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.
content warnings: death of a parent and traumatic grief/flashbacks, alcohol consumption, mind control/memory manipulation, racist macro and microaggressions, emesis (vomiting), blood, mild gore, combat violence, mention(s) of: physical abuse, racist violence, sexual violence.
I honestly went into this book with high expectations based on the rave it was receiving in bookish spaces and I’m happy I wasn’t disappointed.
The novel is based on Arthurian legend which I have little knowledge of. In fact, the only knowledge I recall is one line from a dancehall song and as I’m writing this review, I realised Shrek the Third was also a parody of the legend. With that, it was a BIT tedious (and even more on audio) to get through as I was going back and forth researching but it was still somewhat easy to get through as the main character Bree, was also new to the world so I was learning along with her (familiarizing yourself with the legend before is better!)
I think the ‘fresh in college’ setting worked well with the story as we see Bree experience and navigate a new school and world, establish her purpose and goals, all while trying to balance that with her personal relationships – new and old.
I also liked how the author was able to weave race into the story from highlighting how black heritage is lost/deteriorated over time at the hands of colonization, to hair care.
A major theme in this novel was grief/ loss and I think the author did a great job portraying how it can impact livelihood and also the need for mental health care in this time.
I also appreciated the inclusion of queer characters as the norm without using them as a plot device or strictly villains. Bare minimum, I know.
I didn’t care much for the romance. I loved their (3 leads) relationships and connections among each other but not necessarily in a romantic way (although, I don’t think the book stressed on it THAT much). I didn’t particularly connect to any of the characters personally either but that’s okay! I still love them.
Overall, this was an interesting read. It was mostly fun to read a book with a college setting as I haven’t read that many. The narration is also great, definitely made it a better experience. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series when they’re out. Also, this cover is 😍!!!