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YA Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (CYBILS finalist)

Title: Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (speculative)
Pages: 512
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (NC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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.

Review: This book was a finalist for the CYBILS Awards so I read it as a round 2 judge. This was my other choice for the winner of the YA Specultive Fiction category.

Look at that cover. What an amazing strong image; I love it! This novel is one of two that are finalists that is a retelling of the King Arthur legend.

Ok, this is a speculative fiction that I can support more than the others on the finalist list (except Cemetery Boys, which I really liked as well). I liked the references to the King Arthur legend and the third parallel world of rootcrafting that involved ancestors and history. This feels like a mix of Harry Potter (parallel worlds), the Twilight books (for the romance/connection twists), and historical fiction. Great combination!

Bree is a character that I liked right away (could it be the cliff jumping on her first time away from home, which is what I did?!) and I wanted her to figure out her powers and what was going on with the Order. I also liked that her dead mother figured large in the storyline, both when she was young and in her death.

The most powerful parts of this book are when Bree is visited by her ancestors who were enslaved people in the US. The author's treatment of history, injustice, and Bree's personal learning are all very strong and give a sense of power and meaning to the story that takes it to a higher level.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • A to Z--"L" (January mini challenge: a book I purchased in 2020, but didn't read)
  • Alphabet Soup--"D"
  • Children's Historical Fiction--(challenges: features time travel to the past; ghost story)
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Diversity--African American characters and author; January challenge: retelling of mythology (Arthurian legend)
  • Popsugar--featuring 3 generations (it features more, but focuses on 3)


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