Book: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
This book was another one of my YALC prep reads, though I only finished it on the first day of YALC hence why you are getting the review of it now, and in a slightly sad turn of events, I didn’t get to meet Tomi Adeyemi in the end because her signing queue was simply too long for her to get to everyone in the time she had, awesome for her, slightly sad for me and my friend. Anyway, the hype surrounding this book was huge, so I was slightly nervous to read it in case it didn’t live up to my expectations, but thankfully, it was AMAZING and is definitely now one of my favourite books of the year. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zelie remembers when the soil of Orisha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zelie’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 Zelie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.
Zelie 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, Zelie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orisha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zelie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.
This book was just….ugh…I apologise in advance for this being a likely totally flaily and probably incoherent review but I am just super in love with this book and this world and these characters that I can’t even…..it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t get a chance to meet Tomi Adeyemi at YALC because I am totally not coherent about my love for this book yet.
Obviously the diversity in this book is absolutely amazing. I can’t even remember the last time I read a book with an all Black cast, if I ever have which I’m not sure about, so that was so amazing to see and I can’t even imagine how great it must be for Black readers to see that kind of representation on page, since I’m a white woman who never really has to think about seeing myself represented in books, so yeah, it was definitely great to have an #ownvoices all Black story and I seriously hope the success of this book means that we’ll get to see more of these types of story, particularly in fantasy novels.
I thought the world building was so great, I loved all the different maji clans and the history behind each clan’s magic, I thought Orisha as a country with all the culture, the animals, the food, the currency was really well thought out, I could have done with maybe seeing a bit more of different Orishan places, but I think overall Tomi Adeyemi did a really good job: Orisha was quite a sprawling, complex world but I felt like I really knew their history and culture and everything by the end which is always what you want. I also loved that there were ten different clans and we got to explore lots of different types of magic, I thought that was super cool. It was also interesting to have a world where religion played such a big role, I have known a lot of fantasy books that have utilised a religion of sorts but it is usually background, Zelie’s belief in her gods had a big impact on her actions in the book, so that was interesting to see.
I loved most of the characters, I thought all the main characters were well developed and complex and each went through their own journeys through the book. I wasn’t overly keen on Zelie at the beginning, I understood why she was so angry and I appreciated that Adeyemi allowed her to be angry because often girls in books aren’t, I just felt like she was unnecessarily cruel to Amari in the beginning and that she didn’t really learn from her reckless, impulsive decisions and it was left to everyone else to get her out of the mistakes she had made; I could definitely understand Tzain’s exasperation with her! I did feel like she developed through the book and I definitely felt for her pain and everything she went through, I just didn’t love her to quite the same extent as I loved Amari. Amari was definitely my fave of this book, she goes through such a journey from scared princess to powerful warrior (who still loves to do hair and makeup and is traditionally feminine, which is great to see) and I found her quite easy to root for, because she clearly wants to try and do the right thing and she’s overcome a lot of abuse from her father.
Inan, I had slightly complicated feelings about. His motivations are just as complicated as Zelie and Amari’s and you do feel bad for him, because like Amari, he is overcoming abuse from their father (Inan is Amari’s brother) but I did find his chapters rather repetitive and sometimes you just wanted to scream at him “MAKE UP YOUR MIND”. However I appreciated that Adeyemi didn’t just make him a cookie cutter villain and explored his motivations and tensions between magic and his loyalty to the crown.
Tzain was the one main character that I felt fell kind of flat. Perhaps it was because he wasn’t a POV character in this book, but it kind of felt like his only purpose was saving Zelie’s ass when she did something stupid (ie frequently) or mooning over Amari. I hope that in the next book, he gets a POV so he can be explored more because I reckon he could be really interesting, we just haven’t seen enough of him yet.
I liked that the cause for and against magic wasn’t black and white, you get to see the oppression of those with magic, which is clearly wrong, but you also get to see how dangerous magic can be, and you can sort of understand where the King is coming from even if his method of dealing with it is totally barbaric and definitely is not the way to deal. It made the book a lot more interesting than if it was just “Magic is amazing, the King is awful”.
I wish the King had been more developed as a villain though, you get some understanding of what he did to his children and what motivates him, but he did feel like somewhat of a flat villain at times and I think he could have been expanded upon more.
I loved the sibling relationships between Tzain and Zelie and Inan and Amari, though I felt like Inan and Amari’s relationship could have been more developed. However I did love that familial relationships were front and centre in this book, because so often they are ignored, so it was great to see that!
The romance was the one place where the book kind of fell flat for me and it contributed to the pacing issues I had with the book. The start of the book was a little slow, but it soon picked up but then as soon as the romance between Zelie and Inan was introduced it felt like everything slowed down and concentrated way too much on them rather than the overarching plot. I also felt like Zelie and Inan’s romance didn’t really make sense, they hated each other and then ten seconds later, they seemed to be proclaiming their love and planning for a new Orisha together. It didn’t feel earned, so I wasn’t invested in it at all. Tzain and Amari’s relationship never really developed past the crush stage, but I kind of had to wonder why that was there, since it was a little weird to have all four characters paired up with each other, especially since they were two groups of siblings! Personally, I felt the romance feels more from Zelie and Amari and seriously hope they become a thing in the next book, since I definitely read possible lesbian vibes between Amari and her maid and I’m pretty sure, whether she’s bisexual or a lesbian, Amari definitely didn’t read as straight to me!
There were so many great action sequences but at times it did feel like the violence was a bit gratuitous, like the whole boat death match sequence, they could have got the stone another way and it didn’t really add much to the book.
The chapters were generally quite short which I appreciated-it made the book a lot more easily digestible for me as I was mostly reading it on my bus journeys to and from work!
I loved having the map and the explanations of the different Maji clans at the beginning, they were very useful to refer to throughout the book and the map was beautiful!
I’m always a bit wary about the use of mind reading powers in books as there are a lot of iffy issues with consent there, and I found that as well as that, there were generally a couple of iffy scenes where the girls would say no to something (like Amari not wanting to dance and then Tzain dragging her to do it anyway, and Inan pushing Zelie up against a tree) and the boys would ignore them and I felt like that could have been easily rectified or at least acknowledged.
It would have helped me if there had been a glossary for the unfamiliar Yoruba words, I loved the inclusion of the language but it would have been nice to know how to pronounce those words I was reading!
This book explored so many really important issues, prejudice, colourism, slavery, police brutality, it was great to see these things talked about in such an open way as they are all really important things that we definitely need to talk about more.
The alternating three POVs were for the most part done really well, though on occasion, particularly between Zelie and Amari’s POVs, I would get confused as to which character was narrating!
I did generally like Adeyemi’s writing style, though it did seem slightly overwritten in parts and occasionally, the dialogue was overly formal and stilted. Plus the dreaded “breath she didn’t know she was holding” line appeared and I know it can be a genuine thing in anxiety to not realise that you are holding your breath, but I wish authors could find a different way to express it because it’s so overused!
The author’s note at the end, explaining her inspirations for the book was extremely powerful and if you don’t usually read the author’s notes then definitely do this time because she explains her real life inspirations for the book, and it was quite heartrending to read.
THE END, OH MY GOSH THE END, THAT WAS JUST MEAN. I did feel like the end was a little rush, because of all the romance stuff in the middle, by the time we got to the end, it felt like both the author and the characters were racing through and I really needed a second to take a breath! Having said that, I loved the way everything wrapped up, even though that ending was cruel, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.
Overall, I really loved this book, despite the few small problems I had with it, and can definitely understand why everyone has been hyping it up so much, it’s a wonderful, diverse, fantasy world with great characters and a great plot and 2019 cannot come soon enough because I NEED to know what happens next. Definitely a top book of 2018 for sure!
My Rating: 4.5/5 (0.5 off for the pacing problems and my lack of love for the romance)
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Zelie and Amari talk about magic and the things they need to do to save Orisha.
My next review will be of my current Netgalley read, Fawkes, a retelling of the Gunpowder plot, which I’m really enjoying.