They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Our latest pick for book club was Children of Blood and Bone, author Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel and one of 2017's most hyped YA releases. It had a movie deal before it was even released and promo was all over bookstagram for like a month. Advertising works, so I had it in my mind to read it soon. I'm glad I did end up reading it, and I’m particularly glad we made it a book club pick, because I had people to talk about it with! There’s so much that happens and so much to pick through that it makes for a great buddy read for YA fantasy fans.
Here's the synopsis:
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.
Children of Blood and Bone takes place in the African-inspired kingdom of Orïsha, which Adeyemi expertly immerses you in right from page one. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets The Grisha Trilogy meets West African cosmology. It’s a lot, and it’s great. As Children of Blood and Bone is the first book in a planned trilogy, it’s full of rich world-building and every detail helps you dive further into the world of Orïsha.
The story itself is lightning-paced. At times I wish it took more time to breathe; it felt like a five hundred-page chase scene (it kind of was), which made some of the bonding between characters feel weirdly sudden. All four of our main characters, Zélie, Tzain, Amari, and Inan become inextricably tied together from a plot perspective early on in the book, but their relationships, platonic and otherwise, felt like they needed more time to develop. And when I say this, I’m thinking mostly of Zélie and Inan. It was the classic "I'm drawn to my enemy" dynamic, but as Adeyemi actually points out, prejudice isn’t something a person can simply overcome in a day, nor is it something that's easily forgiven. The relationship, consequently, felt weirdly rushed.
The prejudice that exists in Children of Blood and Bone is heavily influenced by racism in America. Adeyemi notes at the end of the book that Children of Blood and Bone was inspired by the shooting of Black Americans by American police, but even without the note, the systematic oppression of Maji in Orïsha has clear parallels to oppression that exists in our own world. This was one of the most well-done aspects of the book, as Adeyemi illustrates the problems Orïsha is burdened with as awful, deeply ingrained parts of society that can't be fixed overnight. It’s compelling, and it makes me want to know how our characters will proceed with these daunting problems in mind.
Everyone in book club was left excited for the sequel, and our meeting was full of healthy debate about the politics of Orïsha, whether a certain character was dead or alive, and what’ll happen in the upcoming sequel. My favourite character was Amari, but many people liked Inan for his character arc. And many of us were wondering if we’d get (spoiler?) POV chapters from Tzain in book two. We also discussed a few of YA and fantasy tropes that cropped up in the book—a certain desert showdown, certain relationships, and the magic number three. (Personally, I think the character who’s current state of being is unknown is totally alive.)
I’m hoping for slower character development and a bit more breathing room in book two. I’m also just so, so excited to jump back into Orïsha and see what happens to Zélie and co. next!
While I did find the book a little too fast-paced, I’m still giving Children of Blood and Bone 4.5 stars. It’s an excellent debut novel and a great read—made even better when you have people to talk about it with!
If you’ve read the book, what did you think? What did you like/dislike about it? What are your thoughts book two?