Legendborn by Tracy Deonne

Legendborn by Tracy Deonne. Simon Pulse, 2020. 9781534441606

Format: ARC (9/20 pub date)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? Wow! This epic fantasy starring an African American teenager gets high marks from me, even though I’m not an habitual fantasy reader. The story reels in the reader by setting up a close friendship strained by the two friends’ acceptance to Early College at nearby UNC Chapel Hill. Even while Bree is experiencing continued grief over her mother’s recent death, she quickly finds herself reeled into a secret order of descendants of the Arthurian legends’ King Arthur, who protect regular humans from invisible demons from beyond. The sixteen year old also realizes her own mysterious powers, and has new memories of her mother’s death. And, to boot, she begins a romance with the devastatingly handsome Nick, the heir to the throne of the Legendborn. Can she keep these overwhelming new developments from her friend Alice, and from her father, both of whom are increasingly worried about Bree’s late nights?

I love how seamlessly the author builds the world for Bree and the reader, mingling elements of Arthurian legends with their present world counterparts, as well as Bree’s spot-on understanding of how the Legendborn and UNC (and by association, all of white academics) flourished over the centuries because of the slave labor of African Americans. Through a medium, she undergoes deep delving into the lives of her enslaved ancestors to discover the ways her history intersects with these white scions. The story is both exciting, with non stop action, and deeply moving, as she comes to terms with her legacy and history and her mother’s death. The writing is excellent, literary even, and I look forward to the second installment of this proposed series, which is hinted at in the conclusion. Many story threads are tied up by the end, but Bree’s life with the Legendborn definitely has more to come!

Other pluses: non-cis gender characters as a matter of course, and the majority of the players are African American.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  For any readers, age 14 and up, who would savor an epic (almost 500 pages!) fantasy. There is no sex, so it’s appropriate for motivated younger readers as well.

Who should buy this book? Middle and high school public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: October 27, 2020

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