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.
Let’s start with talking about the world, because I am a sucker for world-building. Orïsha was unlike anything I can bring to mind. Obviously, a lot of your familiar fantasy trappings are there – kings, princesses, gods, destinies, magic – but it was really interesting and refreshing to see them in a setting that was distinctive and original. I found myself easily visualising the characters’ surroundings while reading. (Although I did sometimes feel like the suffix -airewas just tacked onto the name of every animal – cheetanaire, lionaire, leponaire – to make it sound just different enough, and I wished that could have been more varied, but that’s really a small criticism.) I also found Tomi Adeyemi’s ability to make the reader feel the pain and anger that comes with constant oppression unsettlingly good. Children of Blood and Bone would be excellent reading for someone who doesn’t understand how pervasive and insidious discrimination can be. (And, if you’ll allow me a moment to lecture, this is why having diverse voices in a genre is important. I do not believe that a white writer could tell this story nearly as effectively simply because we’re never on the receiving end of that sort of bigotry.)
The characters were also strong. I thought, going in, because of how the description was written, that Zélie was going to be our main character, but this is a three-perspective fantasy. There’s Zélie, of course, but there’s also Amari, the runaway princess, and Inan, the prince hunting them down. All the characters grow so much over the course of the story, and I never felt like I had a favourite or least-favourite POV. I also found the different POVs were well used to show the depth of the characters and the difference between how they show themselves to the world and what’s going on in their heads. It never seemed disconnected, but, especially for Zélie, how she felt and what she let others see was very different, and I think her character wouldn’t be as rich if we didn’t see both. Basically, what I’m saying was that the different POVs enhanced each other and the story wouldn’t be as rich if it only had one.
The action was fast-paced and easy to follow, although I did guess the ending before it came. Still, I felt that the ending was strong, and I’m intrigued to see what the implications are for the next book. Also, the pace was impressive. This is a book with 500-and-some-odd pages, but I never felt like the pace was dragging or I was in a section that ought to have been shaved down to make it more engaging.
All in all, while I do wish there had been a bit less hype around this book, Children of Blood and Bone is a strong, entertaining start to a promising fantasy series. I’m really interested to see how the next book deals with the repercussions of the first one.