Hi friends! I’m super excited to share my thoughts on a book that genuinely surprised me by how much I ended up loving it. So let’s talk about it!
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.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
I was shocked at how good this book was. I mean, I love Shadowhunters. I also love the legend of King Arthur. So reading a book that combined these two elements??? Absolute perfection. So let’s talk about it! Specifically the characters because haha am I trash for one of them.
Bree is our main character and she’s brand-new to this strange world of Shadow demons and weird lineage of Arthurian people (AKA the Legendborn). She suspects that they have something to do with her mother’s death, so she teams up with the very sweet Nick to figure everything out. I liked Bree, more or less. She didn’t take any crap which was great, and she was tenacious and passionate. I do have one slight issue with her that I’ll discuss a bit later though. She’s also Black!
Nick is a very sweet, very funny, blond-haired blue-eyed boy who has his own problems with the Legendborn. I loved his dynamic with Bree! But as great of a guy he is, he just paled so much in comparison to my favorite character that I feel like I didn’t appreciate Nick enough.
Selwyn Kane is my absolute favorite character and was from the moment he was introduced. He’s a Merlin, which basically means he has special abilities. He’s also (seemingly) a jerk with dark hair, golden eyes, and a complex character arc. Bree hates him most of the time so my biggest complaint is that I don’t get to see him enough*. MORE SELWYN IN THE SEQUEL PLEASE.
*translation: he’s not on every page and that makes me mad. he did get a decent amount of pagetime about halfway through the book, i guess.
alright!!! let’s discuss the worldbuilding/plot!!
This book is a STRUGGLE to understand. I still don’t totally understand it. During the first 50-100 pages, the info-dumping was almost painful. All of a sudden, you’re supposed to intake a bunch of information about history, hierarchies, magic, and terms like Pages, Merlin, Squires, etc.
But I was also so incredibly intrigued by the cool stuff that was happening that I managed to stick it out. There’s so much that goes down in this book! We have Trials, as Bree is trying to become a Page* and infiltrate the Legendborn ranks. We also have her trying to figure out if her mother’s death was an accident or not, which leads to a whole side story involving the complex history of racism and slavery in America with another cool magic system I won’t spoil. I thought that both plotlines were really well-done and helped flesh out Bree’s character. The balance of slow, emotional discovery, fast-paced action, and insane plot twists was absolute fantastic.
*or something like that. i told you, i still don’t really get the whole legendborn system. they should have just used their abcs to rank each other.
Also!! The themes portrayed were great! Besides the theme of racism, we also see several characters dealing with grief, each in different ways. Bree’s best friend Alice is Taiwanese, and there’s a character named Greer who identifies as they. White supremacy and the struggle of being a minority in such an environment was dealt with really well here.
Overall, I was on the edge of my seat. This is a really richly imagined story, with so much action and tension and freaking Selwyn Kane.
As much as I enjoyed the book, there were a few issues I had with it that stopped me from giving it a full 5 stars. The first is the vast amount of info-dumping, which I already talked about. The second is that there is…insta-love. It’s not the worst case of insta-love I’ve ever read* but it still annoyed me. Although, there are some interesting hints of what may come romance-wise in the sequel that I’m definitely here for.
*cough twilight. cough cough.
Finally, this is a very personal qualm I have that not everyone will agree with. I never, ever want to invalidate anyone’s experiences with racism. Ever. I do want to say though, as someone who is mixed black and white, I felt that Bree’s POV was absolutely jolting to read from sometimes. Some of the things she takes as racism, or what she looks around and sees as relating to the issue of race, wouldn’t strike me as offensive. In fact, I wouldn’t even consider some of the things she considers. Of course, not everyone’s experiences are the same and I want to respect that. However, I felt that Bree’s perspective was almost written as if all minorities, specifically Black people, take certain things a specific way when that’s simply not the case. Of course, that’s just my own personal perspective of a mixed girl who grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, as opposed to a Black girl in the Deep South, which could be totally different. I never want to be presumptuous or invalidate anyone’s experiences or thinking, but I also want to be honest about my thoughts concerning important topics like this. If anyone else has read this, please share with me what you think!
Despite some issues I had with this book, I will say that I thought that this is one of the best debuts I’ve ever read. I’m extremely excited for the sequel, and can’t wait to see what will become of that cliffhanger ending! Overall, I’d say that this is technically a 4 star read, but I enjoyed it enough to the point where it’s a 4.5 star read. Share your thoughts on this one!