PTW Pick - Children of Blood and Bone

Written by: Angelica Little. Read more from Angelica HERE.

Photo: Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash

Melanin, Maji & Monarchy

Children of Blood and Bone.jpg

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut was the most anticipated book on this year’s TBR list. Because I opt for the library for my reading material, it took over three months to get it in transit. Its massive size, over 500 pages, dares you enter the fiction West African country of Orïsha where diviners, its white-haired residents, are powerless ghosts of the maji that once walked the land. Children of Blood and Bone follows Zélie Adebola, her brother, and an escaped princess as they venture to restore magic throughout the land while dodging the deadly pursuits of the crown prince and king who want to destroy magic for good.

Any good fantasy needs impressive world building and Adeyemi delivers. The history behind the ten gods and respective maji clans is rich and leave no doubts or questions in mind. The maji titles strayed from the expected with creative names. Those who can spark a flame quicker than a match are Burners. Maji responsible for generating sickly clouds are Cancers. With so many different abilities to take into account, each is equally represented in the many travels. Covering an entire country exposes the trio to a variety of landscapes. Saltwater forever lingers in the air of a fishing town. The sun beats down on the darkened backs of stockers in a land where the desert stretches farther than the hope many have to return home. Lifeless trees line the island that appears but once a century and a thick fog conceals the sacred temple. A sanctuary houses diviners who live among their own, tucked away from the hatred of the kingdom.

The first installment in the series is told through three views. Zélie is fighting for the justice of her people, determined to restore their faith in a world that does nothing but take from them. Amari seeks atonement for her beloved friend, who suffers greatly because of her identity. Inan obsesses over duty before self, willing to ignore his own true self for the sake of his future kingdom. The longer the journey, the more the three begin to question their own motives while growing to accept their individual involvement within the radical change in their country’s history.

Overthrowing a monarchy isn’t going to happen without casualties. The story begins with the genocide of maji and the carnage follows Zélie. Many pivotal characters meet a bloody or gruesome end. Zélie’s own enemy becomes her own enraged, dark thoughts while controlling the dead. Tortue, desensitized mercenaries, the list goes on. Readers may sometimes have to remind themselves this is considered YA. Although darker than most in its genre, the lighter, more carefree moments drive the characters to rally together and continue on their quest, thus encouraging the reader to follow in his or her own pursuit to the book’s end.

What’s a teen novel without some romance? Out of the two blooming relationships within the story, the main one was the least enticing. Zélie and Inan’s felt like an afterthought. Two people go from absolutely despising one another and wanting to kill the other to falling fast because of a single event. Amari’s own budding feelings are more genuine because there are hundreds of pages of interaction between her and the young man she’s attracted to before she accepts this internally. Romance in YA is the standard and while it was not misplaced within the story, there was skepticism regarding it.

Adeyemi’s debut sings of praises it rightfully deserves. Stellar from beginning to end, there is something for everyone within Orïsha. Children of Blood and Bone is a phenomenal debut published during a movement of self-love and appreciation is broadcasted globally for African-Americans. It’s the written manifestation of “You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back!”

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