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Book Review: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

Book Review: Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

If you somehow managed to miss Legendborn when it was first published in 2020, then consider the release of Bloodmarked, the second book in the Legendborn Cycle, your sign to rectify that and dive into this series immediately. Once again Tracy Deonn has crafted a rich, complex urban fantasy novel thats steeped in both mythology and history, offering a layered, action-packed narrative that delivers as many plot twists and edge-of-your-seat revelations as it does emotional depth, romantic tensions and the outstanding personal growth of its main character, Bree, which all makes for the kind of heart-stopping young adult fantasy novel that you can’t put down.

In Legendborn, Bree just wanted to uncover the truth about her mother’s death, so she infiltrated the secret and underground Legendborn order, a society descended from King Arthur’s knights and tasked with keeping human life safe from the rising threats of the Shadowborn demons, only to discover her own ancestral power in the process. Now, in Bloodmarked, Bree is forced to become someone new – a Medium, a Bloodcrafter and a Scion – and finds herself pulled in completely different directions all while the ancient war between the Order and demons is rising to a deadly peak and the impending threat of Camlann, the foretold war of wars, lingers on the horizon too.

Bree wants to fight – for herself, for her friends and for Nick, the boy she fell in love – but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her, and instead seek to do whatever it takes to hide the impending war and Bree’s role within it. Before long, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick and get as far away as they can from the Regents and the threat they pose. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are dangerous and unpredictable, 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.

 I know better than anyone that legends are only half a shade distant from truth.”

Bloodmarked is a novel that takes the world that was introduced in Legendborn and expands it tenfold, peeling back the layers of the world we thought we knew to reveal that, actually, Deonn is only just getting started. Between the mythology of King Arthur, Bree’s growing understanding of what it means to be a Bloodcrafter, and the exploration of where each of these powers comes from, Bloodmarked is rich with fantasy at every turn – and there are definitely more than enough of them to keep even the most seasoned of fantasy readers guessing. This book feels darker and heavier than its predecessor too as the stakes get higher, relationships are challenged and the possibility of betrayal lurks around every corner. But through it all stands Bree Matthews, a girl who was raised human and thrown into a role and a legacy she didn’t ask for, constantly forced to prove herself twice over – first as Scion, and then as a young Black girl with unheard-of power stepping into a space that has been long been considered reserved for the white male as standard.

Not only does this make Bree an excellent guide to the sometimes too-complex rules of this world, but this stubborn, impatient, passionate and determined character is also a real grounding influence within the book too. Even beyond the fantasy of it all, Bloodmarked is a story that just excels on a personal level, with Bree’s lived experiences being just as essential to the plot as the magic that binds the Society together. Bree’s very existence, and the unique position she holds as descendant of two powerful lineages, is directly linked to the atrocities committed against Black people. It’s a history that Bree lives with every day, particularly in the face of the Regents who refuse to acknowledge the horrific actions of their own ancestors, despite Bree standing as proof in front of them.

Bree’s ongoing grief for her mother and her trauma also play key roles in her story, not least because of the responsibility Bree feels to live up to the expectations of her foremothers who have lived and died over the years and passed their power on through the generations until it was delivered to Bree in this moment and this time. It’s a responsibility that Bree feels deeply and leaves her, more often than not, at a crossroads between two worlds, two magics and two duties, never sure who to trust, which instinct to follow or how to stay true to herself.

This book more than delivers on the urban fantasy front, offering a creative world with an intricate (and interesting) magic system and the very real fantasy threats of demons, goruchels and rebellious Order members. But it also features a wealth of layered, fascinating characters too, each of whom feels alive and real on every page. Among them are Alice, Bree’s childhood friend and a human ‘Onceborn’ who is clever, observant and endlessly supportive of Bree, keeping her grounded and centred through the twists and turns her life has taken, and William, the Scion of Gawain, a trusted friend and pillar of support in his own right who’s often forced to battle the disparity of being both a healer and a soldier in a time of impending war.

It would be amiss, however, not to mention the broody, protective, devastating character that is Selwyn Kane, the dangerous Merlin and sworn Kingsmage who’s constantly at battle with his Oaths and his desires and facing the ever-increasing possibility of succumbing to his demonic blood. Throughout this book, the connection between Bree and Sel is tense and palpable, with Bree fighting her attraction to Sel in the face of hidden agendas, betrayals and her feelings for Nick, all while left questioning whether Sel is even interested in Bree the girl or simply serving his duty to Bree the Scion. Even with Nick’s limited presence in this book, the resulting web of feelings, duty and chemistry between all three of them is a deliciously intriguing subplot and a thrill to see shifting and developing over the course of the narrative too.

Each element of this book is absorbing enough by itself, but put together it all makes for an immersive, powerful read and one thats so rich with clever details that Ive no doubt it will continue to grip and compel readers with every subsequent reread too. At just over 550 pages, there’s no denying that Bloodmarked is a bit of a commitment, but even with a slower burning start that felt just a little too heavy on the recap side of things, it’s definitely a book that’s worth clearing your evenings for. And don’t be surprised if the breathtaking ending has you staying up long into the early hours of the morning either.


Bloodmarked was published by Simon & Schuster Children’s on 8 November 2022

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