Legendborn

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Legendborn Book Poster Image
Riveting Arthurian legend retelling set in secret societies.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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Stands out for positive role models.

Educational Value

While primarily a fantasy meant to entertain, Legendborn does teach readers about various Arthurian legends and the names/personalities of members of the original Round Table, as well as information about root magic, the oral, cultural, and spiritual traditions of the descendants of American slavery, and more.

Positive Messages

The story promotes teamwork, acceptance, and empathy. It acknowledges the importance of knowing your history and of recognizing privilege and challenging historical and institutional racism.

Positive Role Models

Bree is intelligent, curious, and brave. She's willing to risk her safety to find out more about the mystery surrounding her mother's accident. Alice is an unconditional friend who sticks by Bree during unthinkable circumstances. Nick is protective, smart, and charming. He is willing to really listen to Bree. Representation includes a racially diverse cast of characters (mostly Black, White, and Asian) as well as several LGBTQ+ characters who are openly queer (biracial, lesbian, nonbinary, gay). References to the history of institutional racism in the South and in North Carolina/Chapel Hill in particular. 

Violence

The battles between demons and Legendborn can be deadly, and several characters are severely injured and a few even die. The tournament is difficult and injures several characters. References to historical sexual assault/rape. 

Sex

Characters kiss and make out, one time on a bed, another against a wall, etc. Typical conversations about sexual experience (or lack thereof) and the attraction/attractiveness of various individuals/couples. Discussion of a particular character's sexual magnetism and how his seductive supernatural powers work, and of another's general ability to make everyone fall in love with him.

Language

Occasional strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "goddamn" and some coded racist language about Bree clearly being on financial aid, being an affirmative action acceptance, etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage teens/college students drink at parties. Supernatural being magically persuades people to forget what they've witnessed/seen.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Legendborn, by Tracy Deonn, is a modern update of the Arthurian legend that imagines a secret society of demon hunters called Legendborns, who are descended from the original Order of the Round Table. The story is reminiscent of other popular contemporary fantasies like the Shadowhunters series, in which magic is hiding in plain sight for the select few with the ability to recognize it. With its fierce and relatable 16-year-old protagonist Bree, a pulse-pounding plotline, a diverse cast of characters, and a crowd-pleasing romance, it's no wonder the book has been on the best-seller lists since its week of release. The language and violence make it best suited for eighth-graders and up, particularly readers who enjoy retellings with heart and socially conscious messages.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAnnaKara June 8, 2021

The most inclusive adventure filled book I've read

I loved so much about this book. It was jam packed with action and made it a total page turner. It's incredibly inclusive (there are LGBTQ+ characters and... Continue reading
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byBChlouber December 24, 2020
Teen, 14 years old Written byeranana06 January 9, 2021

Brilliant but confusing

i love reading the first book in Tracy Deonn's 'legendborn' series and i cant wait for her next. her way of writing in 1st person is so different... Continue reading

What's the story?

LEGENDBORN focuses on 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who's accepted in a residential "Early College" program for gifted high schoolers at UNC Chapel Hill shortly before her mother dies in an accident. Still grieving over the argument she had with her mother the day she died, Bree, who's Black, and her best friend Alice Chen, who's Asian, arrive on campus just in time for Bree to witness a hot but creepy guy battling a definitely not-human creature an annual outdoor orientation party. Bree quickly discovers that she can see demons and that one of the college's secret societies is actually a group of Legendborns, young demon hunters descended from the original Order of the Round Table. Newly aware that magic exists and that she can see it, Bree begins to make a tenuous connection between the day between magic and the day her mother died. She also finds out that her administration-assigned older mentor in the program, the irresistibly charming golden boy Nick Davis, is actually a Legendborn with the secret society. After they end up fighting a demon together and the society's "Merlin" Selwyn Kane can't successfully erase her memory, Bree persuades Nick to sponsor her in a tournament to become a Squire, warriors who are magically bonded to Scions (direct descendants of the Knights who are "Called" between the ages of 16 and 22 to fight the demons). Because the Order is overwhelmingly White and comprised of members of the same families and their ancestral friends, Bree stands out as a double outsider. Meanwhile, a university therapist who knew her mother in college begins to teach Bree more about the historically Black magical abilities in her maternal line.

Is it any good?

Tracy Deonn's contemporary fantasy blends traditional elements of Arthurian legend with a page-turning plot, a fabulous protagonist, a thoughtfully diverse cast of characters, and a sweet romance. Legendborn leans into issues of race in a unique way, particularly with how it presents all the microaggressions that Bree encounters. A gifted Black teen at a predominantly White college founded in the antebellum South, she's still bound to confront and deal with racism. She also has to unpack all of the half-truths about the past, even the description of how the fictional magic stemming from different cultures isn't free from the stain of slavery. But what's remarkable is that these issues are woven in organically, so by the time of big reveals, readers will already understand exactly how those plot twists are justified by the text and by history itself.

The world-building is extensive, although fans of any contemporary fantasy are familiar with stories that explore the magic surrounding ordinary life (think of the Shadowhunters books by Cassandra Clare or Leigh Bardugo's recent series starter, Ninth House). The young characters within the Legendborn society are interesting and diverse, at least when it comes to gender and sexual orientation (the characters include a nonbinary character, a lesbian character, two bisexual characters, a gay character, and a queer couple). The introduction of the Rootcraft (African American magic) and how it differs from the Bloodcraft the Legendborn use is fascinating and full of historical, if upsetting, truths. While at its heart a Chosen One tale, Legendborn is full of characters to root for, romances to cheer on, and more juicy plot developments that should make the next installment just as good.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages about race and racism in Legendborn. How does the author use an anti-racist lens to describe everything from Bree's treatment on campus to the use of magic to the history of the University of North Carolina and its surroundings? Why is it important to recognize the institutional racism in a college or location's past?

  • How is violence depicted in Legendborn? Is it necessary to the plot development? Do you think that supernatural violence impacts readers differently than realistic violence? 

  • Discuss the various romantic relationships in the book. What about the potential love triangle? Do you prefer a central love story or a love triangle? Who do you think will end up together? 

  • Will you read more in this series? What do you think will happen next?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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