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An Instant New York Times Bestseller!
Winner of the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.

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.

A Reading Group Guide to


By Tracy Deonn

About the Book

Sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews changed when she lost her mother in a tragic car accident three months ago. Since then, she’s been building a wall, one that blocks her childhood memories and imprisons her emotions. To escape her childhood home, the place where her mother’s memories are bound, she attends the early college program at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s the perfect getaway until Bree witnesses a magic attack: a half-corporeal demon feeding on the negative energy of fighting students. Although a mysterious boy, Selwyn Kane, tries to wipe her memory of the event, Bree remembers and resolves to learn the mystery behind what happened that magical night, especially after she discovers she’s had her memory wiped once before, on the night her mother died. On a quest to find the truth about her mother and magic, Bree enters a hidden world that lurks right under humanity’s nose, a world where demons are a constant threat, and descendants of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are called on to defeat them. With the help of a self-exiled descendant, Bree is pulled further into this world and must decide how far she is willing to go. She must figure out if she will run from the Legendborn, from the truth, and from her history, or if she is willing to fight a war that isn’t her own.

Discussion Questions

1. After the passing of her mother, Bree puts up an internal wall. How does this wall both help and hinder her throughout the novel? What are some walls you put up to protect yourself? Is there a time when some of those walls have come down?

2. How would you describe Bree’s friendship with Alice? Use the text to support your answers.

3. Bree learns that all Arthurian legends can be traced back to the Order, as members had a hand in the stories that spread around the world and a “pen in every text from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Tennyson.” What does this statement suggest? What does it tell us about how history is often preserved and recorded? How could this relate to your national history?

4. As the new Pages get the tour of the house, Tor gestures toward Bree while stating that the chapter is welcoming its most diverse Page class. What is the social definition of the word diversity? How might Tor’s comment suggest a superficial definition of the word?

5. Scions pay a heavy price for their service: because the binding occurred centuries ago, they have no choice but to heed the call, whether they want to or not. Do you think it’s fair to be beholden to something your ancestors decided centuries before you were born? Explain your answer.

6. The Unsung Founders Memorial is UNC-Chapel Hill’s way of acknowledging the history of enslavement and the slave labor that built the university. What is the history of the land you now occupy?

7. Nick explains that, for a long time, the men in the Order would eliminate daughters to force the Call to the next heir. What does this say about the Order and patriarchy?

8. Patricia takes Bree on a memory walk, a sort of time-travel into the memories of the ancestors. If you had the opportunity to go on a memory walk, who would you walk with and why? What would you want to learn?

9. Patricia says, “‘Everything has two histories. Especially in the South.’” What does she mean by this? How does it relate to United States history?

10. Consider the magic of the Legendborn versus the magic of Rootcrafters. How are they similar and different? Do you think one is better than the other? Support your answers with details from the text.

11. Bree walks with her ancestors and eventually houses a few within herself. How is intergenerational connection important to the story? How is intergenerational connection important in your life?

12. Mariah says, “‘This is the South; there are a lot of unsettled Black folks in the ground.’” What does the word unsettled mean in this sentence? What do you think Mariah means by this statement?

13. Discuss the chapters’ chant alongside Bree’s heritage, and how some Order members treat her. “When the shadows rise, so will the light, when blood is shed, blood will Call. By the King’s Table, for the Order’s might, by our eternal Oaths, the Line is Law.”

14. Analyze the quarry scenes at the beginning and end of the book. What does the cliff symbolize?

15. Although Bree loves Nick, there is a figurative and literal spark between her and Selwyn. What might this mean for the future of their collective and individual relationships?

16. The southern setting is critical to the narrative’s progression. How does the setting enhance the story? Do you think this story could be as effective if transferred to another university or state? Explain your answers.

17. Who or what is After-Bree and Before-Bree? How are they different? How are they alike?

18. Legendborn is infused with magic, but there are also conversations about racism and whiteness, including tokenism, microaggressions, and enslavement. What does this add to the story? What topics did the novel make you think more deeply about?

19. Therapy is an important part of Bree’s journey. How might stories like Legendborn be therapeutic?

20. In interviews, the author said she collaborated with a Welsh language and medievalist consultant for the Welsh terms used throughout the book. Do you think the inclusion of this language enhances or detracts from the story? Explain your answer. If you could collaborate with someone in a specialized field to write your own story, what would it be?

Extension Activities

1. Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins says there are controlling images—the Mammy, the Jezebel, the Sapphire—that often confine Black women and girls. Research these images and create a text using a medium of your choice that discusses how the Order attempts to confine Bree and how Bree pushes past those boundaries. Consider creating a written piece, artwork, podcast recording, or other form.

2. Read Arthurian legends and compare them with the mythos of this story. Stories and concepts to consider could include the following: the Knights of the Round Table, the Holy Grail, Excalibur, the Battle of Camlann, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Le Morte d’Arthur, or Lancelot and Guinevere. After reading, use the legends as a foundation for your own short story.

3. Bree winds up on campus through UNC-Chapel Hill’s early college program. Although the author acknowledges that there is no such program at the university, these programs do exist across the United States. Find a program that looks interesting and weigh the pros and cons of attending such a program as a high school student. Prepare an argument to present your case.

4. A major part of the story revolves around the racial history of UNC-Chapel Hill. Research the racial history of a local university or a university you want to attend. Some questions to consider:

How has the university grappled with its racial history?

What are the current demographics of the university, and how have those demographics changed over time?

What are the demographics of the faculty and how have they changed over time?

On which Indigenous lands does the university sit? Does the university acknowledge the Indigenous lands they occupy?

5. The Order’s hierarchy is arranged like that of the medieval feudal system. With a partner, research the feudal system, and create a chart that shows the hierarchy of the Legendborn characters.

6. The Legendborn belong to a secret society. Explore the history of one secret society and present your findings to the class. For ideas, consider the following societies: the Order of Skull and Bones, Freemasons, Rosicrucians, the Grand Orange Lounge, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Flat Hat Club, Quill and Dagger, Seven Society, Order of Gimghoul, or Wolf’s Head. Consider the differences between society and community when studying one of these groups, and discuss when presenting your findings.

Guide written by Stephanie R. Toliver, an assistant professor of Literacy and Secondary Humanities at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her scholarship centers the freedom dreams of Black youth and honors the historical legacy that Black imaginations have had and will have on activism and social change.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit or
Photograph by Kathleen Hampton

Tracy Deonn is the New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award winning author of Legendborn, and a second-generation fangirl. She grew up in central North Carolina, where she devoured fantasy books and Southern food in equal measure. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication and performance studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tracy worked in live theater, video game production, and K–12 education. When she’s not writing, Tracy speaks on panels at science fiction and fantasy conventions, reads fanfic, arranges puppy playdates, and keeps an eye out for ginger-flavored everything. She can be found on Twitter at @TracyDeonn and at

“A King Arthur reimagining that adds seats to the roundtable, inviting new readers to find themselves within its lore, Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn braids southern folk traditions and Black Girl Magic into a searing modern tale of grief, power, and self-discovery.” 

– Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Belles

"Legendborn is an enthralling, standout modern fantasy about history and power, and Deonn is an author to watch."

– Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author

"Legendborn is intoxicating, electrifying, and resonates with a deep understanding and vulnerable adoration of what it is to be a Black girl searching for the magic of herself. Tracy Deonn captivates you from page one with her perfect pacing, exhilarating plotting, and a command of storytelling that cannot be ignored. This book will hold everything you are hostage until, page by page, you discover how it has actually set you free." 

– LL McKinney, author of the critically acclaimed Nightmare-Verse series

"Legendborn is a thrilling and tense fantasy that weaves Arthurian adventure with southern Black culture into a story that had me shouting. It will hook readers from the very beginning and leave them breathless until the final, mind-blowing revelation."

– Kwame Mbalia, New York Times bestselling author of the Tristan Strong series.

“Perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Kiersten White, Tracy Deonn's unique reimagining of Arthurian legend is full of magic and heart. A brilliant debut!”

– Ashley Poston, National Best-Selling Author of Geekerella

 "Legendborn is a remarkable debut that should firmly place Tracy Deonn on every fantasy and contemporary YA reader's radar. Deft and insightful blending of Arthurian legend and Southern Black American history make for an engrossing tale of mystery, romance, and finding your place in the world?—an absolute must-read!"  

– Alyssa Cole, award-winning romance author

Sixteen-year-old Black whiz kid Bree Matthews battles grief and demonic forces on her college campus.

After her mother dies in an accident, Bree begins a residential program for enterprising teens at her mother’s alma mater and, soon after her arrival, witnesses a magical attack that triggers hidden memories about the evening her mother was killed. Haunted by the fact that their final conversation was an argument, Bree begins a redemptive quest to uncover the connection between her mother’s death and the university’s secret society, the Order of the Round Table, joining their ranks as an initiate and unwittingly stumbling into a centuries-old supernatural war. While competing in the tournament that determines entry to the society, Bree discovers the truth about her heretofore unknown magical abilities, unwinding a complex history that showcases the horrors chattel slavery in the American South perpetuates on the descendants of all involved. Push through clunky expositions and choppy transitions that interrupt the cohesion of the text to discover solid character development that brings forward contemporary, thoughtful engagement with the representation, or lack thereof, of race in canonical Arthurian lore and mythologies. Representation of actualized, strong queer characters is organic, not forced, and so are textual conversations around emotional wellness and intergenerational trauma. Well-crafted allusions to established legends and other literary works are delightful easter eggs.

Don’t look over sea or under stone, this is the fantasy novel for all once and future fans of suspense-filled storytelling. (author's note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

– Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2020

*DEONN, Tracy. Legendborn. 512p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2020. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534441606.

Gr 8 Up–In Deonn’s rich and explosive debut, readers are introduced to a meticulously-built world of magic with roots in Arthurian legend and traditions of the African American South. After her mother’s death, Bree enters an Early College program, despite still processing her grief. It’s not long before she’s pulled into a secret society, and is pushed by circumstance into dangerous tournaments to go from Page to Squire all while watching her back for the demons who would kill her. This book discusses pertinent topics such as institutional racism, intergenerational trauma, and feminism with grace and a natural, unforced style. Readers will delight in a delicious love triangle that promises to get more delectable with a sequel. Though heavy at times with exposition, the novel provides plenty of scenes rife with action and emotion. Deonn pulls off a surprise ending that will urge readers to start from the beginning, to collect the clues laid along the way. ­VERDICT A promising series debut perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. This book underscores the movement for more inclusive versions of traditional Western narratives, and will be a favorite of contemporary fantasy readers. Highly recommended.–Abby Hargreaves, DC P.L.

– School Library Journal STARRED REVIEW, July 2020

The African diaspora blends with Arthurian legend in Deonn’s dynamic YA fantasy debut, reminiscent of City of Bones. On her first two nights at the University of North Carolina’s Early College program, 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who is Black, witnesses otherworldly demonic attacks that most other students can’t see. When a strong mage’s attempt to alter Bree’s memories fails, she recovers the recent events alongside a brief recollection from the night of her mother’s death, three months prior—a fragment that she realizes another mesmerist sought to hide. Convinced the campus incidents have something to do with her mom’s sudden end, Bree persuades peer mentor Nick to help her infiltrate the magical Order of the Round Table, the historically white, deeply racist secret society that he was born into, and which is committed to hunting the demons. Bree struggles as the Order’s sole Black member and page, but outside Black female practitioners offer help via a different means of magic, and Bree must decide which path will give her the most answers about both her mother and herself. Though hazy exposition initially slows the narrative, Deonn adeptly employs the haunting history of the American South (“the low buzzing sound of exclusion”) to explore themes of ancestral pain, grief, and love, balancing them with stimulating worldbuilding and multiple thrilling plot twists. Ages 14–up. Agent: Penny Moore, Aevitas Creative. (Sept.)

– Publishers Weekly, August 3, 2020

  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award Master List
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List High School Title
  • High School Sequoyah Book award Master List (OK)
  • ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults - Top Ten
  • Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults - TOP TEN
  • Cybils Award Finalist
  • New York Public Library 50 Best Books for Teens
  • ALA Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for New Talent
  • North Star YA Award Finalist (ME)
  • ALA/YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, Top Ten

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