Legacy and the Queen is set to be the next release from Granity Studios, a multimedia company formed by athlete Kobe Bryant to “enable young athletes to maximize their full potential through creative storytelling”. The acclaimed company worked in tandem with novelist, poet and former athlete Annie Matthew to tell the story of 12-year-old Legacy Petrin, who lives in a world where tennis is associated with magic and power. While the book is primarily geared towards younger readers, Legacy and the Queen is suited for anyone looking for a lighthearted read.
Legacy’s character is quickly established as she arises early in the morning to play tennis against the wall of her father’s orphanage; it is the one activity that feels natural to her and serves as a source of relief in troubling times. Legacy lives in the provinces of a land called Nova, where tennis players can wield magic through their sport. One player, Silla, the titular Queen, used her magic to stop a natural disaster which led to her being promoted to the highest government position in the land. On Legacy’s 12th birthday, Silla announces a tennis tournament for children of the provinces and the winner gains the opportunity to attend the nation’s prestigious tennis academy to train for nationals. Winning nationals comes with a large amount of prize money, money that could be used to help her father’s orphanage. Despite her initial misgivings, Legacy decides to compete in the tournament against her father’s wishes to help her friends.
The lore of Nova is definitely one of the most intriguing things about this book – aside from the pegasi that breathe fire and the cats made of tapestry thread, there’s the mysterious Ancient Stringing Craft and the magic that is tied to emotions like fear, love and anger. The amount of detail that Matthew puts into world-building makes reading about Nova feel magical in itself. Each character also has a distinct personality and this makes interactions between characters feel more realistic and charming. The beginning of the story does move a lot quicker than expected, but it is almost fitting because it shows the whirlwind of events that Legacy is facing. Matthew manages to capture the suspense and high stakes of Legacy’s journey while still maintaining an undertone of hope.
However, Legacy and the Queen also addresses some more complex topics that do not solely impact athletes. The story draws attention to the pressure placed upon athletes to perform, both by their families and society and how many have built their identities around their achievements. At one point, one of Legacy’s friends comments, “If they lose, they’re nothing, not even themselves”, a sentiment that is not only pertinent to athletes but to anyone who has been raised to be nothing but the best. The theme of cultural capital is also present in the story, as Legacy notes that everyone else at the tennis academy seems to be following rules that she is unfamiliar with, from cafeteria seating to how to present one’s self. Legacy also faces prejudice based on her background and she is criticized for her “unpredictable emotions” and constantly compared to the elite players with more “class” and “elegance”. At one point during a match, she drops her racket and is accused of “throwing a tantrum”, which is reminiscent of criticisms of Serena Williams after last year’s U.S. Open. Likewise, the elite players are even shown to have unfair advantages over regular athletes at the academy, one of many examples of how connections and money are used to get ahead.
Despite these challenges, however, Legacy is able to find a solution: self-love and remaining true to herself. These are the qualities that truly allow her to tap into her magic, and the fact that this lesson was woven into the lore was one of my favorite aspects of the whole book. What better way to communicate to young readers that loving themselves is crucial to facing the trials and tribulations of life? While not all of Legacy’s problems are solved by the end of the book, she does acquire the money for her father’s orphanage and is able to return home with new knowledge about herself and her world. The way the ending is written leaves an opening for a sequel, but Legacy and the Queen can also stand alone as it is.
Overall, I award this book 5 stars.
I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Legacy and the Queen will be released on September 3, 2019. You can order it from Bookshop.
In addition to the magic of the story itself, the publisher is also creating a visual experience for readers. Hardcover copies of the book will contain illustrated endpapers with UV-activated ink that gives the illusion of disappearing ink; art on the side of every page that functions as flipbook animation; a secret image revealed when the pages are fanned out; and cords bound into the spine of the book that become a placeholder ribbon. Additionally, an audiobook narrated by actor Phylicia Rashad is forthcoming.
Featured image provided by the author.