An Epic Fantasy Series Falters in “Children of Virtue and Vengeance”
Continuing along in my “Books I’m Finally Reading” list is Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the highly-anticipated sequel to Tomi Adeyemi‘s best-selling epic fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone. As enamored as I was with the first book, this second installment just didn’t capture the same kind of magic.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance continues where the first book left off. Magic has returned to Orïsha, but the maji are not the only ones who possess it. The war is ongoing, with maji storming Lagos and trapping the nobles in the city. Zélie and Amari return to find a country in turmoil; the maji are distrustful of Amari, and she and Zélie struggle to unite them against an extremely powerful enemy.
I was unfortunately disappointed with this second outing. I was so in love with the first book, and I think the delayed publishing date may have led to me hyping up this book too much. Maybe if I had reread Children of Blood and Bone beforehand, I wouldn’t have been so let down, but this book didn’t grab me as much as the first one.
The world-building is still fantastic. Adeyemi has created such an amazing world with Orïsha, with a detailed magic system and history, and when so much work goes into that level of development, it’s difficult to lose it as you continue. And seeing the magic in action was incredible. Likewise, this is still an action-packed adventure at a fast pace. At times, it was too fast-paced. Children of Virtue and Vengeance could have dealt with a few more moments to just breathe.
My main issues with this book lie, surprisingly enough, with the characters.
I really felt for Amari, who risked a lot to help Zélie restore magic to Orïsha only for it to kind of backfire on them, and to have everyone basically hating her and ignoring her contributions. But by the end of the book, she had spiraled so far in the opposite direction that I genuinely wondered if I had missed a chapter or two.
Zélie, meanwhile, was a one-woman pity party. Every character had gone through hell, had lost people, had made sacrifices, yet she acted as though she was the only one who needed to grieve, or felt guilt.
And poor Tzain was essentially just set dressing. With so many new characters, and him being one of the only ones without magic, he sadly didn’t have much to do this time around.
Miscommunication is one of my least favorite plot devices in a drama. It is unbelievably frustrating when you know that so many problems would be solved if the characters would just talk to each other, but no one will give anyone else the chance to speak. Zélie and Amari are both guilty of this; they are both firmly set in their beliefs and opinions and nothing will sway them. You just want to reach into the book and shake them.
I also could have done without the love triangle. Zélie bounced back and forth between Inan and Roën so often that I almost got whiplash.
I believe this book suffered from “middle book syndrome”. Crafting the second book in a trilogy is a delicate task; it must build on the events of the first book while setting up the third one, keep you attached to the characters you grew to love, and not go completely off the rails. The issue with this book is that it’s all over the place. The characters suffer in a story that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be or where it wants to go.
I loved the emphasis on the cycle of hatred, which is one of the only redeeming qualities about the frequent lack of communication between characters. It was clear that Adeyemi was trying to bring home the point that if you give into your anger and let your prejudices rule your behavior, it only fans the flames. Everything Inan, Amari, and Zélie did to end the war was undermined in some way that led to things getting worse.
But the ending came out of nowhere, and it felt very much like it was thrown in there just to give enough plot for a third book.
In short, Children of Virtue and Vengeance was not a bad book, per se, but I am placing a lot of faith in the final installment to bring everything back around.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi is published by Henry Holt and Co and is currently available wherever books are sold.
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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