Thank you Simon and Schuster Children’s books for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
This is the best King Arthur retelling I have ever read. I loved it so much.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 don’t know how to describe how much I loved this book and how much this book made me feel about heritage and history and what it means to be a person of colour. I was a mess of emotions by the end of the book and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it.
I loved the fresh twist on the King Arthur legend and I have read a few different retellings but this one is my favourite! I loved that it is set in our world but that is also a hidden world that most people can’t see or know anything about but still has such wonderful world building. Meshing our world and the hidden world together and showing how they are separate and how that is navigated by the characters.
There was a lot of important discussions that were incorporated into the story and I felt them deep in my soul. Discussions of how the history of Black people are erased and changed to suit those who colonised their countries, how it can mean that they don’t always know their own histories and heritage because they might not even have accurate history of their ancestors. But it doesn’t just show how they were oppressed but it also celebrates how despite all this they resisted in every way they could and thrived and were able to keep their culture as much as they could. It’s a celebration of how incredible they are and I loved reading that so much.
There is also discussions of racism and white privilege and how they have a step up and so much more opportunities because the family they were born in. It was often difficult to read the scenes where the racism that Bree had to deal with because it felt so real and how they didn’t even acknowledge their privilege. I am so glad to see these discussions in the book and how Bree had to navigate this on top of everything else but also that by the time she was a teenager she had seen it so often.
Can we also discuss how the world building shows how white people not only colonised and enslaved Black people but also colonised their magic?! Because that was incredible to read about. How they have their own magic system and borrow the magic rather than take like the those of the Order. I really loved how Bree learnt Rootmagic too alongside learning about the magic from the order because that is the magic of her ancestors and a heritage lost to her because for various reasons her mum didn’t teach it to her.
I really loved Bree, she was incredible complex character and I related to her a lot. She has had to deal with so much already and struggling to come to term with the death of the mum. She has an incredible friend who is there for her but also calls her out when she is slipping because she cares so much for Bree. Everyone deserves a friend like Alice and I hope we see more of her in the next book. I loved that Bree made her own choices and didn’t let others dictate her life. She knows what she wants and she goes for it. I also liked that she knew when she needed help too so she was pretty self-aware.
I liked all the characters too and how they all had their own storylines woven into the story so we got to see glimpses of that and how it affected each other. Nick and Selwyn were really interesting characters too though I wish we had gotten to see more of them outside their interactions with Bree and the love triangle I am hoping is not coming.
The end has an epic battle which had me on the edge of my seat and fearing for the life of all my favourite characters and it was just such a great scene. Plus we get some plot twists that left me reeling because while I had some idea of what it could be, I was not expecting what was revealed and I don’t think I’m still over it. By the end I was just dying for the sequel because I absolutely need to know what will happen next. One of my favourite reads this year!