Tracy Deonn’s Debut Novel ‘Legendborn’ is a New and Magically Masterful Take on Arthurian Legend
“Some legacies are meant to be broken.”
Bree Matthews is 16-years-old and trying to find the best way to deal with her grief after her mother dies in a car accident. Needing an escape from the memories and her home, Bree is glad to be attending a residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC – Chapel Hill.
Ready to take on this new change in her life, Bree is suddenly thrust into a world of fantasy and magic when she witnesses a demon feasting on human energies. Both shocked and stunned, Bree falls into the world of a secret society filled with so-called “Legendborn” and when a fellow teenager, a mage who calls himself a “Merlin” tries to wipe her memory of what she witnessed. However, unbeknownst to him, his powers of memory erasure failed and now Bree is left with even more questions.
With old memories morphing into what feels to be new ones, Bree quickly realizes that this isn’t the case. In fact, for the first time, she is seeing them with more clarity and realizes that the night her mother died in the hospital, another Merlin had been there. It is evident that there is more to her mother’s death than she and her father had been led to believe. With this newfound information, Bree knows that she has to solve the mystery behind her mother’s death at any cost – even if that means finding herself in the midst of danger by infiltrating a secret society for answers.
Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn is truly something magical. As much as the book plays on pieces of Arthurian legend, the way in which Deonn makes the story something entirely new is something I haven’t seen from a book (or really anything) in a long while. I can see many readers – specifically Black girls – relating to the Bree and seeing themselves in a way they probably wouldn’t have imagined (yes, there’s even mentions of Wash Day!). It’s rare to find pieces of ourselves in fantasy books as so often, Black girls and women are not at the forefront of these tales. For this, I will be forever grateful for Deonn’s brilliant work.
In Legendborn, Deonn masterfully combines elements of magic and lore with the racism Bree faces and the journey of her navigating her grief. The novel also does a great job at commenting on history, white privilege and the deeply rooted racism we find ourselves surrounded by – especially Bree being a Black girl in the South where confederate monuments haunt her at every turn. Deonn paints the perfect picture of how that is something that will always set someone at ease. Every time you step into a place, you’re met with the knowledge that you weren’t welcome there and perhaps still aren’t. Every step of the way, Deonn makes sure that you’re invested in everything about Bree’s life and the shocking world she finds herself in and that despite its magic, the literal demons are not the only ones that make Bree’s life a nightmare. Even in this secret society, it’s evident that no one like Bree has ever been a part of it.
Bree does her best at navigating all of this while trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s death and prove to the Legendborn, Merlins, and everyone else in between that she deserves her place in this world and deserves to know the truth. Everything about this book is done so well and it was difficult to put it down. There is so much more I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Just be sure to read Legendborn; you won’t regret. I already cannot wait to see what the next epic chapter of this series is going to be. Once again, thank you to Tracy Deonn for gifting us all with this brilliant book!
Steeped in Arthurian mythology, magic and wonderfully written, Legendborn is the best fantasy book that I’ve read thus far in 2020. Be sure to read this fantastic novel as soon as you can!