This review contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission to no cost to you from any purchases you make through these links
LEGENDBORN by tracy deonn
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books < Simon & Schuster
- Genre: Urban Fantasy
- Audience: Young Adult
- Pages: 501 (hardcover)
- Representation: black author & black female protagonist
- Trigger Warnings: death/grief, racism
Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn is a captivating debut novel that will enchant you with its complex characters, cryptic secret societies, and a wild plot that will keep you guessing until the very end of the book.
As we learn from the opening pages, Bree Matthews recently lost her mother to a tragic car accident. In order to better deal with her insufferable grief, Bree separates into two versions of herself in her mind. One set of behaviors belongs to whom she calls “Old Bree” (pre-accident). The other set belongs to “New Bree” (post-accident). This separation allows her to push her grief to the side and avoid dealing with those thoughts. As a consequence, this prohibits her from fully healing.
Ever since she can remember, her and her best friend Alice have wanted to attend the Early College program at UNC Chapel Hill, the college her mother formerly attended. The last conversation she and her mother had was a fight about whether or not Bree would attend UNC Chapel Hill, to which her mother strongly gravitated towards “no.”
Upon attending, Bree quickly realizes that there is something amiss on campus when she starts seeing things that no one else can. This particular ability draws her into a world completely different yet parallel to the one she’s always known. Suddenly she’s in the midst of a mystifyingly dangerous secret society that she has more questions about than answers.
With the help of the charming and amiable Nick, and against the thwarting efforts of the perplexing Selwyn, Bree works to uncover the mysteries surrounding herself and her heritage.
But as she soon learns, answers are not easy nor safe to come by. And perhaps she might not find the exact answers she desperately wants.
I had higher than average expectations for Legendborn and Deonn did not disappoint.
As happens with most hyped books, I tend to go into reading them with extremely high expectations only to be met with profound disappointment when the story doesn’t meet those predetermined standards.
Because of the surprisingly high amount of recent hyped reads that have left me disappointed, I went into Legendborn with still high, but significantly lower expectations. But not even fifty pages in, and those expectations were not just being met, but being exceeded!
I love tales of all forms, whether that be fairytales, folklore, mythology, etc. So I was hoping that this new take on the tale of Arthur, Merlin, and the Roundtable would become a new favorite. Especially because I know of few (if any) books based on this tale (which has always been one of my favorites). I am beyond happy to say that it has more than earned that status!
As we I immensely enjoyed reading a fantasy written by a POC with a POC protagonist.
Bree was witty, strong-willed, and down-to-earth; her character was impressively complex given only one book to do so, and her grief over the death of her mother was palpable. As far as main characters go, Bree is a new favorite of mine, as she remained realistic and consistent throughout the entirety of Legendborn.
As for side characters, I was a little disappointed with the lack of attention given to fleshing out many of Bree’s friends, classmates, and fellow society members. While Nick and Selwyn had some depth to their characters, I felt as if I needed more from them in order to immerse myself more in the story. Selwyn’s mysteriousness gave me enough satisfaction that I didn’t desire to learn too much more about him just yet, but considering Bree’s romantic storyline with Nick, I expected a lot more characterization done with him.
Due to Nick’s lack of characterization, Bree’s relationship with him suffered. In my opinion, I saw little to no chemistry between the two. Because of this, I found it difficult to root for their relationship. Ultimately, I cared more about Selwyn’s mysterious role in the story rather than Bree’s infatuation with the golden-boy Nick.
There were several more side characters from whom I wanted more depth. However, what bothered me most of all was that Alice was virtually nonexistent for the middle 80% of Legendborn. Bree came to this Early College program with her long-term best friend Alice, something they’ve been planning for years, only to abandon her. And this is barely spoken of, instead just blindly accepted as justifiable behavior.
I hinted on this above in my discussion of Nick, but despite Bree’s lack of chemistry with him (and what I perceived to be a case of insta-love, yuck), I was intrigued by aspects of the later half of Legendborn, which might have hinted at a future love triangle in future installments?!
Though love-triangles get a bad rep, I personally love them, and especially if done in a unique way. I wholeheartedly believe that if future installments do end up pursuing a love-triangle subplot, it will be done in such a way that even readers who dislike love-triangles will enjoy it.
Plotwise, Legendborn had incredible pacing, with the plot exhibiting no boring or slow points.
There was always something capturing my attention, and enough dramatic events happening to keep my captivated the whole way through. Not to mention, Deonn surprised me with some shocking twists!
Deonn created such an enthralling world with unique magic systems, a mysterious school, and a dangerous yet alluring secret society.
I found myself deeply impressed with the complexity of the world building for an urban fantasy (retelling-esque) debut novel. The uniqueness of the plot and the world were refreshing, and something I hadn’t known I needed.
A majority of the contents were things I have yet to see in YA novels before! I enjoyed this take on the history of the tales of Arthur, Merlin, and the Round Table.
Extra tid-bits worth mentioning
- Hinted Love Triangle
- Sort of Insta-love
- Secret Society/Club
- Mystery to solve
- Plot twists
- Arthur/Round Table retelling/inspired
Legendborn by Tracy DeonnLegendborn by Tracy Deonn
similar titles to legendborn
click on the above photos in order to buy on amazon
Let’s Chat in the Comments!
Do you enjoy fantasy books with academic settings? If so, what are some of your favorites? What about books with mysterious secret societies (they don’t have to be fantasy)?