I picked up Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, the first of a new ‘young adult’ series, when I was emotionally and intellectually exhausted. It is an assault on the senses, rather like a sniff of smelling salts.
A West African tale of magic, Children of Blood and Bone tackles racially-charged violence, state-led racism and injustice, all wrapped-up in a magical quest. The Author’s Note at the end explains Adeyemi’s inspiration. “I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men, women and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and helpless, but this book was the one thing that made me feel like I could do something about it.”
Children of Blood and Bone is set in the nation of Orïsha where magic was banished in The Raid years earlier when the king ordered the death of all maji. The story is told by four teenage characters, two brother and sister pairings. Zélie’s maji mother was killed in The Raid and she is herself a diviner; her white hair marks her out as magical, but her magic is buried deep and unused. A chance meeting with runaway princess Amari sets the two girls on the trail of cherished objects which will enable Zélie to conjure the return of magic. Along the way, aided by Zélie’s sporty brother Tzarin, Zélie’s magic grows as she struggles to accept the power within her and how to control it. The appearance of the handsome prince Inan complicates things.
The book is not perfect, but this is a good debut by a young author with much promised for the rest of the series. Tzarin is a sketchy character crying out for more development, hopefully that will come in the next book, and Inan was inconsistent and therefore unbelievable. But the world building and depth of cultural reference is impressive. The pace is rather frantic and, during the first few chapters, I did wish for a stroll rather than a sprint. It takes a while to settle into a new world, to appreciate the subtleties of word and behaviour, the surroundings, the threats and opportunities. So many new magical phrases were thrown in at the beginning that I felt rather lost and almost abandoned the book. I didn’t. If you feel like I did, I urge you to continue reading and forgive any confusion or inconsistency. I wonder how much more powerful the beginning could be if the early pace were reduced by twenty per cent. When the romance became intense, I had to remind myself that they are teenagers.
The ending is a cliffhanger that I didn’t see it coming.
BUY THE BOOK
If you like this, try:-
‘The Queen of the Tearling’ by Erika Johansen
‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman
‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by @tomi_adeyemi #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3vD via @SandraDanby