What I expected from the hotly anticipated sequel to Legendborn: Our heroine Bree, having discovered she’s the bearer of a magical legacy from her slave-owning white ancestors that supercharge the gifts inherited from her mother’s ancestral line, raises up a network of fierce Black women rootcrafters, takes on the Round Table, and brings it all crashing down, speaking magical truth to magical power.
What I got: Bree, accompanied by far too many angry white dudes both dead and alive, gets captured, escapes, runs between safe houses, and somehow manages to find time for an annoying YA love triangle before tripping into a vortex of dumb decisions that ends on an unexpected cliffhanger.
Look. I get it. The premise of these books has always been a magical reckoning with what it’s like to be Black and exceptional in hostile white spaces and that’s very much what this is. I don’t love it, but I appreciate it. I’m always begging for Black women with not only enormous power but emotional range and relationships of reciprocal care in fantasy and Bree is all of that. There’s a lot of emotional and social truth strewn through the dumb decisions and moments of abject villainry that hits hard and spoke to my current America-wounded spiritual state of mind.
But I’m iffy about Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, even when they’re cleverly rebooted into good ol’ Southern boys and girls. Something about the inclusion of Arthurian legend makes this book move incredibly slowly. It doesn’t burst into life until the last third when Bree finally starts hanging around other magical Black folk. Their safe haven is one of the most beautifully woven concepts reckoning with ancestral magic and Black American history that I’ve seen in a book, and while I won’t spoil it for you, I really loved it.
But then the dumb decision parade begins and while it makes sense in the story and is true to the characters, ARGH. Briana, girl! What are you DOING?!?
I’ll definitely read the next installment but this one didn’t wow me like the first and I need FAR more Black people and their magics next go-round, even if the end of this one seems to be moving us away from that realm.
A week’s punishment with no phone calls from magical boys for Bloodmarked.
(Happy New Year, fellow readers! Welcome to another year of diverse books for diverse readers! If you want to read more books about Black girls and women in magical fantasy worlds inspired by legend and folklore, I highly recommend the works of Nalo Hopkinson. If you’re looking for something to get you started on your bookish journey through 2023, take a look at the whole Equal Opportunity Bookshop and have a peruse. For legal reasons, I have to tell you that we have an affiliate relationship with Bookshop and any purchases you make there from a link you find here will result in a commission being paid. Go read something good!)