Review: “Legendborn” (Book)

4/5 Anchors

Marie Brockhoff, Copy

The legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is one of the most well known stories in our canon. But what happens when you weave Arthurian magic in with the University of North Carolina, then throw in some fantastic characters and subtle social commentary? You get the 2020 novel “Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn. 

“Legendborn” follows 16-year-old Bree Matthews, along with her sharp-witted friend Alice Chin, as they attend a pre-college program at UNC. Along the way, Bree meets the smouldering, angsty Selwyn Kane and the chivalrous golden boy Nick Davis and discovers UNC contains a secret society of people who use magic, called “Aether,” and are descended from King Arthur and his knights.

Bree also discovers her own magic, which is a mix of Aether and Rootcraft. Deonn bases Rootcraft on African spiritual traditions, with the magic being shared ancestrally. As a Black girl, Bree enters into a strictly stratified society based on British royalty and closely held power, which leads to many challenges and questions for both her and the reader as the plot unfolds. 

While Deonn’s textured worldbuilding is a great strength of “Legendborn,” it also means the number of characters and terms can be a bit overwhelming. Additionally, Deonn falls into several somewhat overused tropes, such as a “chosen one” protagonist and hints at a love triangle. However, these flaws did not detract from my reading experience as the main characters and plotlines still pulled me in. 

Personally, I do not read a lot of young adult fantasy, but I really enjoyed “Legendborn.” I was initially intimidated by the length of the book (501 pages, or 20 hours on audiobook), but I found myself unable to stop reading until I had finished just one more chapter. For people looking for a suspenseful, unique fantasy novel with great characters, I would recommend you pull your chair up to the round table and dive into “Legendborn.”