Friday, 4 January 2019

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi


Published: 8th March 2018 | Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Tomi Adeyemi's Website

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orisha 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 Orisha, 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.
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Trigger Warning: This book features attempted rape, mass murder, violence, torture, and oppression.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi was one of my most anticipated reads of the year - an #OwnVoices West African inspired high fantasy! And it was absolutely incredible!

Zélie is a divîner, a person with the ability to become a maji once they turn 13. But Zélie is 17 now, and still a divîner, because magic has gone. King Saran of Orïsha, out of fear and hatred, took away magic, and killed all the maji - including Zélie's mother. Now divîners are persecuted and oppressed, forced to pay taxes to keep them down. If they can't pay, they go into the stocks and become slaves. Zélie and her family try hard to make ends meet as fishermen, but with the ever increasing taxes, it won't be long until Zélie becomes a stocker. When Zélie helps a young woman escape from the guards, she doesn't realise she's helping Princess Amari, King Saran's daughter. A conflicted Amari has escaped from the palace with a scroll that can bring back the maji's power, after witnessing her father kill her divîner best friend after touching the scroll awakens her magic. She has seen what her father can do, and wants to bring it to a stop. Together, along with Zélie's brother, Tzain, they must take the scroll to Châdomblé, a shrine to the gods, where they will discover just what it takes to bring back magic. But hot on their heels in Inan, heir to the throne and Amari's brother, sent by the King to hunt them down. Time is ticking by fast, with only so much time left to complete the ritual, and Inan close behind. Zélie only has one chance to bring magic back to Orïsha, or doom the divîners to a life without magic for good.

Aah, Children of Blood and Bone was so good! I loved the world building! It has it's own creation story, with Nana Baruku - a kind of Mother Nature type figure - creating humans and creating the gods. And as Nana Baruku created both, the relationship between divîners/maji and their respective gods was a sibling relationship. They're still gods, powerful and not exactly present, but Zélie thought of her goddess, Oya, as her sister deity. There are ten different clans of maji, each with their own magic and abilities, each with their own god or goddess. Or there were before King Saran took away magic and murdered all the majis. Now, for the divîners, life is one of oppression, and they live in constant fear. If a divîner is to put one toe out of line, they're beaten by the guards. If they can't pay their taxes, they become stockers - slaves - to work out your debt. But of course, the taxes keep rising, so you never work out your debt. Once you're a stocker, you're a stocker until you die, and conditions are so bad, that you don't last that long.

This is the world Zélie lives in before she meets Amari. Mama Agba, an elderly woman in her town, teaches divîners how to fight in secret, but they can't really fight back if they don't want to be killed. But then she does meet Amari and everything changes. Zélie is such an incredible character! She is so strong and so resilient, even though she struggles and doubts herself and whether she can do this. She has already been through so much; she witnessed the guards taking away her mother, her father being beaten to near death, and her mother murdered, strung up from a tree by a chain, along with every other maji in their town. None in her family have been the same since. But when she hears about the scroll Amari has, and tells Mama Agba, she discovers she is the only person who has a chance to bring back magic, and it's no easy feat. Children of Blood and Bone is action packed and extremely fast-paced, and it doesn't let up. Inan is never too far behind, and the three - Zélie, Amari, and Tzain - have to time to rest, recover and regroup when life throws them a curve ball.

The book is also narrated by Amari and Inan. I really liked Amari. She's quite innocent, having never left the confines of the palace due to her father's overprotective attitude and fear of the divîners. She takes a great risk when she runs from the palace with the stolen scroll, but she can't just sit back and do nothing after she sees her father kill her best friend, Binta. And it's such a courageous thing to do, because she knows what her father is like. Maybe not the full extent, at first, but she knows if she's caught, there will be more than hell to pay. But she never fully realised what it would mean to run away with the scroll. Now she's on this quest never wanted, experiencing hardships she's never had to before. She doesn't complain, but she is scared and she's finding it difficult, and she fears she's going to be a hinderance to Zélie and Tzain. Tzain shows her kindness, but Zélie can only see the daughter of the man who murdered her mother, and has nothing but contempt for this pampered princess who knows nothing of the world. Watching Amari grow into her strength, become more confident, and actually become an asset - and for her to realise that - is wonderful. And seeing the friendship between Amari and Zélie develop was beautiful.

However, I absolutely hated Inan. He is such an ass. And I mean that in the British donkey way, not the American backside way. He's just an idiot. Yes, he's a Captain in the army, and he knows how to fight, is big and strong and pretty deadly. But as a person, he's an ass. What Adeyemi does so well is that she makes him this complicated person. I mean, I understood why he's an ass. He's been fed his whole life all this rubbish from his father about how maji are dangerous, and if they have magic, then everyone will suffer. He's also, as the heir to the thrown, had "duty before self" drummed into him. Things happen along the way that make him doubt what his father has told him. He discovers things, he experiences thing, and it makes him question everything he's ever known. But then he sees other things that completely back up what his father has told him. But it's like he is completely unable to think for himself. It doesn't matter how much he discovers or experiences, he's been brainwashed by his father so much that he dithers back and forth so much, and oh my god, I hated him. I know I keep saying it, but he was such an ass! And when it comes to his actions towards the end of the book, I have much stronger words to describe him. His character and his narration are important to the story, but I just wanted to shake him. Give him a hard slap around the face and tell him to wake up.

As well as being an action packed, fully formed high fantasy, Children of Blood and Bone also touched on real world issues. It touched on colourism and skin bleaching. The divîners/maji tend to be quite dark skinned, and the nobility lighter skinned, so there's this desire to be lighter skinned. Although divîners/maji have white hair, and if you don't, it's clear you're not one, there is a sense that being darker skinned is quite an issue, and Amari has suffered her mother's treatments in trying to make her skin lighter. The way the oppression the divîners experience seemed, to me, to be a clear mirror of racism in our own world; every character in Children of Blood and Bone bar one is Black, but the similarities between racism in our own world and how the divîners were discriminated against are just to obvious. I could potentially be reading too much into things, but there's a possibility that Inan is supposed to represent the white person who is says they're against racism and aren't racist, yet believes what they're told about Black people and other people of colour, and want to keep the status quo as it is. There's also slavery, with the divîners becoming stockers. So there's a lot going on here, and possibly elements I may have missed due to my privilege.

I do have one little issue with Children of Blood and Bone, and that's the cliffhanger ending. I literally have no idea what happened. It just ends. I know something happened, but what that something is, I don't know. I just wish we had a little more to go on. However, it's done it's job, because I absolutely need to know what happens next. There were a number of things that happened that are going to have massive consequences, and the sequel is going to be huge! Children of Blood and Bone was just awesome and pretty damn epic, and I'm so looking forward to the second book in the Legacy of Orïsha series, children of Virtue and Vengence!

Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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