Review: Lion's Legacy

Lion's Legacy

by L.C. Rosen

Union Square & Co., 2023

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz

Tennessee Russo is a young adventurer, sharing Indiana Jones style quests with his archaeologist father and filming their expeditions for a reality show. When he realizes that his dad's methods are not entirely ethical, the pair argue and Ten goes to live with his mom. Two years later, dad returns and convinces Ten to join him in a quest for the legendary (fictional) Rings of the (real) Sacred Band of Thebes, an ancient Greek army made up of pairs of male lovers. Proudly gay Ten is eager to reclaim queer history and share it with the world. Dad, Ten, and translator/love interest Leo face danger and magic in their search for the Rings, and mend family hurts along the way.

L.C. Rosen states in an opening author's note that his purpose is to challenge the erasure of queer history that happens so often. He successfully achieves that goal, with a highly entertaining adventure fantasy that will tickle fans of Indiana Jones with direct tributes: beyond Tennessee's state-inspired name, there's his dad Henry (Indy's given name), the classic rolling boulders and trap-filled temples, and even an easygoing airplane pilot.

The Jewish content is a minor element of Ten's character. He briefly mentions celebrating Hanukkah, and describes his mom's lineage as the great granddaughter of a Greek Jew who moved to Italy and married there. While this level of representation is not enough to qualify the book for a Sydney Taylor Book Award, it is nonetheless pleasing to have a well-written magical adventure story with a Jewish protagonist. An excellent choice for all fans of rip-roaring adventure, Jewish and non-Jewish, queer and straight.
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Reviewer Heidi Rabinowitz is one of the co-admins of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze, along with Susan Kusel and Chava Pinchuck. She hosts The Book of Life Podcast: A Show About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) at Heidi is Past President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Library Director at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida.