Set in the fantastical land of Orïsha, Children of Blood and Bone weaves a tale of identity, magic and persecution. The reader follows an epic narrative through the eyes of three characters: the strong-willed and vengeful magic user, Zélie, the sheltered turn rebel Princess Amari and her brother, the Prince, who grapples with his own demons as he attempts to prove himself to his father, the despotic King.
This debut novel, by Nigerian American author Tomi Adeyemi, has received a lot of praise and attention and rightly so. What makes Children of Blood and Bone so refreshing and particularly within the YA fantasy genre is the rich world in which the characters exist. Adeyemi’s Orïsha transforms West African culture and its pantheon into a magical realm in which the ancient gods, and magic users known as magi, inhabit the earth. The plot is abundant with action and emotion, yet where Adeyemi’s strength lies is in depicting the adversity and oppression that faces her characters.
Her reflections on contemporary issues of race under the guises of fantasy, rebellion and a diverse cast of characters are a breath of fresh air to the YA fantasy genre
The genocide of the magi at the hands of the tyrannous aristocracy, draws on racial tensions both past and present. Zélie’s fiery hatred for the nobility after the brutal murder of her mother paired with the blissful ignorance of Princess Amari and Prince Inan reflects the deep divisions and miscommunication between ethnic and social groups today. Adeyemi ultimately weaves a tale that calls for equality and understanding as the unlikely trio of Zélie, her brother Tzain and Princess Amari join forces in a final attempt to restore magic to Orïsha and, thus, the identity and agency of those oppressed by the crown.
The plot is abundant with action and emotion, yet where Adeyemi’s strength lies is in depicting the adversity and oppression that faces her characters
While Children of Blood and Bone is an easy and engaging read, it still has its problems. The novel relies too heavily on YA fantasy tropes, leaving it quite predictable and flat in places. Although Adeyemi excels in the emotional and powerful voices of her characters, their motivations seemed overemphasised, repetitive and, in some instances vague. For me, these issues affected the flow of the novel and in parts pulled me out from the action. I feel that Adeyemi could be bolder in her writing. She has the potential to further challenge YA conventions rather than abiding to overplayed clichés. For this reason, I believe that the novel doesn’t quite stand up to the hype it amassed in its early days of publication.
Overall, Adeyemi proves herself a promising, new author. Her reflections on contemporary issues of race under the guises of fantasy, rebellion and a diverse cast of characters are a breath of fresh air to the YA fantasy genre. Although imperfect, Children of Blood and Bone is a highly enjoyable read and, though far from revolutionary, it provides a great source of escapism that prompts readers to question the world around them. I have high expectations for the upcoming sequel scheduled for release in June and hope that Tomi Adeyemi continues to grow as an author.