ARC Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Thank you NetGalley and SimonTeen for the arc!

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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.

I truly can’t say enough fantastic things about this book!

Legendborn is Tracy Deonn’s debut novel, but it sure doesn’t seem like it! With complex (and diverse!) characters, incredible writing, and a spectacularly developed magic system, this book is simply wonderful.

Bree, our protagonist, was a really interesting character to read about, and I love how her struggles, desires, and internal conflicts were portrayed so well. Her grief for her mother and ancestors was beautifully depicted, and I just know it will resonate with so many readers. Despite Bree’s mother not being in the picture, I think that the portrayal of healthy friendships and familial relationships was excellent. I really liked how Bree’s father always looking out for her, and how her friend Alice was super supportive as well. I love seeing this in Young Adult literature! My only issue with Bree’s character was that she seemed to accept the existence of magic unrealistically fast. Imagine going your whole life thinking magic was just for myths and stories, only to suddenly learn that it’s real. You’d be shocked, wouldn’t you? Well, Bree wasn’t really rattled at all. On the flip side, I’d probably be annoyed if she took forever to realize/accept it, but still… it was a little weird. However, I was able to look past this and still enjoy Bree’s complex character arc! I can’t wait to see where it goes in Book 2.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a great main character is absolutely critical. But so are side characters… And Tracy Deonn knocked it out of the park with her diverse cast of supporting characters! We have Asian, Venezuelan, gay, bi, genderqueer, and non-binary characters, in addition to a Black protagonist. How epic! And beyond being physically diverse, all of these characters had unique and interesting personalities. Particularly our two potential love interests… That’s right! You read that correctly… This book has a love triangle! And I know what you’re thinking: Ew, love triangles suck! I’d normally agree with you, but here’s the thing… the love triangle in Legendborn is actually very well done. The two love interests are (surprisingly) both very likable, so it’s hard to tell who Bree will end up with. In fact, the potential romance between Bree and love interest #2, Sel, is merely hinted at towards the end of the book, as she spends a majority of the story dating love interest #1, Nick. Like I said, I like both of these boys, but I 100% ship Bree with Sel. I can’t help it y’all, I’m a sucker for an enemies to lovers romance. Sel was snarky, brooding, and mysterious… my type of guy! He totally gives off Cardan Greenbriar vibes, if you know what I mean. 😉

In addition to fabulous characters, Legendborn also contains a wonderfully crafted magic system. I always applaud authors who are able to successfully develop intricate magic systems in real world settings, because integrating fantastical elements into a non-fantastical world can definitely be tricky. The magic system in Legendborn was expertly developed, and I felt like by the end of the book, I understood it really well. The only flaw it had was that it was very heavy… Tediously heavy. There was a ton of world-building, which is great, don’t get me wrong… buttttt it was a tad boring. By the time I was 50% through the book, we were still learning about the world and magic system. They were excellently crafted, yes, but you should know going into this book that they take quite a while to be explained. I definitely think it’s worth it, though!

One more thing I’d like to mention before I wrap this review up: I love how though this is a fantasy novel, the author didn’t shy away from incorporating important social themes in her book. For example, Bree’s experiences as a Black girl in the South were so crucial to read about, and they couldn’t be more relevant in light of both recent events AND hundreds of years of discrimination. I also appreciate that Bree’s experiences with racism, generational trauma, and police brutality were depicted so honestly, making Legendborn a truly powerful Own Voices read.

Overall, Legendborn is a fantastic read that left me longing for more! Everything from the characters and magic system to the outstanding diversity was simply amazing. Rest assured that I’m already anxiously awaiting the sequel!

I highly recommend this book, and I definitely encourage giving it a read once it hits shelves in September!

Four out of five stars rating | Premium Photo

14 thoughts on “ARC Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

  1. melbraxton says:

    The diversity in this story sounds fantastically thought out! Personally, I’m not one for dense magic-systems, but I certainly know readers who are all about that.

    I’m really intrigued on your thoughts about the character accepting the magic world too quickly. It’s something I’m exploring in my current draft. It’s hard because as you mentioned, if they resist too long it almost stalls the narrative, but if it goes too fast it feels unnatural too. Hmm, tough balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julie Anna's Books says:

    Ooh, this book sounds incredible – great review! I usually don’t like love triangles either except for when they’re done a certain way, so I think we’re very similar on that! I also love seeing more social commentary in book for younger readers – I’ve been seeing more of this lately, and I hope it helps readers of all ages feel more empowered! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. R A I N says:

    OH MY GOD OCTAVIA!! I am in loveee with this revieww – soo beautiful and AHHHHH!!! This book sounds absolutely gorgeous! It looks so too!!! 😍😍😍😍😍😍 LOVE LOVE LOOOVEEEE THIS!!! 😍😍😍😍😍😍

    Liked by 1 person

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