Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Pub Date: Mar. 2018 (read May 2018)
I was so worried this was not going to live up to the hype – The Cruel Prince was a huge letdown for me earlier this year – but this absolutely did!
Children of Blood and Bone is the hottest new fantasy novel in 2018 and is particularly exciting because of it’s representation. Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American and this is very much a West-African themed fantasy novel. I loved almost everything about this. It is well written, has interesting and well developed characters, it’s not too romance heavy, it’s gritty and dark, and it had a fast moving plot that I actually cared about!
Children of Blood and Bone is set in the land of Orisha, which is a very lush and vibrant world. It has been 11 years since the King rid Orisha of magic and executed all of the Maji (the wielders of magic). However, he left the diviners, which are the children of Maji who have not yet matured enough to develop their magic. The diviners are identifiable by the white streak in their hair and the King continues to oppress them by increasing their taxes and forcing them to do brutal manual labour in the stocks when they can’t afford to pay.
Zelie is haunted by the death of her mother, who was a Reaper until the King destroyed magic and then strung up her mother with all of the other Maji. Zelie is a diviner, but her father and brother Tzain are not and she feels a constant threat to them. The attention drawn to her as a diviner puts the rest of her family at risk too. So she trains in the ways of the staff with Mama Agba in hopes of one day being able to fight back against her oppressors.
On the other side of the Kingdom, Inan and Amari are abused by the King in an entirely different way. They are his children, heirs to the throne, but he shows them no love as he tries to toughen them up and prepare them to one day take the throne. Amari is the younger child and her father has all but given up on her. He believes her weak and she hides from him with her friend and servant Binta. But when a rare magical artifact shows up that threatens to return magic to the Kingdom, her father threatens Binta and Amari makes a choice to steal to the artifact away and in a chance encounter, teams up with Zelie to try and bring magic back. Her older brother, Inan, is commissioned to hunt down Zelie and Amari and return the artifact by any means necessary.
Zelie, Tzain, Amari, and Inan are the main characters of the story and the novel shares narration between 3 of them. This would be one of my small complaints because I was curious why Adeyemi choice not to have Tzain narrate any of the story. I thought he was a fascinating character too and I would have really like to hear things through his perspective. We mostly only get his perspective through Zelie or Amari.
I thought Zelie was a fantastic protagonist though. She’s strong but vulnerable, a leader but still flawed. She makes mistake after mistake, but she is persistent and you can’t help but love her. I feel like the author took her character through the ringer in this novel and I loved that she wasn’t afraid to take risks with the plot. Parts of it were still a little predictable, but she throws in enough twists and turns and heartbreak that it doesn’t really matter. The stakes were high.
I loved Amari too. Inan is the dark, brooding villain who you just want to see the light so badly, but you never really know if he is capable of turning against the brutal upbringing that has been ingrained into him by his father. But Amari is soft spoken and timid and I love those quieter female characters who demonstrate different kinds of strength. She struggles to fight or kill, even though she’s been trained by her father her entire life, yet her love for her friend drives her to take the ultimate risk to steal the scroll. She had so many opportunities to turn back to her cushy palace life and even though she seemed weak to Tzain and Zelie, she never seriously considers abandoning them. I’d admired her tenacity. If I’d grown up in a palace I think one look at poverty, hunger, and violence would send me running back to my tower. I love bad-ass characters like Zelie and Celaena Sardothian and Katniss Everdeen. But I also really appreciate those softer characters who fight their battles through other means. Characters like Sansa Stark and Hermione Granger and Amari.
My other minor complaint would be about the romance. I liked that the romance wasn’t central to the story, but I also had a really hard time buying into the romance at all. I feel like I was supposed to be frustrated with Tzain’s views on the romance, but I actually think he had it completely right. I might have given this 4 stars in the middle of the book because of the romance, but I ended up liking some of the outcomes of the romance and how awry things ended up going, which I thought more accurate. So it gets the extra half star because I ended up actually being impressed with where the author took some of these relationships by the end of the book.
There will of course be another book in this series and I am definitely here for it! I can’t believe this is a debut novel and I will definitely be coming back for more!