Children of Bone and Blood by Tomi Adeyemi, 544 pp, RL: TEEN
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Purchased Audio Book
Plot: Seventeen-year-old Zélie Adebola's magical powers had yet to emerge when King Saran began the maji genocide of Orïsha that took the life of her mother, a powerful Reaper who could summon forth souls. Eleven years before the start of the novel, all magical adults - Reapers, Burners, Tiders and more - were hunted and brutally murdered, but children, who would not grow into their magical powers until the age of thirteen, were were left untouched. Their magical powers suppressed and hidden, along with the white hair and dark skin color that identify them, maji are living a grim life of serfdom under the king's rule while the gentry bleach their skin and refer to maji as "maggots." A chance encounter in the marketplace where Zélie is trying to sell fish to pay the ever increasing taxes of King Saran ends with her village burned to the ground and Zélie, her older brother Tzain and Nailah, Zélie's pet lionaire (a horse-sized creature with saber teeth and horns) as well as, unbelievably and unknown to them initially, the Princess Amari, on the run. Amari's older brother, Prince Inan, is in close pursuit. While her encounter with Zélie was accidental, Princess Amari carries with her a scroll she stole from her father before fleeing the castle. Unbeknownst to any of them, at first, this scroll is one of a handful of lost magical artifacts that awaken powers, turning diviners into magicians. With her powers awakened, Zélie learns that an upcoming solstice is the only chance to connect with Nana Bakuru, the creator deity, and restore magic to Orïsha forever. Together, the trio races to find the artifacts needed to perform the solstice ceremony while evading Prince Inan, who has a secret or two of his own, and King Saran's warriors, who will stop at nothing to keep magic from returning to the kingdom.
Why Read? Why Buy?: Read AND buy this book because it is, without a doubt, among the best fantasy I have read in the 20+ (post-Potter) years that I have been avidly and critically reading kid's and YA fantasy. I have tapered off the quantity of middle grade and YA fantasy I read in the past few years because I have reached a saturation point. It's rare that an author brings something new to the very well laden table that is the fantasy genre. Not only does Tomi Adeyemi bring something new to the genre, there is a remarkable amount of intention and history in her fast paced storytelling, which is rich with complex characters who grow and change over the course of the novel. Of her Orïsha Legacy trilogy, Adeyemi says, it is an, "epic West African adventure, but layered within each page is an allegory for the modern black experience. Every obstacle my characters face, no matter how big or small, is tied to an obstacle black people are fighting today or have fought as recently as 30 years ago."
My plot synopsis barely scratched the surface of all that is amazing in this new magical world that Adeyemi has given us. However, this book has received so much deserving, positive publicity, that I don't think I need to say much more about it than this: if you are a lover of middle grade and YA fantasy, you HAVE TO read this book. And, if you are a fan of adult fantasy, you also HAVE TO read this book. I contemplated rating this book middle grade, but I went with TEEN because of the brutality and violence, especially against women and children, and some very spicy (and sweet) romantic moments that are deliciously well written for the intended audience.
If you are a teen or adult reader, I strongly suggest you take the time to read this article in The Atlantic, "Where Fantasy Meets Black Lives Matter: A much anticipated young adult debut taps into a tradition of speculative fiction rooted in African culture," by Vann R. Newkirk II, before reading Children of Blood and Bone.