Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi was a really intriguing book for me. I've heard some mixed reviews of this book, but the majority of feedback I've heard about this book was positive. As usual, rather than taking the word of other people, I had to find out for myself. I happened to be browsing the shelves at my local library (I really do love the library, if you can't tell) and figured I'd grab this, especially since it's been on my TBR list for months.
TRIGGER WARNING: torture
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames. Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed once magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, the 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, Zèlie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leopanaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest threat may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers — and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Orïsha is a fantasy world based on West Africa, which is a welcome change from the Caucasian dominated fantasy world. The characters are divided into two groups — the kosidán, or non-magic bearing people, and the divîners, who would have had the potential to become maji, but cannot since the the disappearance of magic in their world. The maji are easily distinguished by their white hair and silver eyes. There’s an elaborate culture surrounding the maji, who have their own belief system.
The magical language is Yoruba, a tongue that has been banned since all maji were killed over a decade ago. The foods, dress, and various terms used throughout the book are actual West African words, but the animals referenced are different: snow leopanaires, cheetanaires, lionaires, etc.
The story is told from the perspective of three of the four main characters.
Zélie is a strong and determined girl. She’s young, hurt, and angry, and often acts without thinking of the consequences of her actions. Her older brother Tzain serves as a guide to keep her in check, but sometimes his emotions get in the way as well. She shows some growth over the course of the book, and I was impressed with the lengths that Zélie was willing to go for her people.
Amari is the character that I think grew the most over the course of the book. She’s a shy and quiet princess initially, cowed by her overpowering father and overbearing, controlling mother. After seeing a horrific event, something in Amari snaps and she defies everything she has been taught and she runs away from her home. Something draws her to Zélie, and she winds up working with them.
Inan is definitely the character with the most conflict. He’s the crown prince, destined to follow in the footsteps of his father. As he works hard to track down Zélie and Amari, he starts to see differently from what he’s always been taught. He wavers in his single-mindedness, but struggles with the new and different point of view. He wants to see things clearly, but he also struggles with gaining approval from his father.
There are clear themes of discrimination in this book. Early on, we see the divide between kosidán and divîner, between lighter skinned and darker skinned characters, and how poorly the divîners are treated. They are often called maggots, and heavy taxes are imposed on them and their families, which are next to impossible to pay.
There were a lot of things I really loved about this book. I think it’s important to have own voices literature. Minorities have been traditionally underrepresented in so many forms of mainstream literature, and when they were included, it was rarely in an accurate or flattering way. With the rise of authors writing about their own cultures, or at least elements of their own cultures, it allows for a richer and more relatable experience.
One thing that I especially enjoyed about this book was the emphasis on how beautiful dark skinned characters were in many places throughout the story, and the use of incredibly descriptive terms to depict them. There were good and bad characters, but each one was multi-faceted. No single character was all good or all bad — they had nuances that made them real. Everyone had flaws and positive characteristics, they had reasons for acting the way they did, even if it wasn’t always the best or most reasonable course of action.
While the book was a long one, the action and suspense kept me engaged and flying through the story. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. I liked the characters, and was interested in their arcs. I loved how everything converged, especially since the chapters are told from various points of view, often from different locations throughout the story.
The only thing I didn’t love is that the ending felt a little rushed. While there was some closure, I didn’t feel as though I was fully satisfied with how it ended — I felt like it ended on a cliffhanger. I’m planning to read the next book because I want to know what happens next, though. I’ve heard that the book is being adapted for a movie, which sounds amazing.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 20
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars