The legend of King Arthur meets Southern Black culture in this intricately plotted fantasy. Wanting to escape the trauma of her previous life, 16-year-old Bree enrolls in an Early College program for high school students at UNC- Chapel Hill. When she gets there, she witnesses a magical attack that reveals her undiscovered powers and sinister truths that will change her world forever.
I am in love with this book. It is one of the best YA fantasies I have read in a long time, and I have absolutely no complaints. The writing is stunning, the characters are compelling, and the twist completely shocked me.
First, the writing. Deonn is a debut author but you would never realize this as you’re reading. Her world-building is meticulous and rich, filled with magic rooted in Arthurian legend and Black Southern culture. The result is an incredibly unique system of magic that still feels familiar. I’ve seen reviews stating that there is a lot of exposition, but I never found the story to lag. The plotting is consistent, suspense building throughout the book towards an explosive conclusion. Deonn is able to weave in themes of feminism, institutional racism, and intergenerational trauma without ever feeling preachy. I am so looking forward to the next book in the series, just for the richness of her writing.
Second, the characters. Bree is a smart, strong, independent woman who is grieving from the accidental death of her mother. Deonn beautifully and meaningfully writes about the rippling, profound impact of trauma, while still empowering Bree to continue living. Beyond Bree, I was so impressed with the diverse representation in this novel. I truly do not think I have read a book with such diverse characters: we have BIPOC characters, LGBTQ+ characters, ability diverse characters. This is a book in which many, many readers will see themselves. I know I will be recommending it to library patrons for a long time.
Finally, THAT TWIST. You know that I have said many times that books rarely surprise me, but this one completely got me. I went back and reread it three times. If you read this and you guessed the twist, please tell me!
This book is thoughtful, suspenseful, haunting, and stunningly realized. A definite recommendation for fans of Arthurian lore, urban fantasy, or just a well-told story.
Have you read Legendborn? Tell me what you thought in the comments!