CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE | Tomi Adeyemi
Series: Legacy of Orïsha, #1
Hardcover: 531 pgs.
Publisher: Henry Holt Company
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
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 the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were 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 an enemy.
It’s taken me a while but I finally did it. And after reading, I have to say that I’m kinda really disappointed with Children of Blood and Bone.
First, the good things. One of the best parts about this book is definitely the POC representation and the Nigerian-inspired culture and mythology. Adeyemi painted a wondrous picture of Orïsha and the gods that influence the land. The most intriguing sections of the book were during the times that the author leaned into the stories surrounding the maji clans and the deities that represent them. I also enjoyed the language of the maji and the African dress.
The messages highlighting oppression, genocide, social and political tyranny, prejudice, classicism, and colorism are also pillars of strength in the novel. There is much injustice to be seen in today’s world, and Adeyemi does a great job in conveying these social issues in a narrative that may be fantastical, but also truthful at its core. Black lives matter is an inherent part of the story and the taking of innocent lives based on fear and hate is something that can easily be gleaned from Zélie and her peoples’ situation. I do respect the themes that Adeyemi explores to stir her readers, but I wish the execution in everything else had balanced out the book as a whole.
The main reason I’m having a hard time with this book is the characters. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t care all that much about the main group of characters. I can sympathize with Zélie and her situation, but she (as a character) fell awfully flat for me. Her motivations seemed thin and her relationships to others even more so. She seemed a cardboard cutout of other generic YA heroines. And unfortunately, her voice sounded far too similar to Amari‘s, the only other female character. They were interchangeable in voice and personality, and if I hadn’t read the chapter titles, I would have continued thinking one was the other. Their friendship is hastily developed by the end and their own personal journeys don’t engage me as a reader.
The other character POV we read is Inan, Amari’s brother. He would have made an interesting grey villain if his mind didn’t constantly flip-flop within the span of a single page. And his so-called “romantic” relationship with Zélie is so jarring and unwelcome that both their positions as reliable characters suffer. The only character I liked was Tzain and he barely had much to do.
Besides the characters, the writing didn’t quite capture me. There were several repetitive phrases and thoughts (Amari and Zélie’s thoughts are recycled in all their chapters) and none of the descriptions truly popped. The details, especially, about the magic system seemed half-baked. Nothing quite seemed to make much sense when someone used their magic and I wish more time was spent on what each clan magic felt like internally and looked like externally.
Again, I love the diversity and representation of this book. And I appreciate the messages Adeyemi carried within the story (the author’s note is awesome), but as a book, Children of Blood and Bone fell short for me. The characters are thinly drawn and hollow, the plot is laden with classic YA tropes and clichés, and the details are lacking where they are most needed. I truly did want to like this one more than I do, but there are just too many things that didn’t work for me.