Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone is a debut YA (Young Adult) novel from Nigerian-American writer Tomi Adeyemi. It’s the first in a planned trilogy, and reportedly earned one of the biggest advances in YA history. The book has been picked up by Disney. To get a feel of the novel, think “Black Panther” with a little of “The Hunger Games”, and heavy amounts of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” thrown in. The book’s sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, released on December 3, 2019.

“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!”

Summary

It takes place in the fantasy land of Orïsha, loosely based on West African cosmology. Orïsha is a fantasy world, with fresh rich mythology. Orïsha used to be immersed in magic, but a cruel king has torn magic from the land and slaughtered the Maji (magic-users).

Zélie, the daughter of a Maji, had expected to inherit magic herself. She’s a diviner, marked by her darker skin and white hair, so she should have become a Maji in her teens — but after the king destroyed magic, she’s been left with nothing. Her Maji mother is dead, and her magic was gone before she was ever able to access it. Now diviners, instead of growing into Maji, have become an underclass, heavily taxed and oppressed by a government that calls them maggots.

The Maji mythology gives Adeyemi room to explore the brutality of a racist system and still make it immersive for a YA fantasy. When all hope seems lost, Zélie gets her chance to bring magic back when she finds herself thrown together with Amari, a rebellious, runaway princess. Amari knows of a way to bring magic back to Orïsha, and she’ll need Zélie’s help to do it.

As Zélie and Amari head off on their mission, they’re hunted by Amari’s brother, Inan. Inan desires to be an obedient son and help his father in his mission to wipe magic forever.

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“I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain.”

Importance of the Novel

This is an Afrofuturist YA fantasy novel that centers around black characters and marks their power by making their skin darker and their hair curlier. Adeyemi has a creative way of showing parallels from our society to the fantasy world. For example, systematic racism that the characters deal with within the novel.

Currently, the world is in a pandemic mixed with a whirlwind of protest to fight against police brutality. The characters in the novel are judged because of their hair and skin and treated as less than.
It also deals with colorism, which is a heavy topic in the black community. The kosidán possess lighter skin and having enslaved segments of the Maji. Class becomes a heavy topic as well showing how power mixed with cruelty can cause genocide and abuse of power. You can parallel this to our world’s police brutality.

“We are the people who fill the king’s prisons, the people our kingdom turns into laborers. The people Orïshans try to chase out of their features, outlawing our lineage as if white hair and dead magic were a social stain.”

Children of Blood and Bone is the first of a trilogy and you don’t have to wait to read the second novel because it’s already out. During this time of protest and quarantine, it’s easy to get lost in a train of thoughts and emotions. So if you need a magical escape this is the book for you to pick up.

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