Legendborn: Good February Read, Not Great Start

Legendborn is a book I almost did not finish (DNF, as we say on the bookweb), but am now enjoying greatly. Please let me tell you why I’m glad I got through the first fifty pages (of the US hardback edition, numbers may differ between editions).

Debut novelist Tracy Deonn tells Legendborn in the first person. Bree, the protagonist, describes herself as “Black” and “a smarty-pants”. Legendborn starts in February: Black History Month, and the month in which Bree’s mother was killed in a hit-and-run, crushed inside her car. Later the same year, Bree and her friend Alice move to Chapel Hill to start an early college program.

This is a young adult (YA) fantasy novel: Bree is 16; we encounter fantastic elements, including memory manipulation and monsters, from the start of the book. I tend to like YA fantasy, although I am hardly young.

I particularly enjoy fantasy when it draws on myths and legends. Legendborn, as the title suggests, does just that. Some of the students at Chapel Hill are descendants of knights of the round table, one a descendant of King Arthur Pendragon himself.

I love the way that Deonn intertwines two strands of Bree’s experience: present-day Black, and ancient Arthurian. There are actually more than two strands, but combining these two is impressive enough. Arthurian legend is the palest lore this side of Snow White. Bree’s entry into the Arthurian white kids’ club presents a challenge for Bree and for the author. Deonn writes it superbly.

And yet I almost gave up on Legendborn. Why? Early on, the writing annoyed me. There is excessive use of italics. There are some very. Short sentences. Some of which don’t have a. Verb. Then there is… well, let me provide an extended quote by linking to a photo of page 17 (again, page number may differ in your edition, but it’s the scene in which Bree meets Selwyn Kane). I shuddered so much that I almost DNF’d right there. The next 200 or so pages have rewarded my perseverance.

I’ll post again about Legendborn when I finish it, which I will do in the next few days: so in the first half of this Black History Month. In the meantime, what do you think of Legendborn, based on your own reading, on this post, or on opinions expressed elsewhere. By the way, thanks to the booktubers whose enthusiasm for Legendborn got me past the DNF stage.

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