Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi
Published: March 6th 2018 by Henry Holt Books
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Rating: 4/5 stars – ★★★★
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.
Children of Blood and Bone was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018. An epic fantasy inspired by West-African mythology by a Nigerian-American author. Yes, yes, yes. I’m so glad to see a fantasy book by a woman of color receive so much hype and praise! I finally managed to read this book during the #24in48 readathon, so let’s talk about it.
There are many aspects of this book that I loved.
The pacing of this novel! It’s so fast-paced and full of action, there’s really not a boring moment in sight. You’re constantly kept on the edge of your seat as one success for Zélie is followed by another disaster. To quote Theory of a Deadman, “it’s like one step forward and two steps back.” (I know they didn’t actually invent this saying but please tell me I’m not the only one who sang along in my head….)
The world. I am fascinated by Orïsha and its history, especially before the Raid ever happened. I wanted to learn more about maji and divîners, and the different clans based on the gifts they were given by the Gods. To be honest, I was craving more of this. I want to learn more about the different gods, and the gifts of the maji and how magic works. Usually, I would be disappointed if a book didn’t give me enough of a background to the history and religion of the people but in this one it seemed logical not to. After all, all the maji were killed during the Raid (not a spoiler at all) and only the children were left alive. Who is left to teach them about magic and all its history if everyone is dead? Because there was an actual reason to it, I didn’t mind as much.
There are also a lot of characters I’m fascinated by. I think my favorite person so far is Amari. Yup, you read it right. My favorite character is not the main character, Zélie. We’ll get into that later. I really liked seeing Amari’s growth throughout this book. I especially enjoyed the fact that she wasn’t just a princess on the run who could suddenly fight like no other and had no fears. No, the trauma created by her father left a lasting effect on her even after leaving the palace. Which is so realistic!
I didn’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t like Zélie. I think she is so fascinating. She’s such a determined and fierce woman, but at the same time she isn’t the perfect rebel who stands up to the oppression. She’s filled with so much rage, and so many suppressed emotions that it leads to her taking not-so-great decisions at times. Let’s talk about her anger for a second. While I personally can never fully understand what it’s like, because I’m privileged as a white person, I felt so much empathy for her. The things she has been through, and what her family has been put through, would fill anyone with enough rage to burn the world down. I’ll talk about that more later.
Lastly, I want to give a shout-out to a character I hate: Inan. Throughout the entire novel, there was not one moment where I didn’t think, “Go fuck yourself, Inan.”
Lastly, I adored the messages this book put forward.
This book truly made me think about a lot of aspects of discrimination, racism and oppression. It made me think about how easy it is to hurt other people and treat them like a lesser being when we stop thinking of them as human. When we start to raise ourselves above others based on skin color, religion, sexuality, or whatever we stop thinking of others as human. In this book, they use “maggot” as a slur for divîners, which portrays that lack of basic humanity. It’s one of the main parts of tyranny and oppression. After all, how can you feel bad about killing, raping and taking away the rights of an entire population when you no longer think of them as humans?
“Your people, your guards-they’re nothing more than killers, rapists, and thieves. The only difference between them and criminals is the uniforms they wear.”
It also made me think about my privilege. Amari and Inan are both members of the royal family, and have grown up with many privileges in this world. Throughout the journey in this novel, they are forced to face the truth of what happens to Zélie’s people. They can’t turn a blind eye anymore, or pretend they don’t know what is happening. And that’s when you are faced with a choice: either you help people who are less privileged than you are, or you become complicit to the oppression by doing nothing. Tomi Adeyemi portrayed that journey and choice incredibly well in this book, and it left me with a lot of food for thought.
When you’re reading this, it seems unimaginable. A world where people are treated like this just because of their skin color? Where they are kept poor, oppressed and in constant fear of being killed? It seems so cruel that it can’t be real. And you feel a certain sense of comfort because after all, you’re reading fantasy. Until you realize that this might as well be our world. Take out the magic in this book, and we’re just talking about our reality. When our society is becoming more openly racist, sexist and homophobic every day. Where people are losing their basic human rights because white people (and especially old white men) don’t think they deserve them.
I dig my hands into my hair, skin growing hot at Inan’s ignorance. How can he defend his father? How can he not see what’s truly going on? “Our lack of power and our oppression are one and the same, Inan. Without power we’re maggots. Without power the monarchy treats us like scum!”
Like I mentioned before, I am a very privileged person. I am a white cis woman, an atheist, and heterosexual. I’ve grown up in a fairly rich country with great health care and relatively cheap education. I am also very aware of the privilege I hold. And I am grateful for books like this to really wake me up and show me that doing nothing and being complacent is just as awful as actively oppressing people.
I think this is the longest review I have ever written. It’s clear that there are many aspects of this book that I truly loved, and that it sparked some serious thought processes within me. Of course, there is a reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5. So let’s talk about the one thing I intensely disliked in this book.
I hated the romance. Well, I hated the main romance with Zélie. I don’t really have anything against Amari’s, although that one didn’t make me feel anything either so it’s not like I’m shipping it. But Zélie’s romance story in this novel really made me uncomfortable. It felt weird to me. There was no chemistry, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. When you’re halfway through the book it springs up, and suddenly you’re forced to read 3 or 4 chapters that revolve almost solely around their “love” story. And I found myself either rolling my eyes or feeling incredibly uncomfortable the entire time. I am fascinated by the ending of this book and how it’ll affect the romance throughout the series, but I just couldn’t deal with it. It honestly took away my enjoyment of the book for quite a few chapters.
So that’s my review of Children of Blood and Bone. Have you read it? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Be careful not to spoil anything though, for those who haven’t read this book. I would highly recommend this book because I think it’s a solid start to a series, and I can’t wait to read the next book.