Narrator: Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Series: Legendborn #1
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 15, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 18 hrs 54 mins
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After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Legendborn. I don’t often read YA, but I love a good King Arthur retelling and the fact that it stars a young black woman gives it a uniqueness.
For Briana Matthews, a lot of things seem to come easily. She’s an excellent student, accepted to UNC Chapel Hill’s Early College program at 16. She’s close with her parents and her best friend Alice, who is joining her at school. But Bree’s mother dies in a car accident right before Bree left for school and after the two had had an argument. Lost in her grief and unsure of her path, Bree finds herself pulled into a secret society with members who call themselves “Legendborn”. The mysteries of this group appear to have some connection with her mother’s death, so Bree dives head-first into an organization that makes it very clear it was not made for her.
The Legendborn draw on the numerous tales of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Taking the role of righteous wielders of their ancestors’ magic, Legendborn aim to protect the public from dark forces that wish to do their world harm. This is all new to Bree and we learn about the magic systems and beings as she does.
Bree is a fabulous, strong character, imperfect but full of strength and grit. She has to deal with not just her newly found powers, but with the hostility of some of the members of this almost entirely white society. Bree has been brought into an institution within an institution, one that exploited her ancestors to build their own legacies. And many of their descendants seem more than happy to keep everything as is.
So much of the focus of this story is on power. The literal powers that members possess, the institutional power that is passed down, and the power inherent in every human being. But there’s also action, adventure, romance, and a constant testing of loyalties culminating in a battle between two opposing forces. The audio is over 18 hours long, but moves along at a nice pace. The story is told in the first person by Bree and the narrator does a good job with her voice, the anger, the fear, the hope, and with differentiating the other characters.
My one complaint is that this is so the first book in a planned trilogy. It ends on what I would consider a cliffhangar, which always annoys me. I put a hold on book #2 at the library, but it will be a while before I get it.