Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orisha #2)

46028547. sy475

Book: Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orisha #2)

Author: Tomi Adeyemi

BECHDEL TEST: PASS: Zelie and Amari talk about magic whilst they are training.

Content Warnings: Death, violence, war, genocide, racial slurs, PTSD, mentions of suicidal thoughts

It’s been almost two years since I read Children of Blood and Bone, so I have to admit, going into this that there were definitely things I had forgotten from the first book, though I don’t know how much that impacted my thoughts on this one! Anyway, almost two years on from a book that you really loved, you’re bound to have high expectations, Children of Blood and Bone was one of my favourite books of 2018 and I was massively excited for the sequel. Sadly, it didn’t live up to the high expectations I had from the first book: I don’t know if the long wait contributed to that, but it definitely felt like this book suffered from middle book syndrome. It felt like this book was just going around in circles, it couldn’t quite decide where it wanted to go and much of the character development from the first book was reversed. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance is the stunning sequel to Tomi Adeyemi’s New York Times bestselling debut Children of Blood and Bone, the first title in her Legacy of Orïsha trilogy.

I’ll start with my biggest issue in this book, which was the characters. THEY FRUSTRATED THE HELL OUT OF ME and any development that they had over the course of the first book was completely erased.

Amari, who went on this amazing journey in the first book, seemed to really backslide in this one. I could understand her being more trusting of her brother than Zelie, but she definitely came across as overly naive. She also acted really out of character for a lot of the book: she shows a lot of disrespect for the Maji’s culture, perhaps not intentionally and she seems to have had a severe personality shift as she aims to win the war no matter the consequences. I honestly don’t see how she can be redeemed for her actions towards the end of this book, and it really jarred with her character because the Amari from the first book was kind and caring and just wanted to make things better and in this book, no matter how well meaning she might have been initially, she just comes across as power hungry by the end. She’s convinced that her ideas are the best and gets frustrated when the Maji won’t listen to her but she makes no real attempts to get to know them and their culture. It’s a shame because I really loved Amari in the first book, and I did feel for her at the beginning but she grated on me more and more as the book went on. I also didn’t really understand why she kept drawing on what her father would have thought, when she clearly wasn’t a massive fan of him and wanted to be a different kind of Queen.

Zelie, I also had similar issues with. I do understand that she was suffering from some PTSD after the death of her father, but she felt kind of stuck, like she hadn’t really developed from where she was in Children of Blood and Bone. She’s angry (which she has every right to be) but she’s also kind of self-obsessed with her own pain and refuses to acknowledge the pain others might be feeling. She’s also incredibly stubborn and her own desire for revenge overtakes listening to anyone who might have different ideas than she does. Objectively, I don’t think Zelie would make a good ruler and I don’t think she really wants to be either. She seems to have blinders on for most of this book, and it was incredibly frustrating watching her pursue paths that were unlikely to succeed and ignore any other suggestions just because they didn’t fit within her desire for revenge.

Inan honestly didn’t change at all from the first book. I honestly feel like it would have been better if he had just died in the first book because he didn’t really add anything here. His character arc from the first book was really just repeated and he didn’t really develop at all, he’s still weak and easily manipulated. Nehanda could have done his entire plot alone, and honestly it would have been more compelling.

Tzain still feels utterly pointless. In this sequel where pretty much everyone has magic, the big brother who doesn’t seems pretty useless and he didn’t really add anything to the plot, other than to be a romantic interest for Amari. I also found it strange that Zelie never once acknowledged Tzain’s loss: they both lost their father and yet Tzain’s grief doesn’t get a look in? It seemed like a bit of an oversight to not even have a single conversation between the two of them about that.

Once again, the romance in this book feel flat for me. Tzain and Amari seemed to have absolutely no chemistry, and you can definitely tell that they were only originally paired up as they were the two with no magic. Roen and Zelie, whilst somewhat better than Inan and Zelie, definitely felt a lot like insta-love, I barely remembered them being into each other in the first book? Though I will admit that I barely remembered Roen from the first book.

I still don’t understand why Zelie and Amari can’t be a THING! They have so much more chemistry together than the other characters, and Amari even describes her as the “girl she loves”.  There is one lesbian couple in this, but it does still by and large feel like a very heteronormative world.

I also wasn’t massively happy with the way Zelie and Amari were pitted against each other in this book, it’s 2020, girls being pitted against each other is really not the kind of story that I want to read.

Pacing was also an issue in this one. The chapters are incredibly short, you jump very quickly from one to the next which means you’ve barely settled into one character’s POV before you’re shunted into another one. This meant it was quite difficult to keep track of who was narrating at which point without looking at the title headers. Despite the constant shifts however, the actual plot itself is relatively slow paced, they spend a whole lot of time planning for battles, which although necessary is not that interesting to read about! It’s also difficult to keep track of time in this book

The plot in this basically goes around in circles, and by the end, you’re not entirely sure that they’re much further ahead than when they were at the start. The entire structure of the book can basically be put like this: fight the monarchy, fail, fight them again and repeat till the end. The first book they had a clear goal, bring magic back which they did. This book, the goal is still simple but I think because this series is meant to be a trilogy, Adeyemi had to bring up all these stumbling blocks because “Defeat the monarchy” can’t be achieved as a goal till the end. I almost wonder if it might have been better if this series had been a duology and this book had been expanded, then perhaps the plot in this one might not have suffered so much? I’m not sure.

I still could have used a glossary to explain what some of the incantations meant, a lot of them seemed quite similar, so actually knowing what the English was would have helped me know what they were actually meant to do. Still, I did love that this book had more magic in it and it was great to get to see what all the different types of Maji could do.

I did think that Queen Nehanda was a far more interesting villain than Saran, though I didn’t really understand her motivations? I mean King Saran’s family was killed by the Maji, so that makes sense why he would hate them, but she doesn’t really seem to have any motivation? I’d like to learn a bit more about her, though I doubt we will, since she isn’t a POV character.

The world building in this was still good, but I did have some quibbles about the magic, it seemed like the characters were simply able to do whatever magic they needed to when they needed it without any limits or restrictions. Even the limits on the moonstone seemed easily removed when it was necessary for the plot. The writing was still good, though there was a little too much repetition of certain words and phrases in places.

The epilogue for this was super confusing, where the last book ended off in a really exciting place, though this one is still a cliffhanger, I was more confused about what happened. I would have been okay if it had left off where it left at Chapter 90, the epilogue just got me more confused!

Overall, this book definitely suffered many of the classic problems facing second books in a trilogy, and whilst it was by no means a bad book, I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as the first. I’m hoping that the third and final book of this trilogy will live up to the promise set by the first book, because this sequel definitely didn’t.

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of my May #RockMyTBR book, The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy, by Mackenzi Lee, the second book in the Montague Siblings series.

 

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1) Review

36859561

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.