Book Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 15, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Retelling

Teen Fiction

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.

Unforgettable Teen Fantasy from Margaret Rogerson

What can we recommend for the passionate serial reader? Books and more
books! For those who love reading young adult fantasy, there is no better
thrill than the discovery that your favorite author has published another book, and it’s an even greater thrill when you find the next book as good as, or even better than the first.

Margaret Rogerson is such an author; her writing is fresh, vivid, and smart
without an abundance of tired metaphors and conceits. The magic and
supernatural elements and beings in her worlds are rendered in dark, rich
tones that encourage vivid imaginings without crossing the line into the
horrifying. Her characters, especially her protagonists, are as bright as their
enemies are dark, and the delicate balance between them never wavers.

In Rogerson’s Sorcery of Thorns, an orphan, Elizabeth, is taken in by the Wardens of a magical library of living grimoires. Each book has a voice and personality unlike any other, and each pose a unique threat to the safety and sanity of their readers. Elizabeth, as an apprentice warden, soon discovers that some of the most powerful grimoires are being stolen and plundered for their secrets, and she must stop this thievery before the balance of power in her world shifts irrevocably.

Yet as compelling as her second novel is for the dedicated reader, so is her first!

In An Enchantment of Ravens, which is set in a different world and is a
standalone novel, we have the story of a talented painter, Isobel, whose artistry contains a thread of magic and a dash of the supernatural. In this world of fairy folk and mortals, Isobel is commissioned to paint the portrait of the Fae Autumn Prince, Rook, but makes the deadly mistake of painting him true to life: for unknown to many of the fairy world, Rook has sorrow, and has known regret, maybe even love. She is taken in custody and must strategize to save her life.

As standalone novels, Rogerson offers readers a break from the endless trilogies and quintets of other authors, which, amazing as they can be, are also tiring for the serial reader, as subsequent novels often return to the same situations and characters and conflicts as the first novels. Rogerson offers a satisfying change in that each novel is a separate story, but each is just as compelling and unforgettable as the other.

Audiobook Review: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Published by HarperTeen on May 5, 2020

Genres: Contemporary, Poetry

Teen Fiction

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is a captivating story full of emotion, family, and more following the tale of two sisters unaware of each other when their father dies in a plane crash. It’s a novel of grief, anger, and betrayal, but also of passionate, strong women supporting one another. Acevedo has such a way with words and I fully recommend reading this breathtaking novel.

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Book Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Published by Candlewick Press on May 5, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure

Teen Fiction

A desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial daughter find a connection on the high seas in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic.

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself. 

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Book Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Space Opera

Teen Fiction

Series: The Aurora Cycle #1

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

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