(Legendborn #1)

by Tracy Deonn

Bree Matthews goes to Carolina (University) with her best friend, Alice Chen, for early college. She’s fleeing the home where her depressed but loving father is still trying to grapple with the sudden death of her mother.

Only Bree convinces Alice to go out to an illegal party on their first night and witnesses flying demons trying to suck energy out of her fellow classmates– and then an intense, cranky handsome guy tries to make her forget everything she just saws.

Only it doesn’t stick.

Bree is in danger, but then gets paired with a “mentor”, a white boy with lovely blue eyes who slowly reveals to her that there is a secret society of pages, squires, and scions all with blood ties to King Arthur’s Knights of the round table, and that they’ve been protecting humans from demons all this while.

The scary intense guy from before? He’s their Merlin, the kid gifted with magic and bonded to the scion of Arthur himself and oathbound to the society.

And even scarier? Somehow all this society has something to do with Bree’s mother’s death.

This is a fun, kiss-only steam level YA fantasy that almost is your average magic kids at school in a tournament kind of book….but levels it up with (and I am reading this through a middle-aged white woman lens) acknowledgement of classism and racism as Bree is black, and descended from slaves, and this is not only directly acknowledged, but central to the plot in a way I can’t directly reference without spoilage.

Let’s just say Bree being black is more integral (although it isn’t obviously integral until the end when some loose threads and sidetracks in the story all get tied up together quite nicely in a big reveal) to the story then just wishing she had her satin pillowcase when forced to stay over at the society’s lodge or describing the lengthy process of washing her hair, or being uncomfortable in an all white party.

If you are YA or NA fantasy fan, you should definitely read this, not only because you’ll enjoy this fully genre-centered story, but also because we need other perspectives like this one. But…it ends on a cliffhanger (le sigh). And just as the romance triangle element is fully acknowledged, which, sometimes I like and sometimes feels problematic/tired. This book makes the romance triangle obvious as it develops, but doesn’t feel real as Bree is much more convincing emotionally in the context of friend/daughter than she is romantically.