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 planned tojust skim the end instead of rereading it to prepare for my read of Bloodmarked and ended up engrossed in the story and reading it all again!
The second time was as good as the first time and I even had another read on character’s relationship this time around!
How I want Bree with Sel AND Nick in a kind of hot trio even if I don’t like reverse harem LOL
So this is a five stars again and my review below is still totally accurate!
5 creative retelling stars
I didn’t plan to read that one but as the reviews were all enthusiastic, I was intrigued and caved in.
Best decision ever!
This is a young adult read that is not only a brilliant and original retelling of Arthurian legends but it also covers lots of sensitive topics without ever being patronizing!
There is action, fantasy, amazing characters, serious topics, romance…seriously an amazing book and 2021 has begun on a bang!
The Arthurian retelling
I loved the blend of modernity and tradition!
The Round Table knights are college students in Carolina, descendants of King Arthur, Merlin and the original knights.
They have been bounded through oath and bloodlines. Their purpose is to fight demons and protect the unsuspecting humans.
They act and are a secret society, The Order, where the top has magic and the vassals keep the secret and serve to gain power, influence and money.
Imagine now the clash when a young black girl enters their society, sponsored by none other than a very powerful descendant. Bree will train as a Page and will truly shock these white and wealthy people!
Add to this that you don’t have one but several Merlins, caster of magic or “aether” and protectors of high-ranking Scions!
If that was not enough for a world building, there is a second magic system called Rootcraft, specialty of some black women.
As you can see, we have bonus points for originality and world building.
The sensitive/serious topics
Bree has lost her mother in a car accident.
She will hunt for answers and that’s one of the reasons she will infiltrate the Legendborn society, with one of their own’s (Nick) help.
All throughout the book we can see and feel how her mother’s death has deeply affected Bree.
Of course when one beloved die, you grieve. But Bree’s grief was so profound and so “trapped” within her mind that she became someone else entirely. She also couldn’t speak about her mother.
In her author’s note, Tracy Deonn will explain that she too, suffered from Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder after her mother’s death. That topic is broached with great care and shed light on a condition many ignore but should be treated.
Another topic is racism and slavery.
I am a white woman but Tracy did an amazing job explaining, showing what being black meant for many.
When Bree realized that the Legendborns had a family tree dating back to Arthurian’s time whereas she could only go as far as three max four generations, like most black people in the US, it was truly shocking and eye opening.
The same could be said about a table with “black folks raising the round slab like hundred of Atlases holding the world.”
Or again, the cemetery with all tombs neatly marked and embellished for the white people whereas tombs of former slaves were completely unmarked, unadorned, lost even.
And again, racism is broached when some of the Order leer at Bree, considering her like an object at best, an impostor at worst.
One expression brilliantly explained what most colored people have to endure in the US and in so many countries, from the day of their birth: “death by a thousand cuts” generating a deep fatigue for POC.
The action and the characters
Unravelling the mystery of her mother’s death and seeking revenge is the driving force of the story.
Of course, entering a secret society meant to fight demons when you are on the brink of a demonic war is a sure way to pack a lot of action!
Especially as the Pages have to train and compete in the hop to make it and be chosen as Squire by a Scion. I always love books with competitions!
You have demon attacks, magic battles, escape, deaths ….
And the love story between Bree and Nick.
Nick is the embodiment of a knight: kind, strong, protective, smart and courageous!
But one character that surprised me is Selwyn or Sel!
He began as the villain of the story.
The Merlin assigned to protect Nick was very suspicious of Bree. He tried to kill her and didn’t believe in her story to enter the Order. There also was the matter of her resisting Mesmer and being able to see aether.
Sel is the perfect bad boy: devilishly handsome, inhuman and very dangerous. Volatile even.For as much as I despised him in the beginning, I ended up truly rooting for him, so much that I don’t know anymore if I wish Bree to end up with Nick or with Sel. Or maybe a hot trio???
The only fault I can find in this book is that it ends on a cliffhanger and the sequel is not yet published!
Have you read it? Because you should!
Thanks for reading!