Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi, tells the story of Zélie, a young Maji who lives in a world where magic is outlawed, and her struggle to not only survive but bring magic back to the world. I flew through this book, managing to read the vast majority of it over a couple of days on a long bus journey, and quite honestly, the only reason it lasted that long was because I knew I would be bored on the bus if I didn’t space it out. Tomi Adeyemi’s writing really brings the world to life, and more importantly, brings the characters to life with vivid description and prose that really punches through to the core of their emotions and motivations.
This book really embraces its place in the genre of fantasy and brings as all the usual suspects: beautiful princesses, dazzling and powerful magic, and an epic struggle between right and wrong. None of this, however, feels rehashed, and in fact feels incredibly fresh due to its West African inspired roots. The vast majority of fantasy writing that I have read has been Western European inspired, following in the roots of the classic greats of the genre, such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and I enjoyed delving into a world built ariund different gods, myths and legends. This isn’t a criticism of traditional fantasy, as I still love it and will still go back to it (I read The Hobbit most years, if I am honest) but I really enjoyed the variety in theme that this book brought.
As I mentioned earlier, for me, one of the real strengths of this book is the raw emotion that exudes from so much of Tomi Adeyemi’s writing. This really brought the characters to life and made the danger and peril of their adventure feel real. Kudos has to be given for this not just being present in our protagonists, as Zélie, her brother, Tzain, and the princess Amari are the undoubted heroes of the story, but also in the chapters written from the view point of the villains of the piece. It would have been quite easy for the likes of King Saran and Kaea t be kept in in the background, as ever looming and heartless monsters, but thankfully, and to the credit of the story, Adeyemi hasn’t done this. She paints them as real humans, if very misguided and twisted by their own fears, who have motivations of their own and reasons for these motivations.
I feel that this was a very important inclusion in the story due to the undercurrent of political themes that flow throughout this book. By her own admission in the author’s note at the end, Tomi Adeyemi was inspired to write this story by much of what has happened in recent years with race relations in America. She wanted to write a story that would bring these issues to light and tell the story of black life in America. Throughout the story, it is all but impossible to not make comparisons to what you see in the news to what is happening on the pages before you; in fact, I believe it is sadly this that has allowed Tomi Adeyemi to capture the rawness of emotion in her writing.
As is common among YA fantasy, which is what this book is marketed as in spite of some of the dark and politically mature themes, this book contains some romantic storylines. These are, in my opinion, a bit hit and miss and possibly my least favourite part of the stories plot arc, though I must admit that they are vital to some of the twists and turns we see throughout. Without including many names (so as not to create any spoilers), Zélie’s love interest threw me a bit. I had a hard time believing that she would fall for that character, and it felt a little convenient for the plot. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the other love interest plot in the story and felt like that one was really well done. As I said, hit and miss.
Children of Blood and Bone is a book I that I would thoroughly recommend to just about anyone. Despite it being a YA book, I honestly believe that anyone of any age can enjoy this book. I did, and I’m not a YA, after all. The book ends on a cliff hanger, leaving us with a wait for book number two, which I eagerly await.