Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn — billed as a blend of the legend of King Arthur and Southern Black Girl Magic — was released last year and soon became a YA sensation. Today, Gizmodo is thrilled to have the exclusive first look at the cover and an excerpt from its sequel, Bloodmarked, which sees the return of teenager Bree as she further embraces (and tries to learn to control) her newly awakened powers — all while finding herself caught in the middle of a fantastical war.
First up, here’s a description of Bloodmarked, to give you a bit more context:
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.
Here’s the full look at the cover — jacket illustration by Hillary Wilson; jacket design by Laura Eckes — featuring Bree holding… Excalibur? Read on for a peek at the Bloodmarked prologue to learn more!
My veins burn with the spirits of my ancestors.
Twenty-four hours ago, I pulled Excalibur from its stone — and the ancient blade shattered me. Who I was, who I could be, who I’d never be again. My identity, split and spread like shards. I knew in that moment that some of those pieces would never come back. Like a weapon made of coalescing aether, the Briana Matthews who held Excalibur had been broken apart — and forged into something new.
That’s how William described me.
But the truth is, I am both old and new. When I’d raised Excalibur high, two focal spirits for ancient power were pounding inside of me like dual drums: Vera, my ancestral foremother, and Arthur Pendragon himself. They each locked their power in my blood centuries ago. Vera, with a plea to her ancestors. Arthur, with a spell for his knights. They both claimed me last night, and when the battle was done, they faded.
‘There is a cost to being a legend, daughter. But fear not, you will not bear it alone.’
Vera’s last words to me were not a farewell.
They were a warning.
Twenty-four hours ago, I pulled Excalibur from its stone. Now, I am paying the price.
I lie in bed at the Lodge, the Legendborn’s historic home at the edge of campus, but I am not resting. I am alone in the wee hours, eyes squeezed shut, covers shoved off the bed, my skin too tight to hold all that I have inherited. My curls lay damp against my neck and behind my ears. My breath comes in short gasps.
Too much. Too…much.
I twist to my side, and crawl to the ground. My fingers curl into the floor, nails scraping..
When my eyes open, the room around me is gone.
I am not myself. I am Vera.
It is night. Long ago. I and two others are being ushered into a home by a white man with a bushy mustache, eyes darting over my head the way I have come. “Hurry, hurry!” He whispers.
He leads me to a door set into the floor at the back of the house. Lifts it to reveal a hidden cubby of earth and rotting wood.
I will pause here for a moment, but tomorrow I will run again.
I blink, and the Lodge bedroom returns. Dark and familiar. Shiny, wide planks of oak stretch out beneath me.
Close my eyes. Open them.
I am in a diner. My name is Jessie. I am twenty years old.
My brown hands hold a stack of menus. Fifties music plays from a jukebox.
“Hey, you! Girl!” A rough, rude voice yelling my way. I find the white man in the booth near the entrance, wearing the smug grin of someone who knows he will not be stopped. “Service, please?” He sneers, voice sarcastic. A jeer and a lure. Daring me to talk back.
A flare of anger, the furnace of root magic in my chest lit and growing — but a smile on my face as I walk toward him through the restaurant.
I’d like to ignore him, shout at him, but I can’t.
Not here, not today. But somewhere, someday.
As I pass by another booth, a white woman in a black and silver dress whips her head around. Her hand shoots out, fingers gripping my elbow. She narrows deep amber eyes at me, and her hand squeezes tighter. She is one of them. The magicians my mother, Emmeline, warned me about when she said, “Do not let them catch you. If you see their blue flames, run.”
Heart racing, I swallow the furnace, douse it. Hide it away.
“Ma’am?” I ask, voice clear and steady.
She looks me over. Doubt flickers across her face. “Nevermind.” She releases me, turns back to her meal.
I shut my eyes tight against the fear. Grateful for the close call, sighing with the escape.
I will face them.
Not here, not today. But somewhere, someday.
When I return to the room in the Lodge this time, two sweaty palm prints stain the hardwoods beneath my hands.
Eyes close. Eyes open.
I am walking past a park at sunset with a friend. My name is Leanne. I am fifteen. We are giggling. Silly.
In the darkness, faint and yards away, a creature. A near-translucent glowing hound in the park — a figure surrounding it. Drawing weapons made of light. The figure moves faster than he should be able to. Ozone fills my nose. The smell of honey, burning.
I freeze. Draw a silent breath. Become as stone.
My friend stops, her brown eyes confused and laughing. “Leanne, what — ”
I don’t hear her speak. All I hear is the mantra I inherited from my mother, Jessie. It beats in my chest like a drum: “Never let them find you. If you see them, run.”
I slip off my shoes, down to my stockings. Quieter that way. Mumble an excuse to my friend. And run.
I am flung back and forward, writhing between time and space. Eight visions of myself. Eight memories that aren’t mine. Eight bodies I inhabit, sucked down into lives I’ve never lived. Eventually, I slide into a dark space with no walls. A pair of naked brown feet surrounded by flames in front of me.
“Daughter of daughters.”
I push to standing to see Vera. She is much as she’d been before: a woman in an empty, dark world. Blood and flame swirl around her deep brown arms, hair stretching up and wide like it is reaching for the universe.
“You brought me here,” I pant. “Before I pulled the sword.”
She nods once. “The stream between life and death. Your bloodline, made manifest.”
The stream…I look around at the darkness and feel the waiting of it, and the completion, too. Like smoke, ready to become matter or dissipate. Sound, ready to be heard or silenced. This is an almost and already place.
I speak around the tears, through the memories that ache in my chest. “All of those lives…all of the running.”
“We have brought you here, because you need to understand who you are.”
When Vera speaks again, her voice grows louder with every word. “You are the point of our arrow. The tip of our spear. The bow of our ship. The flare of our long-simmering heat. You are the living embodiment of our resistance. The revelation after centuries of hiding. The pain-welded blade. Wound turned weapon.”
“I know,” I say between gasps. “I know…”
“No. You do not.” Many voices echo and meet and reverberate into a thick cloud around me.
“From the first daughter to the last, our furnace has grown. Each life burning hotter than the life before, building one on top of the other. You are my lineage, at its sharpest and strongest.” The flames on Vera’s skin glow brighter. “With all that flows through you, you have the power to protect what evil would destroy. You can face what must be faced.”
Suddenly, Vera is not alone. Eight other women made of flame surround me in a circle. I spin, searching their faces, but it is hopeless. Their features are obscured in dancing crimson and yellow, hair like curled smoke.
I don’t realise I am looking for my mother until I can’t find her.
At once, their voices converge, Vera and the others. Nine streaks of fire flow into my chest, searing me from every direction.
“We ran to protect ourselves. We ran to preserve the power. We ran so we would not be destroyed, so that our daughters could live.”
Vera steps forward, and her voice is slow and rich, lava against my skin. “Do you know why else we ran, Bree?”
I shake my head. “No.”
The flames on her skin grow higher, her hair extending out and up so that I cannot see where it ends. I blink again…and I am a shivering, sweat-soaked teenage girl on the floor of a historic home. I am sucking air into burning lungs. I am shedding tears that are mine and not mine.
But Vera is not done. If her voice was once volcanic flow, it has now cooled into obsidian, razor sharp. A laceration to the bone, before you realise your skin was cut.
“We ran so you would not have to.”
Excerpt from Tracy Deonn’s Bloodmarked reprinted by permission from Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Jacket illustration © 2022 by Hillary Wilson; jacket design by Laura Eckes © 2022 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn will be released July 26, 2022. You can pre-order a copy here.
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Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.