Sixteen-year-old Briana Matthew thought attending North Carolina’s prestigious UNC-Chapel Hill’s Early College Program for bright high schoolers would push aside both the memories of her mother and the guilt she felt regarding their argument the night her mother died. Instead, on her first night on campus, Bree witnessed something she wasn’t meant to see: a horrifying demon creature attacking humans while a few fellow students known as the Legenborn hunt it down. Fully convinced that magic has played a significant role in her mother’s death, Bree is determined to find out what happened to her mother by infiltrating the Legendborn and their secret society for the real truth.
Tracey Deonn’s debut novel is more than some random fantasy story–it’s a combination of Black experiences in America and the aftermath of one of America’s darkest moments in history: the institution of slavery. Deonn uses Bree Matthew to confront certain experiences that are unique to African Americans. One of those exemplary examples was demonstrated by Bree’s interaction with officer Norris. For instance, on Bree’s first night on campus, she is escorted back to her campus by officer Norris who grossly insults Bree by assuming her acceptance to the Early College Program was through either affirmative action or a need-based. Bree had every reason to be afraid of officer Norris, given the poor relationship between African Americans and law enforcement. As proof, she wisely states, “I’m sixteen. I pay attention. I listen to the stories from uncles, cousins–hell, my own father–about police run-ins. I see the videos online. . . I don’t know a single Black person in this country who can say with 100 percent confidence that they feel safe with the police.” Here’s why Bree’s interaction with officer Norris is important: Deonn highlights that the uneasy relationship between Black people and the police is rooted in our history. It’s that simple.
“Someone used magic to hide what really happened the night my mother died, and I’m not going to let them get away with it.”
But wait, there’s more! Deonn also tackles a very sensitive topic by using probably one of the world’s oldest legends to send a powerful message. Bree is on a mission to find out who is responsible for her mother’s death. After she has gained the trust of a few Legendborns, she’s entrusted to protect the knowledge of their history and the Wall of Ages that has recorded the bloodline of both King Arthur and the knights of the round table. Instead of being impressed by this ginormous slab of wall, with its meticulously carved lines of the thirteen bloodlines of the Round Table and their Scions, Bree immediately feels an undeniable sense of ignorance and inadequacy. Unlike the Legendborns, Bree’s family only knew their bloodline back to the generation after the emancipation. As you can see, Deonn sheds light on the fact that although it’s been over two hundred years since slavery ended in the United States, many African Americans’ lineage has been sadly wiped out from their family’s history due to slavery.
I know what you’re thinking. How can this publication deliver all the elements of a fantasy novel while tackling such heavy topics? The answer is simple: it just does. This is a groundbreaking contemporary fantasy with many layers of diversity. The story is relatable as it confronts issues like grief, racism, and sexism. As if that’s not enough, the story is drenched with rich descriptions of action scenes and world-building. Not to mention a spicy love triangle. This publication gave me more than black girl magic. It’s a perfect balance of fiction and history. I can’t wait for book two!
Also, I’ll finish with this: team Selwyn! 😉
Happy Readings, friends!