I’ve been excited for Legendborn ever since it was announced. Southern Black Girl Magic meets Merlin folklore meets secret societies. Legendborn is fast paced action with secrets sprawling from the pages. It’s also a book that never lets you forget that not all of us could have been Chosen Ones throughout history. Keep reading this book review of Legendborn today!
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Legendborn is a fast paced action story about magical secrets in the shadows of our world, a quest for revenge and answers in the midst of grief, and turning tropes on its head. It’s a story that consistently reminds readers of the racism in the South, under the grassy fields, and immortalized in stone. At the same time it’s also a story about magic, elitism, and secret societies. A story about the rushing tide of grief, burning fire of revenge, and glittering ambition.
I loved the way Deonn looks at the concept of a legacy and who gets to be a legacy. How those with privilege, wealth, and titles have been able to be the Chosen Ones. The ones with family trees, lineage that never becomes lost, and where names unfurl. Legendborn is a story of Southern Black Girl Magic, a story that, while steeped in magic, never loses a sense of its contemporary setting. Words full of demons, power, and night time battles.
Legendborn also asks questions about duty and responsibility. Because with the idea of legacies, prophecies, and inheritance, come the ideas of duty, responsibility, and necessity. While I was expecting a story of mystery, there were also magical competitions and training montages. Action packed moments of sword combat, games, and sacrifice. I loved how Legendborn is a fresh approach to these tropes like the Chosen One, particularly as many of the terms seem to relate to King Arthur lore.
Deonn’s debut details the lengths people will go to for power, to retain the status quo of whiteness and privilege. The disastrous consequences of anger which can poison the well. There’s no denying that what drew me the most to Legendborn is the concept of what is it to be a legend, and who do we allow to be legends. But I also enjoyed watching Bree’s story unwind on the page especially as Bree keeps discovering secrets about herself.