Genre Fiction: Fantasy
Blurb They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.
Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Themes Family, Injustice, Good vs Evil, Fate vs Freewill, Love.
Editing Mostly well edited. A couple of errors (missing words).
Plot Set in a fictional pre-colonial Nigeria where majis weave powerful spells and kings reign supreme, The Children of Blood and Bone tells the tale of Zelie, a young maji trying to find herself in a land where magic has died. Oppressed by a society distrustful of the excesses of magicians and scarred by personal, violent loss, Zelie’s journey to find her voice and her power takes her out of the sheltered but hard existence in her village, across plains and seas. Zelie embarks on this journey with her brother, Tzain and Amari (the princess) to restore magic to Orisha (that’s the name of the land, not the literal deities).
For the first time since we started this blog in February this year, our reviews are opposite of each other’s so we decided to post it as two separate reviews in one post. This makes the review longer than usual. We’ll start with the not so good news and end with the good news.
Review by Lady B
As I admitted in my corner, I rarely read fantasy. However, the media hype around Children of Blood and Bone was mind numbing and this was a writer with a Nigerian heritage so I decided to give it a go. I was advised by a friend to just kind of forget about the fantasy bit and concentrate on the plot, character development, dialogue etc. as I would with any other book.
The book reads like the first novel of a talented young writer. Peppered with frequently used tropes, I expected a more complex story. We had the quest, the love affair, the jealous brother, the conflicted son trying to win the King’s approval, the great escape(s), overcoming initial failure and self-doubt to emerge triumphant, and of course, the eternal, black and white, simplistic depiction of Good vs Evil. I found some things unoriginal and unimaginative, for instance, the animals were antelopentai, cheetanaires, leopanaire etc. With all the licence fantasy gives a writer, I expected names I hadn’t heard before like Wakanda (though that’s the name of a place but hopefully, you get my point).
It was also surprisingly tedious. Dialogue was clunky and almost exaggerated. The change-in-perspective first-person narrative device was more of a distraction than anything else and didn’t provide any real insight into the individual characters and their motivations. As a result, I never found myself truly invested in any character, or in the quest they were all on. The liberal use of plot armour—convenient plot holes that keep main characters alive—also detracted from the natural flow of the tale.
Another ‘character’ that suffered from a lack of development was the world of Orisha itself. It did not feel like Africa. Away from the use of Yoruba by spell casters, the world could have been set on a distant planet in the furthest reaches of the Universe.
Finally, the resolution of the story (the epilogue) left a lot to be desired. I understand the book is the first of a trilogy, which is fine, but it read like a paperweight; like an introduction rather than a standalone story with weight and depth. The final scenes had me rolling my eyes.
As another addition to the growing library of teenage fantasy fiction, the Children of Blood and Bones is a competent addition. It read like a movie script to me and I can see how it could make for a compelling movie but it didn’t work for me as a novel. Hopefully the second and third books will have higher ambitions.
I also cannot end without talking about the Author’s Note, in which she speaks about the reasons she had to write this story. She talks about the brutality and murder of black people by the police. The emotions she expresses here ring far truer than anything in the book itself. And therein lies my dilemma: if the book was written to honour these victims, then I’m sorry it’s a poor memorial indeed.
Review by Mo
Honestly, we didn’t plan to jump on the hype train, but we had to. We had to get to the bottom of all that hype. To begin with, I hope Lady B tells you all she is not a fan of young adult (YA) and fantasy novels. But here is Children of Blood and Bones, both YA and fantasy.
The book was enjoyable. I mean, I love YA and fantasy, so… It is narrated in the first person from the perspectives of Zelie, her brother (Tzain), Amari the princess and her brother (Inan). The first thing that works for this book is the plot, it’s intriguing and intense.
Relatability: Tomi adds the Yoruba mythology and language into this book and weaves it in a manner that is acceptable. The book is not Yoruba in all aspects, the towns are named after different cities and States in Nigeria. The food and clothing and general ways of life are Nigerian. It’s so engaging you will not question why we are talking about juju. In other words, if this was a Yoruba movie you know what the audience will say. Moving on…
Character development: Zelie, our protagonist is a feisty adolescent girl who lost her mother during the raid which banned magic. As a result, she has a lot of anger in her. She trains hard so she can one day defend herself and other diviners like her. You get to observe her grow and acknowledge responsibility. You see her vulnerability. She’s afraid yet she must be strong. Her determination to meet her goal is also admirable. Amari, the timid princess, or so she was portrayed to be when we are introduced to her character, is conflicted between her loyalty to her father and the kingdom and her humanity. But we observe as she chooses a position and a side, one that was easier for her to choose once she saw what her father had done. Tzain, the sheer resilience, this young man was willing to lay down his life for the ones he loves. But his self-righteousness can be annoying.
Inan, the prince, whose task is to make sure magic isn’t returned. His character is one that leaves you conflicted, he was performing his duties yet, fighting against his own conscience, while trying to determine what was right or wrong.
The book employs vivid descriptions and the pacing also works well. If you like sword fights complete with incantation fights (just like in the epic Yoruba movies), this book is for you because there is more than enough of it. It is action packed from the first page to the last. The book is a metaphorical illustration of human behaviour. The need to subdue that which we do not understand and fear. For a debut book, Tomi Adeyemi writes well enough to capture one’s attention.
I can’t wait to see the movie!
For a book this intense, there are some scenes that leave you rolling your eyes. Some bits were a little too predictable. I guess a bit of predictability is expected because let’s face it, it’s YA and Fantasy.
Page numbers 532.
Publisher Macmillan Children’s Books.
Damage $9.99 Kindle edition. Paperback $14.97.
You can buy Children of Blood and Bone on Amazon and local bookstores.
We would love to hear from you in the comments section, so please, let us know what you think.