Would you believe that I actually first heard about this YA book from an advertisement during the trailers section of a DVD I took out from the library? Actually, I’m pretty sure I saw it on more than one! How serendipitous to then receive it as a gift. Ultimately, while there were things I really liked about this book, there were also things that I didn’t. Overall, I liked it, but didn’t love it. Being that it is the first of a series, the question is then will I continue with the rest? And well, I’m just not sure (for one thing my to-read list is just far too long!).
Children of Blood and Bone brings us the the world of Orïsha, with many elements inspired by West African mythology and the Yoruba culture and language. While this country was once home to a group of people who could practice magic (called maji), the tyrannical King Saran found a way to eliminate magic from the land due to fear of the power of the maji, and slaughtered all adult practitioners of magic as well. Zélie, a young girl with white hair marking those people who once were children of magic that hadn’t yet come into their powers, had her mother killed at this time, and now, in her teenage years is thrown by fate into a quest to bring magic back to Orïsha, alongside her brother and the unexpected companion of the crown princess of the land. In fact, this novel is not just told from the perspective of Zélie, but there are also chapters which bring us the POV of Amari, the princess, and her brother named Inan who hunts Zélie and her brother in order to stop them by order of his father.
This novel is clearly a reference to the racial injustices and violence that we see in our own world every day, and if this book can serve as a conduit for the author, Tomi Adeyemi, to process this for herself, or bring these issues into certain reader’s minds then that is a good thing. The book certainly doesn’t stray away from the brutality and violence that is all too real in our own world, and Adeyemi creates an interesting new setting for this type of “chosen one” YA story to take place. It is a story strongly grounded in WOC characters and their treatment in a world that often considers them weak or worthless, but contain great strength within them. Not only that, but the writing is very straightforward and not too difficult to get into, so I found the story really clips along at a decent pace despite the fact that it spans over 500 pages.
However, this book on it’s own did not entirely work for me. For one, the story itself is pretty standard quest fare, with some details changed. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but it is ultimately a bit predictable. I also found that while switching perspectives of characters was good at times in order to see more of the internal development and thought processes of Amari and Inan, when the characters’ paths overlapped it almost seemed unnecessary to rehash events over a few pages when so little new is learned. That is to say, I think the use of this technique could have been more strategically utilized.
There was also an issue of the characters: while they do grow and develop, they also fall into pretty repetitive cycles throughout the novel. I think there is certainly room to grow in the next books in the series, especially for Zélie, but I guess we will see how that plays out. I did, however, find Inan to be frustrating: while we can understand why he has conflicting feelings and the struggles he goes through, where he stands seems to flip too quickly and he needed room to really breathe with these new emotions. Furthermore, the romances inserted into the story really needed room to grow and blossom, but in particular that which involved Inan, given his behavior in their world and against the maji.
Overall, Children of Blood and Bone is a book that ticks all the usual boxes for a YA chosen one quest, but did so in a unique setting with strong imagery and serious subject-matter. While there is definitely room for growth and a lot more character development, it was still worth a read and I will see how I feel about continuing the series at such a time as the next novel comes out.