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Interview with Tracy Deonn and Book Review: Legendborn

Title: Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Length: 490 pages

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Synopsis: After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family’s memories or childhood home. A residential programme for bright young 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 ‘Legendbornstudents that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a ‘Merlin’ and who attempts- and fails- to wipe Beees memory of everything saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own 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 her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if it 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 reveals themselves as descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain 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.

For more stops on this blog tour, check out these other fantastic bloggers and see how much they love this book.

This is the kind of fantasy book I absolutely love. It had everything you could ever want. Fantastic characters, detailed magic, a brilliant plot and romance . Have I convinced you to read this yet?

We follow Bree, who joins a secret society to find out the truth about her mother’s death and gets so much more than she bargained for. It’s such a brilliant plot that I don’t want to go into too much detail and ruin it for you. I want you to be swept away like I was.

Bree is such a fantastic main character to follow. She’s smart, brave, gutsy. I loved her. You can’t help but root for her throughout. I even felt protective over her. I also have to give a shoutout to Sel. I also loved him. He had that classic arc of he’s a bad guy but is he really? I love him. Check out the answers below in the interview for some Sel information in book two!

There was a romance between Bree and Nick that was pretty inevitable but it was still fantastic. I totally believe it and was into it. But without saying too much, I wonder if there’s another character that could interrupt Bre and Nicks romance and i think I want it to be explored. It actually need it to be explored. I need it. It excites me.

The magic in this book is brilliant. It’s a real highlight. It’s incredibly detailed so pay attention. When Bree joins the secret order, it’s so interesting to learn about Shadowborns, Onceborns, Merlins. And I love how it all ties into King Arthur and the nights of the round table. It’s genius. I love the blend of modern and historical fiction. And just when you think it can’t get anyone detailed and intricate we learn about Rootcraft. Which celebrates black history and the power of your roots. Which I actually believe is genius and so powerful.

This book also has so many important messages. I love what Tracy has to say about grief. It was so powerful and poignant. It definitely made me tear up a few times. It’s just so honest and real. Such brilliant writing. It also makes you love Bree more. I’ve also lost my mum, like Bree and Tracy the author. So it really hit home for me. It also deals with race and it’s handled honestly and powerfully. It’s black girl magic. It’s what we need more of and this book is perfect at capturing it.

Ugh the ending. It was sooooo good. Tracy manages to build such momentum that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Seriously. It felt like I was in the action. And there was a lot of action. With so many twists and turns. I didn’t guess the ending. It totally surprised me. It was so powerful. I absolutely loved it.

I guess all there’s left to say it, when is book twoout? I need it. Like yesterday.

There’s so much to enjoy about this book and I really want you all to read it. You won’t regret it. Also, it’s just become a New York Times Bestseller

Now it’s time for the interview.

Thank you so much to Tracy for agreeing to do this. Enjoy the answers!

1) What inspired you to write this story?

The first early kernel of Bree, the main character of Legendborn, was born when I lost my mother. At that time, I found out that she had also lost her mother when she was my age, and that the same was true of my grandmother. Being a writer, I immediately wondered how such a pattern could have happened in my family. Of course, there’s no real answer here – life is strange and sometimes the odd and sad things happen to us and that’s that. But as a writer, I decided to create an answer. I began writing from a place of grief and mystery, and in the book Bree begins from that same place, too. I wanted to explore the idea of legacy and whose lives and deaths are lost to history and whose become legendary. That naturally led me to Arthuriana, as I’ve been a fan of the legends for most of my life, and I felt as though I could contribute something new to the 1500 year old storytelling tradition of growing the Arthurian canon. That’s really the source of Bree’s story—a book-length, contemporary fantasy answer to an impossible real world question.

2) Was it always going to be a school setting?

Yes! Once I decided to work with Arthuriana to explore some of my favorite legends, I immediately thought of Susan Cooper and The Dark is Rising Sequence. In those books, part of her brilliance was allowing Arthur and the stories to be pulled forward into the future in a sense. I gave myself the same challenge – How could Arthur and the Table exist in the modern day? The answer seemed very clear here in the US; the Round Table would embed themselves into a secret society somehow! Secret societies are a great cover for very old generations of power. I was familiar with secret societies at UNC-Chapel Hill because I went to school there for both of my degrees, and the campus is very much embedded in my mind. There are a lot of mysterious and fascinating societies at that school, being the oldest public university in the country. I did a lot of primary source research within UNC’s own archives. Tying in UNC’s history was actually quite easy with my background and because I’d been thinking about how that history impacts students for a long time

4) The magic system is so intriguing, how did you come up with it?

In the book, the Legendborn are descendants of the knights of the round table and have inherited magic because of that legacy. I wanted to believably stretch Arthur and the knights and the Table forward in time, and needed magic to make that happen. I also knew I wanted a magic system that had nothing to do with the Order of the Legendborn, and that they needed to have different uses and origins but work within the same environment.

Since the magic systems in the book are very, very old and fairly strict; they needed to be functional and solid over dozens of generations in order to work as I needed them to! So, my first step was to write them out in prose form first, in mostly full sentences, to test whether I could actually verbalize them. Then each system was moved to whiteboards to play out examples or work out problems. I have three whiteboards in my house: one in my kitchen for brainstorming while cooking or doing other tasks, one in my office that I can write on and refer back to as I work at my desk, and another that is portable so I can use it while sitting on the ground.

I used more than a dozen spreadsheets over the course of drafting and revisions, and they kept growing or getting re-organized. Some sheets were just about keeping track of recurring details. For example, I have a sheet that is just about the Scions and their bloodlines, their rankings, their inheritances (powers and personality traits), preferred weapons and character traits. I also collaborated in Google Sheets with my Wales-based Welsh language and medievalist consultant for all of the Welsh vocabulary, both made up magical terms and real ones. I think the magic systems took about a year and a half to design and “test” in revisions.

3) Have you always been interested in history, did this influence the book?

First – thank you for asking this question, because history is such a big part of Legendborn. How we talk about history, how it gets recorded, who gets to record it and why. I’m not a historian by trade, but I have always been interested in those sorts of issues around history. I am deeply fascinated with human storytelling, which is really the most critical component of history in my eyes. History as a strictly official, academic study feels to me like the stories that got written down or that have artifacts; But the history of humanity is much broader than we can possibly conceive and includes stories and tales that were never written down, or that were recorded using different methods and not captured by historians. The interesting thing about legends is that they’re different from myths because there’s a historical component – usually legends are based on a small sliver of truth revolving around a real person, or based on a communally believed history that doesn’t require a documented truth to persist. Legendborn is my way of playing with all of these ideas while working within some of the enduring themes of Arthurian literature and my own storytelling style.

4) Can you tell us anything about book two?

I can’t share anything too juicy, but I will say that the sequel builds on what is exposed in the first book, all of the magic levels up, and we meet brand new characters. And if you enjoy Sel, just know that we don’t see nearly the full extent of his powers in book one! Now that the groundwork is laid for the universe, we’ve got tons to explore.

Thank you Tracy for answering the questions. Such brilliant answers! Obviously I had to ask about book two, I’m obsessed. And we get more Sel!!!

Thank you to Daniel at Simon and Schusters Kids for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review


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Interview with Marina Kemp author of ‘Nightingale’- Part 2

This is my first Author little Q+A and I am very excited and weirdly a tad nervous. First of all, I have to say a massive thank you to Marina Kemp for agreeing to take part in this. It’s been a fantastic experience for me and she’s been so kind. I really appreciate it.

I was lucky enough to get given a copy of ‘Nightingale’ when I attended the 4th Estate Live event in November (you can read all about that here). I got to listen to Marina talk about her debut novel, and it just made me want to read it even more.

‘Nightingale’ was my first 5⭐️ read of 2020, well I guess technically the new decade (you can check out that review here). I had a lot of questions to ask Marina, but I narrowed it down to 10 and the answers she’s given are brilliant. We talk about the novel, her next book and some advice for writers.

I hope you enjoy it.

1) Where did the inspiration come from for this book?

I wrote a short story when I was seventeen or eighteen, a relatively simple story about a young woman living with and nursing a cruel old man. I lost the story – it got stuck on a laptop that broke down and I never had fixed, and it may well have been very bad, anyway – but something about that premise, the central relationship between the young nurse and old man, never left me. When I was twenty-nine I tried to write the story again, but with over a decade of life in between it came out as something a) much longer and b) very different, with very different concerns and emphasises.

2) Why did you choose to set it in France? In this small town?

I wrote that original short story in France, in a small village much like Saint-Sulpice where my mother lives a large part of the year. When I came to rewrite the story, it never occurred to me to set it anywhere else. The remoteness of the setting but also its smallness turned out to be instrumental to many elements of the story: the isolation and the silence as well as the claustrophobia, gossip and watchfulness.

3) Did the characters story change as you wrote?

Absolutely. When I started writing, I didn’t know why Marguerite was running from – only that she was running. Similarly, Henri was in hiding from something in himself but at first I wasn’t sure exactly what that was. Their personal histories emerged with gathering clarity as the story progressed.

4) Henri’s character is so complex, can you tell me how you managed to get into that headspace as you wrote Henri’s character?

I love hearing you say that, because in many ways Henri was the character I felt closest to when I was writing the novel. His life is very different from my own, but I think his struggles are universal. He strives to live with nobility, and is crushed by shame in his own perceived failure to do so.

5) The relationship between Marguerite and Jereome was so sincere, can you talk about that? Was it always going to be Nurse and Patient?

Yes, it always was. There can be such gentleness, intimacy and tenderness in a relationship of care – but there can also be cruelty and discomfort in both directions because of the inherent imbalance of power. The balance is disorientating and painful for a once-powerful man like Jerome. I wanted their relationship to unfold in a way that was true to their characters; it became clear to me that very early on that it couldn’t be straightforwardly redemptive.

6) Death is obviously a big theme throughout the novel, why is that? Was it a deliberate choice or as the characters developed did it happen?

Because of Jerome’s age and illness death, casts a shadow over the novel from the outset. But that’s true of all life – it always exists hand in hand with death, something that Marguerite learns at an early age. As the novel unfolded I was particularly interested in the choices we make around death – particularly because death itself is seldom a choice.

7) What was your writing process like? Especially for your debut?

I’m not much good at achieving balance in my writing, or trying to fit it round work and other priorities. I write best when I can take a whole week or month away from everything else and immerse myself in it completely. The most important thing for me when writing Nightingale was walking. I went on long, meandering walks and they ended up being a crucial time for everything to percolate.

8) Do you have any advice for other writers?

General writing advice is so hard because everyone’s writing practice is so different. But I think the main thing would be: find a central premise or relationship you find sufficiently compelling that it will sustain you, and go from there.

9) Any plans for book two?

Yes – I am writing a second novel at the moment. It’s been hard to find opportunities for total immersion, particularly now I’m a parent, but I’m getting there.

10) What’s your favourite book?

I studied Classics at University, and the work I always come back to when I want to feel totally literary awe is the Iliad. It’s the most powerful recollection I can think of on what it means to be human and mortal, but it’s also a brilliant piece of storytelling.

Marina Kemp was born in London, where she lives now with her husband and daughter. She studied Classics at Oxford University, and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. Nightingale is her first novel.

So that’s it. That’s the Q+A. Again, a huge thank you to Marina for taking part, I really appreciate it. I only wish I’d been brave enough to ask her to sign my copy of ‘Nightingale’ at the event.

I hope you all enjoyed this and I hope I get to do it again. Thanks for reading.

Until the next review