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. 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. 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. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Themes Explored: death, magic, fantasy, family, religion, tribalism, pain, emotions, destruction, depression, sibling relations, jungle exploration, angst, mythology, teaching, training, weapon training, realism
Review: Following the pattern of most young adult fantasy novels, Children of Blood and Bone follows the adventures of an angry, but deeply vulnerable, young woman hell bent on bringing down an evil monarchy. Children of Blood and Bone presents a fantastical world set in an African inspired setting. I picked up this book based solely upon cover and I came away with mixed feelings.
Take away all the fantastical elements and Children of Blood and Bone, follows a basic revenge tale. Zélie is a maji, a person meant to wield elemental magic for the benefit of the people of Orïsha. Years earlier during Zélie’s childhood, the King of Orïsha ordered a raid that killed most of the maji, including her mother, and subjugated the survivors. Due to their distinctive white hair, maji cannot disappear into the general population. They and their families live in fear.
Princess Amari and Crown Prince Inan live in the luxury of the royal palace. The King raised them to become cold, overly logical, and to put the good of Orïsha above themselves. After a cruel act causes Amari to reassess life, she escapes from her gilded cage with a mysterious scroll. Zélie and Amari become unlikely allies and journey across Orïsha. Unfortunately, Inan is tracking them in order to prove himself a worthy heir.
As a character, Zélie vacillates between cold and bratty. One trend in modern young adult literature is that characters are meant to be “inspiring” if they survived some traumatic experience and bring it up all the time. In this case. Zélie watched her mother die, which is quite traumatic. However, Zélie allows this event to completely dominate her life to the detriment of her other familial relationships. Both her brother and father suffer because Zélie refuses to grow up a little bit, admit that losing her mother scarred her forever, and move on to other things. I get the feeling that the author intends for Zélie to come across as a Katniss Everdeen type character. But Zélie whines an awful lot. While teenagers experience existential angst-I certainly did and still do on some occasions-experiencing it and reading about it are two different things. Reading about angst on a continual basis drags the narrative down in a negative way. For a supposedly inspiring character, Zélie dos not possess an abundance of positive character traits. Zélie does not experience much character development in this book, she just goes from bratty without powers to incredibly arrogant with powers. Hopefully her likeability will even out in the next installment.
Princess Amari and Prince Inan fulfill the typical royal stereotypes. Amari is the pretty princess with an unseen spine of steel. Inan represents male physical perfection but allows self-doubt and paternal disapproval rule his emotions. Even though they both play rather significant roles in the narrative, neither of them stands out in a memorable way. Other than Zélie, none of the characters possess strong development arcs.
The one things that makes Children of Blood and Bone an enjoyable read, in my opinion, is the world building. Inspired by Africa, the world of Orïsha contains jungles, savannahs, mountains, and valleys. Each place includes different tribes, cultures, and animals. Few fantasy novels takes place in Africanesque places, so the novelty is cool. I enjoyed all the different location descriptions and the exploration into the mythology of the maji.
As a fantasy novel, Children of Blood and Bone reads a lot like nearly all other young adult fiction out at the moment. Take away the fantastical Afican setting and the narrative could take place anywhere. However, as a first novel, I think the author did a decent job of making her characters come together. Tomi Adeyemi’s strength lies in the world building and the mythology of her magical system. Hopefully the next installment will smooth out some of the rougher edges in the narrative.
Children of Blood & Bone, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2018, ISBN: 9781250170972