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Legendborn by Tracy Deonn was a book club book I was supposed to read back in December, and never got around to reading. Then I kept putting it off because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the expectations for the book I had in my head after hearing a bunch of people saying how amazing it was. Especially after seeing it was similar in some regards to Shadowhunters. Which is one of my favorite universes. But I decided to finally give Legendborn a try after running a poll in a few places on what to read next. The vote was split between two books in the end, so the other one I’ll read next. But first, Legendborn.
Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.
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.
- Published: September 15, 2020
- Page Count: 511 pages
- Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy, Arthurian Myth/Legend
Comparison to Shadowhunters
While the two series have similar elements, I would not say Legendborn takes from Shadowhunters in the way that The Empirium Trilogy by Claire Legrand takes after Shadow and Bones by Leigh Bardugo. In both Shadowhunters and Legendborn there is a group of individuals who fight demons that are unseen by the regular population.
In Shadowhunters, these individuals get their abilities due to having angelic blood. And they have to make use of runes to activate said abilities. They keep their life a secret completely to anyone outside of what they call the Down World. There are mages, seelies (faeries), vampires, and werewolves as well in this world. All beings with some type of demonic blood, but are not considered demons. Those are regulated by the Shadowhunters to keep them in line. Humans are called Mundanes in this universe.
In Legendborn, these individuals are known as Legendborns while regular humans are referred to as Onceborns. Legendborn individuals descend from King Arthur and the Round Table through one of 13 lines that are not allowed to mix. However, there are many individuals who are sworn into secrecy that fight alongside them. Most of those children competing for that right as there are only 13 Scions. Though not all are activated at a given time to fight against demons with Arthur almost never being called as that would mean an all-out war against demon-kind. These descendants are the only ones who have the Sight in addition to Merlins, which are part demon mages that serve the line by swearing a series of oaths to prevent them from turning to their demonic side. Or so Merlins have been led to believe. They are in charge of detecting demons, ensuring the Scion of Arthur is safe, and performing any oaths between pages and the chapter and Squires with their Scions. Each line has its own abilities that they are allowed to call upon once activated. In Legendborn, only six of those lines with their abilities are explained. The others will likely be explained in future installments of the series.
Review of Legendborn
The book takes place in the first-person POV of Bree Matthews. A 16-year-old girl enrolled in Early College shortly after the mysterious death of her mother. Through the course of the book, we go through her grief over that loss and the discovery of her powers that are thought only to belong to Merlins in the Legendborn world. Though we learn there is a separate culture called Roots where this power comes from that tries to hide from Legendborns. As well as the history of the Legendborns as Bree joins their world in hope of discovering the truth of what really happened to her mother.
Bree does this by becoming a Page (individual competing for the right to become a squire for one of the scions) for Nick, the heir apparent of Arthur. Nick symbolically left his position in the order following his mother being forced to forget him after trying to take Nick away from his abusive father. But he retakes the mantel to help Bree expose the order for what they did to her mother. Or at least help her figure out what happened to her mother as a Merlin tried to make her forget the details regarding the incident. And figure out to some extent why she can resist mesmers.
However, this puts her in the sights of Nick’s Merlin, Sel. He believes Bree to be a Shadowborn (demon) trying to harm Nick since he discovers she is immune to his mesmers. Not only that but they have a strange connection that Bree doesn’t quite understand. She can sense him whenever he is looking in her direction. But it becomes apparent to Sel that she’s not a Shadowborn mole during one of the trials. The two come to an understanding of some kind shortly afterward. To the extent that Sel no longer spies on her, and even helps her discover what happened with her mother. As it’s tied to her powers and the mystery of the order where a gate was opened twenty-five years prior, but kept secret and resulted in Sel’s mother being stripped of her title as Merlin.
I won’t spoil the ending but it was a bit of a shock. As you don’t learn all the details regarding what happened until the very last pages of the book. Mostly in regards to where Bree’s powers come from and her lineage. In addition, you learn who’s behind trying to get Arthur to awaken for the first time since the Civil War. Legendborn leaves off at a bit of a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait for the next installment in this series. Especially what that means for Bree and Nick’s relationship as the two are romantically involved. Who’s going to end up being Squires to the newly awakened Scions, and who will become the Kingsmage to Arthur? Since it’s not Sel.
Overall, I give Legendborn by Tracy Deonn 4.5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t put this book down. It wasn’t predictable as I did not see that end coming. I thought it was going to end in a different direction. But the way it went, chef’s kiss. Especially since it confronts racism and sexism within the order. Or it will since there’s no avoiding that going forward. Bree dealt with it throughout the book, but there’s no way they can deny the truth when the rest of the order finds out.
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Great review! Nice comparisons!