Legendborn: An Absolute Masterpiece
Well, well, well, if it isn’t me… back from my reading coma. Last week was absolutely bonkers, with the inauguration and everything in between. I’m PUMPED to have Joe Biden as president, and last Wednesday was one of the happiest days of the past year for me… but any time a major political event happens, it shakes me and I’m glued to every single bit of news I can find. I’m trying to find that balance of well-informed, and all consuming… and so far, I haven’t found it. C’est la vie.
Now on to the piéce de resistance of this post: let’s talk about Legendborn, which is an absolute masterpiece of a book. Not going to lie, it did go on the back burner last week, and I had a hard time getting into the story at first. The book follows Bree, a black girl who goes to an Early College education program at UNC in North Carolina to follow in her mother’s footsteps after she died. Bree learns that there was more to her mother’s death than she thought when she encounters the Legendborn, a secret society on campus that is based on King Arthur and the Nights of the Round Table. She meets Nick, the Scion of King Arthur himself, and they form a plan to go into the Order undercover to learn more about her mother’s death. As she decides to infiltrate the Order, she finds out about her own magical abilities, and how she can operate the “aether” (magic elements) differently than those in the Order. She tries to keep her abilities a secret, but she caught the eye of Selwyn Kane, the Order’s Merlin… who also isn’t exactly as he seems. Bree learns more about herself and the Order than she intended, and the ending of this story completely blew my mind. I won’t talk about the ending because it was so stunning that I do not want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t read it yet… go read this book and then we can talk.
Bree was a fantastic main character. Tracy Deonn is a masterful author, and she really did a good job incorporating several types of grief and trauma into Bree’s thoughts in a way that felt very real. I loved everything about Bree; sometimes it’s hard for me to connect to the heroine, but Bree’s attitude was refreshing and I really enjoyed reading her perspective. To be honest, I didn’t really get much from Nick… typical chosen one, golden boy hero… and I didn’t even get much from him whenever Bree thought about him romantically. Plus, I was always a little bit suspicious of his dad… and I just didn’t like the way Nick treated Sel. Selwyn on the other hand… you already know he was my favorite character. He captured my attention from the start, and I spent the first half of the book wondering when he would come back into the picture permanently. Only in the second half did he become a much more important character, and I LOVED it when Bree teamed up with him to get to the bottom of her mother’s death. I definitely felt more of a spark between Bree and Sel; whenever she was around Nick, her attraction felt superficial. Vampire Diaries alert, but Sel reminded me of Damon Salvatore, and Nick reminded me a little bit of Stefan… I am not a fan of love triangles, but I’m curious to see where this one goes as the story progresses. I’m definitely getting some small Damon/Stefan/Elena vibes between Bree, Sel, and Nick, and you already know Sel is endgame in my mind.
The magic in this story was intense and very detailed… and it took me a while to understand it. I think its complexity had something to do with my lack of focus at the start of this novel: there was a serious info dump on aether, the Order of the Round Table, how the Scions worked, and what Merlins are right from the start… plus a good number of characters were all introduced at once when Bree first came to the Lodge. Almost too many characters… even towards the end, I had trouble remembering who they all were and what their importance was to the story. And forget about appearances. I do have to say, the characters in this book were very inclusive, and I certainly appreciated the diversity. And it wasn’t diversity for diversity’s sake, either… the author touched on the importance of each of the diverse characters in respect towards the school and the extremely white Order. I especially appreciated Greer as a nonbinary character; representation matters.
Once Bree learned about root and rootcraft, the magic seemed to click into place a bit more. Rootcraft is magic belonging to black women, as they can influence and use “root” (aka what the Order called aether). She learned her mother used rootcraft, and I loved the glimpses back in time that showed Bree the history of her people. I think Tracy Deonn did a beautiful job of incorporating systemic racism and the unfair treatment of black people into this book. While educating yourself on actual history is very important, I love contemporary fantasies, like Legendborn, that tackle racism and colonialism… it’s just another way to bring light and awareness to the way black people have painfully suffered at the hands of white people from the very start of this country. I highly recommend everyone who reads this book to also read the Author’s Note.
Overall, Legendborn is a fantastic blend of fantasy and contemporary. The complex and unique spin on King Arthur lore, Bree’s touching self-discovery journey, the awareness to oppression and the lasting effects of slavery in this country, and the insane ending made this book a well-worth it read, and I look forward to the continuation of the story.