Title: “Children of Blood and Bone”
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Pages (hardcover): 525 pages
Original Publishing Date: 6 March 2018
Synopsis (from the inside flap):
“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames. Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
“But everything changed once magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, the 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 crowned prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
“Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leopanaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest threat may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers — and her growing feelings for the enemy.”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- blood and gore
- character death
- flashbacks of traumatic experiences
Representation in the novel:
- black girl main character
- all other characters are also black (or at the very least, non-black POC)
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi follows four characters: Zélie and Tzain (brother and sister) and Amari and Inan (crown princess and prince, also brother and sister). Zélie is a maji, someone with magical capabilities. After she saves Amari, the crown princess, and her village is burned down, she goes with Amari and Tzain on a journey to bring magic back to Orïsha. Inan races after them to try and kill Zélie and, ultimately, stop magic from ever coming back.
I really enjoyed reading this. There’s a moderate amount of action without being overwhelming; there’s always something going on, but it isn’t too quick where I had to re-read passages to understand what was happening. The world-building was also very cool; however, I was a tad confused about the relations between the monarchy and the maji before the current king. I might have been distracted when I was reading that portion, but I hope it’s built upon in the later two books. I especially liked how spirituality/religion tied in with the magic. It may not be particularly unique (I’m sure there’s other novels out there with the same idea), but it was still beautiful to read about. I could feel the hurt and trauma that the maji went though at the hands of the ruthless king.
The characters were also enjoyable to read. They’re all flawed, and none of them are “perfect.” My favorite is probably Amari, but that might be because I’m a sucker for the “helpless princess becomes a total badass” trope. I just loved seeing her character develop as the novel goes on. The different POV chapters (one being Amari’s) helps immensely with this. The reader gets to be inside Zélie’s, Amari’s, and Inan’s heads to be the first to see their reactions. And, uh, that last battle scene with Amari? I flat-out cheered for her. She grew so much throughout this journey.
But, I do have to say…There’s a particular romance in the book that I’m not too fond of. I think it might be pretty obvious, but for the sake of spoilers, I won’t who it includes. I do want to say, though, that it seems insta-lovey to me, and I’m not a fan at all of insta-love. Never have been. And it’s okay if you like it! More power to you! But it isn’t my cup of tea. Just the romance itself and who it entails, though, is just….I don’t know. I feel like if it was done differently, it might be okay? But I dunno, I’m not really buying it. And as far as I know from reading the novel, I don’t think it lasts? But it all sort of made me uncomfortable.
Overall, though, I absolutely loved Children of Blood and Bone. The magic system and its ties to spirituality were beautiful, and this is coming from an atheist who knows the bare minimum, or less than, for most religions. This was the first book I read where the entire cast of characters were either black or at least non-black people of color. 99% sure there were no white characters, so that’s pretty rad. The main trio of characters, Zélie, Tzain, and Amari, were fun to read, and the plot was moving. Sure, there were some tropes and cliches that have been done before, but after 1001 books with all-white casts of characters, don’t you think that black readers deserve to see themselves in these tropes and cliches, and enjoy them, too? And besides, tropes aren’t inherently bad things. A ton of people enjoy them, even if some could be overdone. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2018 so far.
P.S. I totally coded two characters as queer, and I know it probably won’t be canon for either of them, but a girl can dream.