Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Books
Publication date: 08 March 2018
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 544 pages
Format: Paperback proof
Rating: Five out of five stars
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Children of Blood and Bone — it has taken the publishing world by storm. With hype surrounding this book literally from the moment it sold, I think it makes sense to be cautious — most of us have been burned by hype before. However, I’m here to tell you that this book is worth every ounce of hype it has earned and more. It has taken me almost two months to write this review because 1) I just couldn’t quite translate my feelings on this book into real words and 2) I wanted this to be a well-rounded review instead of a gushing one.
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.
So first, let’s tackle the setting and world building. I think it’s safe to say that Children of Blood and Bone’s African setting is pretty unusual in fantasy, especially in YA fantasy. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read a book with a similar setting. Zélie’s journeys take her from her fishing village home to the jungle, the mountains, the sea, and the desert. She travels through poor towns, urban slums, ancient temples, and corrupt cities. Adeyemi creates an incredibly full and vivid world — she doesn’t skimp on the detail. It’s not surprising that this book has already been optioned for a film — it has a very cinematic quality.
Zélie’s world is filled with colour and beauty, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous, tragic, and horrific. The tensions between her people and the conquering force weighs on the reader like a heavy blanket. This tension is partially fed by the fact that the loss of magic is still felt by the maji — the events that led to the eradication of magic in Orïsha only happened 11 years prior. Adayemi’s choice to set the events of the book at this particular period in time was incredibly effective.
One last thing regarding world building that I wanted to mention is something that seems small and unimportant, but really struck me. Zélie’s mother was a Reaper, a maji who can summon and control the souls of the dead. Typically, this would be seen as dark magic and feared — instead Reaper powers are celebrated among her people. I am racking my brain and cannot come up with a single other fantasy novel that casts this kind of magic in a positive light. I just loved this particular detail within the world.
We have three main points of view throughout Children of Blood and Bone. Zélie, of course, is one of them. She’s our strong but damaged heroine, the girl determined to bring magic back and avenge her people. While she’s actually not my favourite character, I found her particularly compelling. Zélie really embodies the fear of her people. Her own fear is so visceral and although she has prejudices of her own, you really understand why she thinks and acts the way she does. The PTSD she suffers after witnessing the violent murder of her mother and the anger she feels on the behalf of her people are constant themes throughout the book. Although I didn’t agree with all the decisions she made in the book, I really understood them.
Amari and Iman are our other two points of view. I don’t want to say too much about them, but they are the children of Saran, the king who cruelly eradicated magic and conquered Zélie’s people. Amari, the princess, is my favourite character in this book. She doesn’t have the strongest overall growth, but she denies the comfort and power her position brings in order to right her father’s wrongs. She’s cautious of magic — she has been raised to fear it — but her friendship with a murdered maji girl helps pull her through. She’s underestimated at every turn, incredibly kindhearted, and most importantly sits back and listens when she learns of the true impact of her father’s actions.
Iman is our other POV character — he is Amari’s brother and the crown prince. Unlike Amari, he follows in his father’s footsteps and despises magic, the power it brings to others, and the threat it poses to Saran’s rule. He’s hunting Zélie and his sister and they are desperately trying to stay ahead of him. I absolutely loved Iman. He’s a tormented and grey-area character (my favourite kind). I absolutely loved his character arc and just found him so compelling.
So I have a couple of nitpicky things that I didn’t like about Children of Blood and Bone. The first, and most obvious to other who have read it, is the instalove aspect. I really don’t like instalove — it’s just so incredibly shallow and cheap and I don’t believe for a second that those relationships will survive the events of a book or series. The one couple in this book that I’m thinking of is the worst. You really don’t get the feeling that they like each other for any reason other than the fact that both people happen to be hot. There’s no chemistry there at all. The other thing is that I really disliked Zélie’s brother Tzain. While I didn’t agree with every decision Zélie made, as stated above, I could at least understand her. I didn’t get Tzain at all. He’s just pig-headed, obnoxious, and is only there to make her life more difficult — he’s such a flat and boring character. Fortunately he isn’t one of our POVs — he is just the kind of male character I really dislike reading about.
The only other small issue I had is one that I think will be amended in later books, when there will actually be time to dive in and explain all of this. We really get no feel for the magic system at all in Children of Blood and Bone. I wish we learned more about magic and how it worked. I know there are many more types of maji than are described in this book and I just wanted more. To be fair though, magic no longer exists in Orïsha — we don’t exactly get much of a chance to see it in action. Because of that fact, I’m pretty forgiving about this.
Overall, I really loved Children of Blood and Bone and thought it was well worth the hype that it has earned. Tomi Adeyemi really brought this incredible world to life and I loved every second I spent in Orïsha. Although I had some tiny issues, they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story at all. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
The one thing I will say is that this review is, of course, coming from a white American woman. I don’t know how the African inspiration fits in with her story. So if you’ve done and Own Voices review for this book or have seen any around, please send me a link! I don’t think I’ve seen a single one yet, which is such a shame.
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