Legendborn Book Review: King Arthur Meets Shadow Hunters
Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn is a must-read novel filled with twists, turns and riveting suspense.
Deonn couples Arthurian history with modern day circumstances to create an enthralling novel for anyone’s nightstand.
Alfons Morales // Unsplash
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Tracy Deonn’s young adult fantasy debut Legendborn will have you on the edge of your seat and staying up way past your bedtime as you turn its pages. This coming of age novel steeped in Aurthurian legend and American history is moving, enthralling and entirely unique. When Bree Matthews’ mother dies in a terrible accident, she decides to enroll in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s residential program for bright high schoolers to escape painful memories of her mother. However, when a chance encounter uncovers a hidden memory about her mother’s death, Bree launches a quest to find the truth. Suddenly, Bree is competing to become a member of a secret society that might have had to do with her mother’s untimely demise. Faced with demons, merlins and a war she never wanted to be a part of, Bree is forced to choose between following her mother’s wishes or seeking her own destiny.
Legendborn is a stunning book that explores deep themes of class, grief and self-discovery within a riveting fantasy realm. At its base, the book is about Bree, a black girl in the South, who is trying to uncover her past and her own identity. The story is expertly structured in a way that does not overwhelm the reader while simultaneously creating an intricate world and exploring Bree’s unique perspective of it. The book is split up into four parts – and thank goodness for that, or I would never have been able to put it down! While the plot is full of twists and turns, I never felt lost or confused. Instead, through these shifts in the storyline, Deonn imparts information in a memorable and impactful way so that you have no trouble recalling it later (and if you do, there’s a guide at the back of the book!).
Deonn’s world-building is rich in detail, uniquely intriguing and completely immersive. Deonn herself is from central North Carolina, and the story takes place at her alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill – not a place you would normally expect to read about a secret society of the descendants of Arthurian knights. Nevertheless, it is the perfect setting for this incredible journey. Deonn used the well-known reality that is Chapel Hill’s campus to provide roots for her complex magic systems. This lends both the story and the magic a remarkable credibility.
What I really admired about Legendborn was the authentic representation of its characters. Many authors employ the tired checkbox strategy of inclusion when crafting their narratives (Gay best friend? Check. Token Asian character? Check. Token black character? Check). Deonn’s characterization, on the other hand, bucks this trend in a refreshing way. Her characters are incredibly diverse and authentically written. For example, one character named Greer is nonbinary, but the only way the reader would know is because Deonn changes the pronouns when referring to them. Greer is a kickass fighter and an empathetic friend, but most importantly, they are shown to exist without the main character’s permission – they are very clearly their own person (and I wouldn’t mind a novella of events from their point of view!). This holds true for all the characters in Deonn’s book. No one feels like a supporting or stock character, because they are all unique and independent people. That is a rare and beautiful thing to see in a book and speaks to Deonn’s expert writing style.
When it comes to Legendborn, there is something for everyone. For anyone who is interested in exploring new perspectives, history or Arthurian legend; loves fantasy, magic and mayhem; craves mystery, intrigue and romance; or craves authentic representation in their characters, immersive world building and rich storytelling – this book is a must read! Legendborn was released September 15, 2020 and can be found in bookstores. A second novel is expected in fall 2021 – I can’t wait!