Back at it again with another ARC Review! Today’s blog post is all about Tracy Deonn’s debut Legendborn! Thank you so much to McElderry Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC. As always, all opinions shared are my own. This post is in partnership with Hear Our Voices Book Tours.
Bree Matthews is reeling from the sudden death of her mother three months ago. When she happens upon a secret society of “Legendborn” students who hunt energy-feeding demons, a teenage mage called “Merlin” attempts to wipe her memory. However, that doesn’t work on Bree, and now she’s walking around with the knowledge that there are demons and teenagers with magical abilities. Realizing that her mother’s death may not have been an accident after all, Bree dives head first into this secret society that was not made for her in order to find more answers about her mother’s sudden death. Bree joins these descendants of King Arthur and his knights to prepare for a coming war and ends up unlocking a power deep within her that she didn’t realize she was capable of. Brushing up against both overt and casual racism and micro aggressions, a boy she finds super cute, and a rocky friendship, Bree must learn to manage this new world she’s entered before it destroys her.
WHAT I LIKED
From the very first words of the Prologue, Deonn grabs you with her poetic and captivating language. Full stop: this woman’s writing is BEAUTIFUL. There are so many moments of heavy, beautifully written, and gripping prose that tugs at your heartstrings. There were multiple instances where I reread passages simply to appreciate the way in which Deonn wrote them. She gives you just enough information to keep you going, while building this rich and historic world around you that is full of real-life struggles and demonic battles.
The way in which the Arthurian lore is woven into the story is impeccable. It’s a fresh and exciting take on a well-known legend that breaks through your expectations and turns everything you think you know on its head. The mix of lore and magic was fascinating and led to a multilayered and multifaceted, complex magic system that is rich in historical context. The modern day existence of the lore displays how elusive and exclusive the idea of “legacies” at institutions and within our society can be.
I appreciated the inclusion of therapy to help Bree with her trauma and grief. The therapy sessions with Patricia act as a key to Bree understanding her past in more than one way. Therapy can be such an elusive topic within the Black community, and I appreciated the fact that it was actually Bree’s father who suggested therapy. Bree, of course, shows some trepidation, but eventually realizes that the therapy is the key to helping her understand her grief and her relationship with the memory of her mother. Bree’s response to grief and difficult situations was incredibly relatable, and I found myself responding emotionally to the turmoil Bree was in during certain moments in the book.
There’s a respect and reverence of elders and ancestors that serves as an important aspect of the novel. This was cool because that is definitely drawn from Black culture, specifically Southern Black culture, and it was so apparent in the way Bree and Patricia honor the deceased.
The romance between Bree and Nick is well-done. I appreciated how their relationship was not torturous, which seems to be a common theme in a lot of YA Fantasy books. Nick and Bree were able to flourish in their relationship. Yes, they have a few rocky moments, but the obstacles in front of them are not contrived or seemingly irrelevant. What I predict will be their obstacle in the second book is something that makes sense in the context of the story and is essentially unavoidable.
I also highly enjoyed the inclusion of Bree going to therapy and frequently interacting with her therapist. It was refreshing to see a young Black girl regularly attending therapy at the suggestion and prompting of her parent. In Bree’s therapist, we see Bree unpack her past and complex feelings towards her mother post-death. Bree’s therapist is a useful writing tool that allows Deonn to explore Bree’s past and delve into the fabric of Bree’s life that connects her, her mother, and possibly the Legendborn Society.
WHAT COULD’VE BEEN BETTER
The pacing of the first 25% was a bit off for me. At first, I wasn’t drawn back to the story, and I wanted to get to the heart of it quicker. After that, however, I was hooked, and the pacing picked up and didn’t let me go. Most of my issue with the first 25% is explained in the situation with Alice that I’m about to lay out.
There’s a quarrel with Alice (Bree’s best friend) that I felt happened way too early in the book (within that 25% I just mentioned). At this point, we as readers have not interacted with Alice too much. I did not like her character in the beginning; I found her annoying, pushy, and overbearing. The quarrel that happens before we get to know Alice and perhaps like her as a character, so I don’t didn’t care about the fight they have or feel the impact it has on Bree. If we had gotten more moments with Alice, gotten further into the book, and then had witnessed the quarrel, I believe that would have been a larger emotional impact.
This is easily one of my new favorite fantasies, and I am SO excited that it’ll be entering the world quite soon (aka TODAY, the day this post is published). If you couldn’t guess, I gave LEGENDBORN by Tracy Deonn 5/5 stars.
Thank you once again McElderry Books for a copy of the eARC. Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tours for the opportunity to participate in this book tour.
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See ya next time!