Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Published: March 6, 2018
Series: Legacy of Orïsha #1
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.
An absolutely marvelous debut from Tomi Adeyemi. The world of magic is so cinematic, it was easy to see why the book was optioned for film before it was even published.
However, this book was a major let down for me with the plethora of tropes and a writing style that wasn’t really my jam. This review was so hard to write, because to be honest, I probably would have rated it a solid 4 stars if not for the romance. Because I’m in the unpopular opinion crowd and so many people love this book, I thought it was necessary to focus more on explaining the things I didn’t enjoy and why. There may be some spoilers throughout, but I have tried to mark them.
There are a lot of “older” YA themes in the beginning of this book (trigger warning: attempted rape happens in the first chapter). Because of this and the general bloodiness of the entire thing, I was expecting a more mature writing style; however, I kept thinking “this reminds me of a middle grade” throughout with the dialogue and character expression mirroring things I would expect in Percy Jackson. There were times where I was getting into the story and felt physically jolted out when this “younger” writing style switched to a bloody scene.
Some minor plot issues I had (a little SPOILERY): stopping to play in a river when you know that an entire army is coming after you. Screaming at someone (it’s even suggested others probably heard) when there is a super defended fortress you’re trying to breach down the hill from you. Stopping for a party when you’re on the deadline to “save the world.” The consequences of some of these actions had me rolling my eyes because they were just SO obvious, and you’d think the characters would learn from their mistakes the first one or two times.
The World Building
Many themes in this book are based off of mythology and other aspects of Nigeria, which makes it unique in its own right. However, because the author drew so much from a real world place, the fantasy world suffered for it. While the magic system was explained, I never felt truly immersed in the scenery which I think is necessary to be truly engrossed in a fantasy novel. I did love the magic system, and really hope it gets explored more in future installments! It’s so interesting and complex and I feel like only the surface has been scratched.
A large part of the book is attributed to the god’s favors and meddling, but there were a few instances where I found myself raising my eyebrows at how easy/convenient something turned out for the characters. A lot of these were things I believe will be a lot more forgiving in a movie format than in a book, so I can’t wait to see how it’s interpreted on the big screen.
The book often switches points of view, and I enjoyed Amari’s the best. Amari and Tzain were my two favorite characters, and seemed to be the only two that exercised common sense.
I loved the fearlessness and toughness of Zélie, but so much of her narrative was fueled by hatred and vengeance I had a hard time connecting with her while she was constantly projecting it onto others. If you’re going to learn a particular weapon so you don’t have to kill people, and preach about peace, you should practice it. (view spoiler) She doesn’t seem to learn or evolve this view throughout the book despite my hopes.
And Inan. He is one of the most indecisive MC’s I’ve ever encountered. It was very frustrating how his opinons changed drastically throughout the book, sometimes over the course of a single night.
My least favorite part of this book by far, and spoilers can not be avoided, although I will try to keep it vague. (view spoiler) The entire thing skeeved me out because of the abruptness of the switch from violence to love.
Even though this book wasn’t for me, a lot of people will enjoy it. I feel like I may have focused so much on the negatives in this book because I went into it with such high hopes of a fresh and unique YA fantasy. So many tropes are regurgitated here that I found myself guessing what would happen in advance 99% of the time. If anything, this book has convinced me I may be outgrowing YA fantasy because so many things the main character does got on my nerves.
While I didn’t enjoy the book, it’s important to recognize the importance of a strong woman of color lead – a demographic that is severely lacking in fantasy books for all ages. I’m waiting for the day where I can recommend other books with similar themes as examples of novels I did enjoy. For the time being, this book is truly in a league of its own with the messages and representation it sets out to convey in a fantasy format.
I’ll definitely be watching the movie adaptation, and may check out future books in the series to see how the conflict is resolved.