Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn (The Legendborn Cycle #2)
The shadows have risen, and the line is law.
All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights—only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:
A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.
But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.
Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.
When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s own powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.
If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first—without losing herself in the process.
AUTHOR: Tracy Deonn
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
LENGTH: 561 pages
AGE: Young Adult
Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Seconday, Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s), Genderqueer/Nonbinary Secondary Character(s).
*This review will spoil some aspects of the first book, LEGENDBORN. Please skip to my review for that book if you're still considering whether to read the series and would like to avoid spoilers.
BLOODMARKED is about grief and reconciliation, building some thing new out of the ashes of what was. It's a tale of power and legacy, how people choose whether to continue in the paths that are handed to them or to try and make something better and new. It’s also a story of intimacy and trust, particularly between Bree and her loved ones.
One of my favorite worldbuilding aspects is the way Bree gets an opportunity to delve more into Rootcraft as a community practice, expressed in a particular way through her, but also continuing to emphasize that she's not alone. LEGENDBORN is in many ways about her entering an almost entirely white space and figuring out how to exist under their rules, while in BLOODMARKED she is gradually figuring out where she fits into a larger Black community of Rootcrafters. The Legendborn Council members seek to confine and control her, seeing her blackness as an impediment or something they have to deal with in pursuit of their own aims. For most of the book she’s on the run, constantly on the news with her friends and hours, never quite feeling safe and desperately needing somewhere to land. She's trying to stay ahead of the racist institution which wants to use her while pretending that they and their ancestors didn't do anything wrong.
Alice really gets to shine, or at least have much more of a role now that she knows what’s going on with Bree and can be part of the main action. I’m also very happy with how much William is around. I love books with a beleaguered medic who knows that almost none of his instructions will be followed by the heroes who keep getting injured and only barely making it out alive. I particularly love the arc of Bree’s dynamic with Sel. Their relationship has always been complicated, but by having Nick be elsewhere for most of the book there is room for the two of them to work out a lot of stuff even while his presence is still felt.
As a sequel, BLOODMARKED directly addresses the revelation from LEGENDBORN that Bree is a scion of Arthur. There’s a mostly new storyline related to machinations by the council, trying to exploit Bree while simultaneously ignoring or at least downplaying the implications of her existence. I’m not sure whether anything is fully introduced and resolved, but the way that most of the book takes place away from campus means that this has an entirely different (though complementary) feeling from LEGENDBORN. There are frank discussions of the fact that many of Bree's ancestors were enslaved, that a particular one of them was raped by a descendent of Arthur, leading to his power in Bree's veins. As a series, The Legendborn Cycle is about how racism in the past has impacts on the present, how the path to get here matters for what we do in the present. When people and institutions continue to benefit from racism in the past, they have incentives in the present to perpetuate inequalities, as well as to be overtly racist when their power allows them to get away with it. Bree's very existence forces the Legendborn to deal with their racist past, and then some of them choose to deal with it by helping her, breaking that cycle, while others do everything in their power to bury her and pretend that nothing bad ever happened.
This isn’t the last book in the series, and there’s a development towards the end which specifically sets up a new paradigm in the next book. Except for a very short section towards the end, Bree is the narrator and her voice is consistent with her style in LEGENDBORN. The story is self contained enough that it would mostly make sense, even if someone hasn’t read the first book. It does a pretty good job of explaining backstory as it becomes relevant and generally avoid potentially confusing infodumps while getting the reader up to speed.
The ending is excellent! The final section upsets the status quo in a variety of ways, some of which are terrible for various characters and their plans, but all of which were narratively interesting and unexpected to me. I definitely didn’t expect some of the decisions made right at the end, and I look forward to how those will be handled in the next book.
Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, racism, blood, violence, injury detail, torture, death.
Moderate CW for kidnapping, confinement, abandonment, fire/fire injury, rape, emotional abuse, physical abuse, toxic relationship, toxic friendship, vomit, gore, medical content, slavery, parental death.
Minor CW for alcohol, sexual content, pregnancy, self harm.