In a new book from Kobe Bryant (yes, that Kobe Bryant) and writer Annie Matthew, a magical world surrounding tennis, social class, and the power of practice and inner strength hits book stores. It’s a novel for middle-grade readers, but also anyone of any age that can use a little inspiring. Legacy and the Queen is a book about a girl named Legacy who comes from the poor side of a magical kingdom called the provinces and really only loves one thing: tennis. Released hot on the heels of the U.S. Open, this book is a very well written and interesting twist on sports fiction.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
GAME. SET. MAGIC. Game – Tennis means life and death for the residents of the magical kingdom of Nova, and for twelve-year-old Legacy, it’s the only thing getting her through the long days taking care of the other kids at the orphanage. That’s all about to change when she hears about Silla’s tournament. Set – Silla, the ruler of Nova, hosts an annual tournament for the less fortunate of her citizens to come and prove themselves and win entrance to the Academy, where they can train to compete at nationals. The prize is Silla’s favor and enough cash to keep open the orphanage, and Legacy has her heart set on both. Magic – What Legacy has yet to know is that the other players have something besides better skills and more money than she does. In Nova, tennis can unlock magic. Magic that Silla used to save the kingdom long ago and magic that her competitors have been training in for months already. Now, with the world turned against her and the orphanage at stake, Legacy has to learn to use her passion for the game to rise above those around her and shine.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I was instantly enthralled by this world after reading the first page. Legacy lives in a world that isn’t fully defined and is instead experienced through her eyes. It’s a world where magic exists and it was even used on the tennis court to win games. Summoning your “grana” as it is called usually means enforcing your will on your opponent manifested via weather. At its core grana is like being in the zone when playing a sport. Legacy never had grana and presumes she’ll never get into the big tennis school, which is the first step to getting to the elite level of tennis in this world. As the story moves forward we learn more about grana, about Legacy, and about this world where social class seems to matter more to people than anything else.
I can see why tennis was chosen as the sport for this story, since it’s considered a rich person’s sport for the most part. You need to rent a court or make one, and tennis rackets don’t come cheap. That doesn’t mean a poor kid with talent can’t learn how to play and be the greatest who ever lived, however. Through much of this book, we learn Legacy has what it takes thanks to fundamentals and practice, but it’s the rich kids who are exploiting their grana that are her biggest threats. They have an unfair advantage and it’s only through sheer will that Legacy draws up her own grana and begin to understand she has a power all her own. I won’t spoil what that power is, but it’s a fantastic symbol of inner strength and power.
I was expecting to read about intense and well-written tennis matches — and there certainly are exciting matches to be found here — but Matthews does a good job focusing these matches on self-doubts, the relationship between Legacy and her grana, and trying to silence the distractions. In many ways, this book reads like a guide to kids who are trying to compete but can’t get out of their own heads. More than once I rooted for Legacy because I’ve been in her shoes on a tennis court. Tennis might be one of the most psychologically difficult sports since you’re on your own. These matches are depicted well from that psychological standpoint.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
There is no getting around the fact that the writing style is written for a younger audience. There are bigger words to be found here and there and it’s certainly well written for its audience, but I found myself a bit bored with descriptions of locations and other details. The inner struggle of the character is where it’s at for all ages though.
The basic premise of the book is reminiscent of other young adult books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and in fact, it might be inspired by both. There aren’t too many adult themes running in this though, so it’s a safer bet for a younger audience.
Is it good?
I had an enjoyable experience reading all about this magical world entwined with tennis. It’s a clever idea and it’s printed in a very cool package with a tennis ball material used on the cover, bits of imagery here and there, and a nice painted detailing on the edge of every page. I highly recommend this book to young adults between 10 and 15 who could benefit the most from Legacy’s journey.
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