Children Of Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone.
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.
Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.
I have never been so concerned with the future of magic, in my entire life! I am a huge YA fan, but will admit I don’t read many novels with the theme of magic. I decided to change that and bought my copy of Children Of Blood And Bone.
I am so glad that I did.
There is powerful writing before you even get to the first page. The writing is absolutely beautiful, and I instantly developed a huge respect for the author.
‘The incantations that spewed from her mouth like lava. The magic of dead that led her astray’
The writing is emotionally charged and if you read between the lines, you can see reflections to American black history.
‘I think about the way her corpse hung from that tree. I think about the king who took her away’
The novel is fiction/fantasy. Yet the historical and modern-day references are there. The theme of those whom wield all the power and their abuses over those who do not. Diverse literature is important in EVERY genre of fiction. But I would say most definitely in the YA genre. The younger generation want to read literature that represents the world they live in. Culture and race play a huge part of that world.
The story opens with our heroine and protagonist Zelie, she is a diviner. She is taking part in a sparing session with Mama Agba. When the guards arrive to collect ‘diviner tax’. A tax that is hugely inflated and used to oppress and enslave the diviner members of society. This is enforced by King Saran, who led the genocide against the diviners.
‘It’s not bad enough for the king to keep the diviners down. He has to break anyone who tries to help us’
Zelie notices the guard’s sword, which is a black blade made of majacite, created to weaken magic and burn the flesh. Zelie is also exposed to sexual threats and unwanted advances. Which she must tolerate against her will. . .
‘Keep my mouth shut, swallow my rage – Live to see another day’
Zelie despises the way she is treated, and she riles against this oppressive regime. But those around her, warn her such rage risks her own life and that of those she loves.
‘They don’t hate you my child. They hate what you were meant to become’ – Mama Agba
As the novel unfolds we learn the history of the diviners. The differing ten clans and their unique abilities. How the chosen children have the mark of white hair. The history of the diviners is incredibly moving, with Zelie having experienced the loss of her own mother at such a young age.
Love – Fear – Hate – Violence
11yrs previously the Maji People used their powers in defence and their magic disappeared. The power of the magic is in direct relation to their gods and the Maji people have no idea why they have been forsaken.
‘The gods died with our magic’
Zelie is surrounded by people that have no magic (kosidan). This includes her father Baba and brother Tzain. Which also means they do not experience the same level of hate/violence that she is herself at risk from. Zelie is surrounded by people yet feels alone in the world.
‘One look at my white hair, and people avoid me like I’m an infectious plaque’
Nailah is a lionaire that Zelie has raised from a cub,
at times she feels Nailah is her only friend.
With taxes being raised to levels of extortion. Zelie and Tzain must leave and head to Lagos to raise some money. Money that will ensure Zelie stays free from the ‘stocks’. The stocks being the Maji forced labour camp, where death is highly likely. On the journey, she reflects upon her memories, from when she was just a little girl of 6yrs old.
‘That was the night things got bad. The night King Saran hung my people for the world to see, declaring war against the Maji or today and tomorrow. The night magic died’
The novel jumps between various points of view, with the most prominent being Zelie. But the other two narratives, give you an insight into life on the other side of this divided society. Amari and Inan are King Saran’s children.
Amari is a royal princess, who tires of her role and constant attention and appeasing in a male dominated society. Her only friend is Binta, her diviner chambermaid and confidante. When Binta is summoned by the king, Amari is consumed by fear. Why would her father summon Binta? What use for a diviner, can her father have?
‘Our female nobility paste on smiles, though I know they whisper about us behind our backs’
Amari sneaks into her father’s offices and becomes aware of a secret not meant for her ears. . .
‘Your highness. The diviners became Maji’ – Commander Kaea
Inan is the youngest captain in history. He is loyal to his father and aware that he is next in line to the throne. He has the same devout beliefs about the Maji people and diviners and like his father would like to see their eradication.
But fate has a surprise for Inan.
‘Gods are nothing without fools to believe in them’ – King saran
After witnessing the spoken secret and death of Binta. Amari becomes enraged. She flees the palace taking with her the scroll.
A scroll that can bring back the magic!
In the city of Lagos the lives of Zelie, Amari and Inan will collide and their futures will change forever. Their core beliefs are challenged in ways they’ve never known before.
Zelie must find her inner strength and on this journey, she becomes an instant hero of mine.
‘We don’t need to fear magic we only need each other’
There are so many powerful themes within this novel. But to include all the details is to simply spoil the magic for others. It is one of the most powerful books, I have read this year and I urge you to buy it. Buy it for the young people, children and teens that you love. Or simply buy it for yourself, for some pure escapism.
‘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’ – Zelie