Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.
From the moment I picked up Children of Blood and Bone, I knew this book would be different from most YA fantasy books. First, the main characters are all black! Correction: ALL the characters are black! YES. YES. YES. I’ve waited my entire life for this kind of representation in fantasy. Second, the entire novel is set in Orïsha, a fictional West African nation. Third, the entire magic system and world-building includes elements of Nigerian culture, specifically Yoruba deities and mythology. Fourth, the themes in this book parallel issues of racism, colorism, and police brutality/state sanctioned violence in our own world. These parallels immediately jumped out at me from the first page and I think if you missed those themes, you miss a significant portion of what Children of Blood and Bone was about.
What made Children of Blood and Bone a five star read for me was the writing and the characters. If someone asked me to name one YA book with great character development, I would name this book. The characters were memorable, compelling, and different from one another. Tomi Adeyemi gave us a range of black characters and it was exceptional! I was truly in awe of each characters’ growth and the writing dedicated to developing them. Because the story is told from multiple point of views, you learn more about the characters, their experiences, and their motivation.
Zèlie Adebola is fierce, determined, and magic runs through her bones. I loved that Zèlie didn’t fall into that “unlike other girls” trope. Zèlie was the kind of representation that I dream of as a black girl; a multilayered black female character. She was strong and vulnerable and complex with fears and insecurities. Amari is the princess of Orïsha and her actions at the beginning of this book lead to the events of this book. Her growth in Children of Blood and Bone was amazingly well done. Inan is the prince of Orïsha and a tortured soul on the quest to eradicate magic forever. Inan was intense and his changes were a bit drastic but, nonetheless, I enjoyed how layered and complex his character was.
What I also loved about Children of Blood and Bone was the writing for the side characters. Sometimes, a book will have strong main characters and drop the ball on side characters. This was not the case here. The minor characters were written well and even if I hated them *cough King Saran cough*, I still understood their motives and actions. Zèlie’s brother, Tzain, didn’t narrate any of the chapters, but he was fleshed out well. He embarked on this adventure with Zèlie and I loved their relationship. I’m a sucker for close siblings in books and movies, so the feelings I got reading this were no different. Tzain and Zèlie looked out for one another even when they didn’t completely agree. Like most sibling relationships, there were some disagreements but it was realistic and didn’t feel out of character.
As for the plot and world-building, I thought it was done well. The plot twists were unpredictable and most of my reactions were “wow” and “WOW!” Going back to the themes I mentioned earlier, Tomi Adeyemi doesn’t shy away from the reality of how systems of oppression affect communities, families, and our main characters. The stakes were high. The effects were violent, gut-wrenching, and definitely moved the plot along. The world-building was descriptive and intricately detailed. Tomi Adeyemi creatively adds her own twist to familiar animals and describes the food and flora in great detail. The religion, class system, and other aspects of every day life were also detailed and reflected our world. I loved that some of the dialogue or ritual incantations were written in Yoruba. This reminded me of Black Panther because the characters spoke Xhosa in the film and included subtitles for the audience. I really loved that because I think it preserves the culture and distinctiveness of this book. Besides, high fantasy books and authors make up languages for their world all the time. I was happy Tomi Adeyemi didn’t shy away incorporating this.
I loved Children of Blood and Bone; however, the pacing was slower than I expected. This book is quite long, so I expected a lot of action. Unfortunately it didn’t pick up until over 100 pages into the story. The pacing often reminded me of Strange the Dreamer. It’s slow, but so much of that time is dedicated to world-building and character development, which can be a little difficult to balance. Once the pacing picked up, I could not put this down.
Tomi Adeyemi did not come to play and I was here for all of it! The writing was fantastic, and Orïsha is intricately developed and vibrant. Children of Blood and Bone lived up to my hype and was worth the anticipation. Not only did it live up to the hype, but the timing for the release was perfect because I listened to the Black Panther score while reading this book. AMAZING experience. I can’t wait for the next book in the series and I can’t wait for more fantasy novels like it. If you’re in the mood for magic, West African mythology, and great characters, you’ll enjoy this.
P.s. As I read Children of Blood and Bone, I couldn’t help but think of Ororo (Storm) from X-Men. My head canon is that Ororo was once a Diviner.
Have you read Children of Blood and Bone? If so, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!