is what made Legendborn so special. It became quite clear from early on that this novel is a celebration of Black women. Their strength, their love and their intelligence in all it’s forms. Through her portrayal of Black women, Tracy Deonn explores intergenerational trauma and the power it can have on descendants. That chain of pain can be hard to break.
“I claim those bodies whose names I was taught to forget. And I claim the unsung bloodlines that soak the ground beneath my feet…I know that if they could, they would claim me.” – P.g. 241
This ties in nicely with the themes of legacy and history. There’s a moment on p.g.135 and I don’t want to give too much away but it was at that exact point in the novel that I decided that this was my favourite book of 2020.
One of the Legendborns is explaining quite proudly about how he can trace his lineage back thousands of years. I think he expected Bree to admire this.
Bree, our queen, turned round and said she felt cheated.
Slavery ruined that privilege for her and I had never felt something so profoundly. To hear Bree voice everything I had ever felt in that exact moment gave me chills.
There’s a power in claiming your history and your ancestry, especially in knowing your roots. Something that Tracy Deonn emphasises with how she depicts Black women in the novel. But also, to set the novel in the deep south of America knowing it’s ties to slavery…there was just so much layering. It was all so cleverly thought out that I just want to stand up and applaud Tracy Deonn.
Bree was the epitome of my ideal main character. She infiltrated this society that is quite clearly a predominantly white male space and said ‘make room, me and my afro are staying’. Yes, she experienced racism. Yes, there were moments where she felt like quitting.
But, Bree stayed. She didn’t give up.
How can I not talk about Nick and Sel? Bree’s first encounter with Sel is one of my favourite moments in the book. Nick was such a sweetheart that I have such a soft spot for him. He was adorable. Whilst Sel and Bree clearly had an undeniable connection. They both felt as if they didn’t quite belong amongst the Legendborn’s and this was kept them close to one another.
And man, that ending. I was GOBSMACKED. I didn’t see it coming AT ALL. If you’ve read it then you know exactly what I’m talking about. I had to re-read that particular part twice because I was just so shocked.
Tracy Deonn wrote a masterpiece. A stunning piece of work. She gave me everything I could have asked for in a book and I’m so excited to see where she takes this series from here.
There’s something so powerful by taking a predominantly white legend and making it your own. King Arthur and the round table isn’t a legend I would associate with Black people. I wouldn’t have even known where to start. So, to read this novel and be completely and utterly mesmerised by how Tracy Deonn has made her stamp on this legend, feels incredibly powerful. She like Bree, took a predominantly white space, and made it her own.
I will forever stan this because what does that teach young Black girls of today? It says that just because a room may not have other people that look like you, doesn’t mean you can’t go inside and sit down. You deserve to be there too. And if anyone tries to tell you there isn’t space, make room for yourself. Leave your own mark.
Make your own legacy, regardless of what the past may try to tell you.
Honestly, if you haven’t read this book. Please go read it. I will continue to hype this book and I’m not worried about it not reaching expectations because it will blow your mind.
Just as it did mine.