Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 15, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling
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.
An exceptional modern day fantasy from debut author Tracy Deonn, Legendborn brings knights into the secret society fold of Chapel Hill. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and magic within these pages as Bree discovers the world of Legendborns hidden in plain sight. The author delves deeper though, seamlessly weaving complicated topics like mental health and history into the plot. Making the story even more memorable is a host of dynamic characters that quickly find their way into the reader’s heart and mind.
Bree has a fiery personality, wanting to pursue the truth of her mom’s death. Nick’s the golden boy who can do no wrong even after leaving the Order and Sel is angry and full of power. All three have suffered trauma and hold their true emotions close to the chest. It was interesting to see how they interacted individually and with each other. Plus the secondary characters were top notch and I found myself wanting to know more about them.
The exploration of grief and trauma in this book is next level. From the deep seated history of slavery at UNC to the microaggressions that Black people face every day, Deonn deftly tackles this ongoing trauma. Grief too, permeates throughout this novel. The pain and suffering that loss causes and how it rears up at any given moment is clearly illustrated. Whether it’s tackling complicated history or the trauma of loss and abuse, Deonn writes with a double edged sword, cutting through all the layers of emotion.
As an Arthurian retelling, Legendborn brings the world of knights and vassals into modern times. The training and schemes of this hidden world were fascinating and I loved seeing how the lines of each knight and their King played out. All of this lore combined with the college atmosphere of Chapel Hill showcases the world building skill Tracy Deonn brings to the table. All in all, this book was amazing and I absolutely recommend it to teens and adults alike.