Legendborn by Tracy Deonn is a YA urban fantasy published in 2020 that has gotten a lot of attention from the bookish community. This book is the first in a planned series although it is the only book currently published. Legendborn follows Bree Matthews, a 16 year old girl, who recently lost her mother in a car accident. Bree is starting an early college program at UNC Chapel Hill and begins questioning whether her mother’s death was actually an accident. She ends up trying to get into a secret demon-hunting society based on King Arthur and the Round Table to find out the truth.
This book wasn’t bad but it was pretty middle of the road for me. I’d heard some great reviews and some so-so reviews and I was excited but it just didn’t work for me. Part of that was the urban fantasy element which I knew going in so I tried really hard not to hold against it. Urban fantasy is typically not my favorite and as I’ve found with others, every time Bree was in the “normal world” I found it jarring and it undid the world building, breaking the story in pieces. But again, that’s in the blurb so I don’t hold it against the book although it’s certainly not my preference.
The actual world building was lacking. There was a really complicated and detailed world here and it was not nearly complete enough to satisfy me. The magic seems to (yes, seems, I’m not sure which is part of the problem) be a single magic source but accessed in different ways, but none of these ways is really explained in enough detail. There’s also this Round Table Society that had the potential to be awesome and while I feel like a lot of words were used in describing it, I still was confused. I don’t know much about King Arthur but I don’t think it’s right that I should be totally confused and messing up titles and types of members for pretty much the entire book. I looked for help in the appendices and found a table of the lineages which I thought was useless but nothing to help me with the Scion, Page, etc. terminology that I never really fully grasped. I was not surprised that this was a debut novel, it has that try to do too much in one book feel that many debut fantasies have.
The characters also fell flat for me. Bree was fairly one dimensional, she was trying to figure out what was happening but that was about it. Nick was a pretty face and reluctant ruler, nothing out of the ordinary and no depth to his character. Sel was by far the most interesting character but not given enough time in the book or at least not explored enough. William was a pretty good minor character but really at the surface. Alice was really only used as a plot device and had zero personality. The other members of the lodge were interchangeable and forgettable. They also all have multiple nicknames (Tor, Char, Sar, which didn’t seem like really names) which got confusing and I actually realized about 30 pages from the end that two names were actually two different characters and not a given name and nickname like I thought, so that’s a definite issue. Patricia was the only character who elicited any strong feelings from me but only because I absolutely despised her. Her therapy/counseling/whatever license should be revoked for malpractice and abuse of her position immediately. I think maybe I was supposed to like her but there were so many better ways to introduce that character that wouldn’t have put her in that position and resulted in me just hating her entirely. When a student goes to a counselor because they are grieving the loss of a parent, it is not okay to take advantage of them no matter what your end goal!
There were some good discussions on race in this one but also a lot of missed opportunities. Some of it felt pretty organic and natural but one scene in particular was a pretty forced discussion on race. Once it went to that point and being on the UNC campus, the lack of discussion of Silent Sam and then the total turn around and not mentioning race again for like 200 pages was just weird. It seemed like it was used when it worked with the plot and otherwise forgotten entirely. I think just the natural things coming up like discussions of Bree’s hair or even the people she faced going into the historically white society were good but once it went down that racial discussion path, it really needed to go there and do it or should have stayed away all together. As it was, it sort of halfway had a discussion and then abandoned it which was worse than leaving it alone.
I did like the LGBTQ+ characters in this one. It isn’t a big part of it and that’s part of what I liked. I think it’s important to see LGBTQ+ characters casually thrown in when their sexuality isn’t a big deal. There were gay, lesbian and nonbinary characters very casually thrown in which is great to see.
Last part, the plot (and wow it says a lot when it’s this far down in the review). It was fine? It kept my attention but I finished the book 30 minutes ago and already it’s leaving my brain and I know I have no intention of reading any more of this series. It was fast-paced and there will be (and are) people who will overlook the rest because of that but it wasn’t captivating enough for me to overlook the rest. The beginning also got off to a bad start when things were a little too convenient and easy to get the plot going in the direction the author wanted, way too many coincidences and Nick’s sudden decision to rejoin the group just didn’t make sense.
Overall, this book wasn’t bad but it wasn’t anything special. 3 stars from me, it kept my attention but now it’s done and I’m good with that.