Briana “Bree” Matthews feels trapped – somehow both powerful and powerless.
Tracy Deonn’s “Bloodmarked” (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 576 pp., ★★★ out of four) is a sequel to the 2020 young adult novel “Legendborn” and the second installment in her Legendborn Cycle series.
It’s been one month since the events of “Legendborn,” and Bree is also restless. She wants to learn more about her ancestors and her lineage; she wants to learn how to control her newly released powers; and, most urgently, she wants to find her friend Nick Davis, who is still missing after his father kidnapped him after the battle in the previous book.
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Bree has entered the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur and his knights with connections to his Round Table and the ability to wield magical powers. The Order, governed by a high council of Regents, has been fighting an ancient war against demons and creatures from the Shadow realm. If you haven’t read “Legendborn,” you’ll want to read that book first to learn more about the characters, the Order and the secret Bree learned about her family.
Bree also finds herself torn between her feelings for Nick and a deepening relationship with Selwyn Kane, the kingsmage who is sworn to protect Nick but also feels bound to Bree.
These feelings will have to wait. War is coming. Shadowborn attacks are increasing, but these demons aren’t the only ones who seek Bree and want either to kill or control her.
Bree, who is a Black teen, is also facing the prejudice of the Order, the disdain of some of its members who treat her like a mistake or unfairly fear her power. “The Line is Law,” until racism overrides it, apparently.
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Bree is brave, as all around her remind her repeatedly, but so stubborn, endangering her friends and forcing sacrifices. It should be frustrating, watching her make mistakes. And there’s little time to dwell on character connections in this entry — battles pop up suddenly along journeys, calling to mind Final Fantasy gameplay — but the emotions are so raw on the page. You root for Bree, Sel, Nick and the others even when you want to shake them.
“Bloodmarked” excels in pushing against young-adult fantasy and hero’s journey storytelling structures while also pushing the action-adventure forward, introducing even more lore and legend (and some modern Welsh language lessons, too), but not dawdling too much on the path to the next installment.
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Briana Matthews is more than a literal example of Black Girl Magic. She is strength, she feels all her feelings at once and she is of her ancestors, those who came before her and sacrificed so she could have choices they could not. Bree has a lot to learn about herself, about trust, about her lineage and about love before she can fight the real monsters. And maybe she’ll also learn she had the power within her all along.
Story Credit: usatoday.com