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.
When I first heard about this book, I was a bit unsure about it. I haven’t loved a ton of King Arthur retellings and I also haven’t loved the books I’ve read with magical elements in the real world. I knew I wanted to read this book at some point, I just wasn’t sure when. But, I feel like love Legendborn started to explode online. Everybody who had read it, absolutely loved it and had nothing but good things to say. I was lucky enough to win an ARC through SDCC (ah!), and decided to into it and see what I thought. Trigger warnings: racism, torture, implied rape, blood, gore
Every single piece of praise this book has gotten is earned tenfold. It’s the kind of good that I felt in my bones. It’s the kind of good where I want to beg Netflix for a quality adaptation because it would work so well and be so good. So yeah, I loved this book a whole lot haha.
This book smashed the legend of King Arthur to bits. It turned it into something new, unique, and incredible. The inspiration was visible, but what made that visibility so amazing was the new life Deonn breathed into the story. There were squires and scions and pages, there were sword fights and battles, all on the backdrop of a school with demons spilling from Gates ripped between this world and theirs. This world was fascinatingly intricate. At first, everything seemed a bit all over the place and I wasn’t quite sure where every piece fit. There are so many complicated bloodlines and every person has a very specific place. But, as the book went on, things became clearer and I could see the hierarchy of this world in a better view. And that just made it all the more fascinating.
Let’s move on to the characters. Bree, oh I loved Bree. She’s filled with so much emotion. Love and fury and pain and grief. I felt like those emotions were at the heart of the book, how they weave through live. These emotions drove Bree. The knocked her down, but the were also the burning force moving her forward. I just loved Bree, with all her confidence, determination, and pretty much just everything about her.
There are so many side characters. It was a bit hard sometimes trying to picture everybody and know where everybody fit. Though, just like the world, it evened out! Though, I did love pretty much everybody in this book. Greer, IS CASUALLY NONBINARY. They/them pronouns are just used. It’s so casual and I loved it so much. Nick was bright, with a shining smile and his own weight to carry. Selwyn, Selwyn. I LOVED him. Love, love loved him so much. He’s angry and he’s brooding and he wears a lot of black. He’s fighting his own demons, but I just can’t help loving him so, so much. Alice, Bree’s best friend, was also someone I really loved. Best friends usually follow a very specific pattern in YA books, and I was expecting Alice to follow the same. Though, I am happy to report that Alice’s story takes a completely different turn. I was so happy when I found out what role she was going to play, because she definitely deserves her own role! Honestly, I loved all the side characters (the one’s who weren’t jerks).
Alright, let’s talk about the romantic relationships. Usually, I fall in love with the one the main character ends up with. I know, but that’s just usually where my emotions fall! Though, I think I’m rooting for the underdog this time. Honestly, this just increases my awe at Tracy Deonn’s writing and storytelling. She wrote the romantic relationships in such a way where I fell in love with the underdog, but I also love the person I think might be the person coming out on top. I would be happy if Bree ended up with either person. All this to say, Tracy Deonn is a master storyteller and relationship and character crafter.
Also, I know I kind of said this before, but the writing is fantastic. It’s what makes this book as solidly good as it is.
I do want to note that this book completely set up the sequel in such an amazing way. This book broke open the story, exposed it’s insides, and that amazingly sets it up for the sequel. The best way I can describe it is that the pacing is just woah.
I am so, so glad that I read this book. I could sing it’s praises for even longer than I have here. I could go on and on about how I much I simply adore this book, this world, these characters, and everything about it. It’s such an incredible book.
Legendborn comes out September 15, 2020! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!