Bree Matthews has everything she ever wanted. She’s starting an early college program at her dream school, and her best friend is her roommate. But she’s also reeling from her mother’s death in a hit-and-run accident and finding that achieving her dreams isn’t as sweet as she thought it would be. Then Bree stumbles onto a secret society of people who claim to be descendants of King Arthur and his court. She also learns that her mother’s death may not have been an accident. As Bree immerses herself in the society to uncover the truth, she begins to exhibit a power that could save her loved ones from a looming darkness—but could also threaten both her heart and her happiness.
Legendborn, Tracy Deonn’s debut novel, upends fantasy tropes with skill and style. Within a classical “chosen one” narrative, Bree becomes the only Black member of a society that she knows never intended to include her. Deonn balances moments of levity with heavier scenes, such as when Bree is mistaken for a servant and experiences unequal treatment due to her race and gender. Through depictions of subtle microaggressions and blatant racism, Deonn places Bree’s identity front and center, down to the silk scarf she sleeps in, and demonstrates a young woman coming into her power in a world designed to smother it.
Both Bree’s personal grief for her mother and her collective grief for her forebears play key roles in how she understands the world. What does it mean to grieve for your history as a Black American after it is rewritten by your oppressors? Deonn’s exploration of ancestry and our feelings of connection to those who came before is beautiful and moving. She allows Bree to be angry, to be loved, to be a nerd and, most crucially, to be powerful.
Legendborn establishes Deonn as an important new voice in YA. Its gorgeous prose and heart-splitting honesty compel an eyes-wide-open reading experience.