Book: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Age/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Preferred Reading Environment: Anywhere with a nice view of the outdoors- preferably looking out into the desert or a mess of trees.
Reading Accoutrements: I feel like this would be a great book to read while sick or injured. Our characters go through some physically painful moments, so pull up a heat pad or an ice pack to nurse your aches and pains while you commiserate with them.
Content Notes: This book contains racism, physical violence, and war trauma.
I don’t know when I first heard about Children of Blood and Bone, but I first decided to read it when Lindsay Ellis included it in her PBS “It’s Lit” segment on fantasy novels. I already knew it was supposed to be really good, so seeing the name again was the tipping point that caused me to put it on my reading list.
In Orïsha – the land where Children of Blood and Bone takes place – human connection to magic has been lost for years since the king had everyone with magical abilities (known as Maji) killed. The children of Maji, called divîners and identified by their white hair, have been oppressed ever since, aggressively taxed, and put to work as unpaid laborers when they are forced into debt.
Children of Blood and Bone is told in first person narrative, rotating between the perspectives of three characters:
Zélie is a divîner, whom the gods have marked with the ability to do magic. Children of Blood and Bone starts out showing Zélie training to fight with a staff in secret with a group of young girls led by an elder of their small village. This scene was powerful to me because it shows not only the ways women have historically managed to fight oppression in secret, but also that there will always be people who refuse to give up in the face of oppression. Zélie must fight for her life to restore magic to the kingdom against the king and the ongoing oppression she faces as a divîner.
Amari is the princess of Orïsha, daughter of the king whose goal is to remove all traces of magic from the land regardless of the death toll. She has never left the palace and has grown up sheltered and lonely, with only one real friend – a divîner and servant.
Inan is Amari’s brother, Prince of Orïsha and heir to the throne. He spent his life being groomed by his father to continue his legacy of keeping Orïsha magic-free.
Our main plot begins when Amari fleas the castle with a magical artifact with Zélie’s help and Inan is sent to capture them.
This book has all the hallmarks of an epic fantasy novel. Our characters have a TON of tension between them. The hero needs to come to terms with her flaws in order to fight for the greater good. There is an extremely short amount of time in which the quest needs to be completed, making the book action-packed while still allowing for characters to reflect on their actions and the events surrounding them.
Bouncing between the different character’s perspectives allows many chapters to end on a suspenseful note. This made me really want to keep reading. I’d say “just one more chapter” and end up reading one or two more than I’d planned. That’s another thing I enjoyed about this book: the chapters are really short, so you move quickly from scene to scene.
Early on, I was impressed with how nuanced the characters in this book are. Zélie’s brother, Tzain, is not a divîner, and the author uses his character to show how closely people can observe oppression and still not completely understand it because it’s not aimed at them. It also shows the thought processes of the oppressors, highlighting the cyclical nature of prejudice and persecution. I particularly love how the character of Inan is portrayed. Though he is an antagonist, he is not a villain. Seeing his thought processes and why he believes what he does goes a long way in showing how prejudice damages everyone, not just those targeted.
The religious mythology in this book is extremely well-developed. There’s a vast mythos, which we see enough of to understand and appreciate, but not so much that we are taken away from the plot. The existence of magic and the gods that provide it add so much beauty and power to this novel.
The only “complaint” I have is that I didn’t realize this was the first in a series. I cannot wait until March when the sequel comes out! The book still works excellently as a standalone, up until the last scene, which is a bit of a cliffhanger. I get the impression the next book will pick up right where we left off, because the characters have a lot to do to overcome the trauma they’ve gone through and move forward into a better future.
Children of Blood and Bone is currently being developed into a movie by Fox 2000. I feel like this would make a great movie. Certain scenes are so grandiose and dramatic that they seem like they were written for film. I’ll definitely be seeing this in theatres when it comes out.
Have you read Children of Blood and Bone? What was your favorite moment? Tell us in the comments!