I read a lot of YA. I read a lot of fantasy. It has been a long time since something has captivated me as much as Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. I had a lot of expectations going into this book, and usually that means I’m silently pleading to not be let down, but this time it lived up to my hype. A thrilling adventure with a group of compelling protagonists, this book left me spellbound and desperate for more.
Children of Blood and Bone is the first in a series of West African-inspired fantasy novels set in the fictional world of Orïsha. Orïsha used to be a land of magic, but then one night the magic disappeared. The king sent out his army to slaughter all of the maji in a blood-soaked night known as “the Raid”, and the survivors were left to pick up the pieces without any hope for the future. Zélie Adebola saw her mother die that night, and ever since then, she and her family have had to eke out a meager existence, trying not to draw the ire of the royal guards and struggling to pay the increasingly harsh taxes levied on all maji children. But a chance encounter with the princess Amara sends the two of them – along with their brothers (Zélie’s brother Tzain and Amara’s brother Inan) – on a quest to bring magic back to Orïsha.
I absolutely devoured this book. It’s almost 450 pages and I think I read it in two days. I couldn’t put it down. It’s fantastic. Orïsha is such a finely-crafted world, totally visible in my mind’s eye. Adeyemi is truly a master of words; her writing is poetic without being overly flowery and is just a delight to read. The four main characters (three POV characters) are well-written, flawed individuals. Their relationships are complex and diverse, exploring friendship, family, and romantic feelings. Their adventure is engaging and will keep you on the edge of your seat with its constant ups and downs. (And the cliffhanger at the end will probably make you shout, “NO!” the same way that I did.) There is a lot to love about Children of Blood and Bone.
It’s an excellent look at racism and classism. Diviners (maji without magic) are quite often sold into slavery, but even those who escape that fate lead miserable, fear-filled lives. They are easily recognizable by their white hair, and though there are some who dye theirs, it never truly can be hidden. Underneath the main story of bringing back magic is the discussion of whether or not magic should be brought back at all. We as readers see both sides of the issue, but I hope in future books we will learn more about the Orïsha that existed before the Raid. The information we learn comes from unreliable narrators, so I don’t believe we truly know what happened to cause it. I’m fascinated to discover what’s truth and what isn’t, and whether or not that will change my opinion of the characters and their quest.
It’s not perfect. At times, the pacing can be an issue, with the story either moving too quickly or too slowly. One of the POV characters gave me whiplash at how fast (and often) he changed his mind. Even with the limited perspective in narration, sometimes I felt like we weren’t getting the whole picture. I’m sure some of that is intentional, so that we don’t know the whole plot before it’s happened, but at times it can be frustrating, because you just don’t know where certain characters stand.
For the most part, though, Children of Blood and Bone is a breathless, action-packed adventure. It takes an underutilized topic — West African mythology — and evolves around it, creating a new world that is engaging and dangerous. It is not for the faint of heart. It may make you question your ideologies; you hear both sides of the story, and you find yourself wondering who exactly was in the wrong in that situation. Or, perhaps, were they both wrong?
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is published by Henry Holt & Co. and is available March 6 wherever books are sold.
If you haven’t yet, check out my interview with the author at last year’s SDCC!
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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