Rating: 5/5 stars
I might not have ever read Children of Blood and Bone, if not for th. Bibliophiles group. That was a several months ago, and though it took longer than expected to finish, the story itself haunts my mind, taking up residence. I’d be hard pressed to find a bigger compliment to an author than that.
Reading everyone’s comments on the thread was insightful without spoilers. There was just enough information to encourage and encite an already curious mind. I knew I had to acquire the novel right away. Thanks, in large part to our local library, I did just that. Weeks later, we acquired a copy through Amazon.
Tomi Adeyemi was inspired to write her dark, young-adult novel primary by the racial injustices happening throughout the United States. Sensational stories like Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, both of whom were victims of authoritative brutality, pierced her heart and cut her soul.
She grieved for them and was angry about the countless injustices. She wanted to explore the fear that African-Americans face because, as she told Huffington Post. nobody was talking about the fear of being a black person in white America. Racism and oppression are so deeply ingrained in the psyche that said fear is pervasive, and hard to control. Sadly, despite all the efforts, that hasn’t changed. Nothing has gotten better, and I fear it never will.
Inspired by west African mythology, particularly the lore surrounding the orisha (venerated deities of Yoruba, located in southwestern Nigeria, as well as other parts of Africa, including peoples of the Edo and Fon of Benin,) it wasn’t surprising that this sprawling epic was the brainchild of a Nigerian-American author. An ambitious one, too; this was her debut novel.
In it, twenty-five year old Adeyemi told the story of siblings Zélie and Tzaine Adebola, alongside princess Amari, and the heir apparent to the throne, Inan, a young man of questionable loyalties. Children of Blood and Bone was not, however, a recycled version of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (or any story in the genre,) whose basis was the kingdom’s occupants vying for the elusive Iron Throne. The two are completely different.
For this review, I’m interested in the unpredictable nature of the book, and the equally precise and beautiful prose. Admittedly, the plot was spectacular, mostly because Adeyemi took a familiar obstacle in fantasy fiction, and flipped it on its head. She achieved that largely by implementing a truly awesome magic system, steeped in orisha lore. I don’t use the adjective lighly. Not only had I never read any fantasy set in a fictitious African setting, but personally, the magic system was unprecedented. Mesmerizing in incomparable ways.
Likewise, her character’s were strong willed, and fleshed out, with plenty of room for growth going forward. The characters and their creator almost seemed to emulate each other. Not unlike real life, the main characters had frequent obstacles to overcome, with conflicting alliances and viewpoints.
They had baggage, like we all do, but nothing melodramatic. Their past experiences rendered them more realistic, humane, and relatable. Those added layers were shown in body language, dialogue, and flashbacks– visual and auditory. Every detail helped inform their world and the complicated characters themselves, in ways that were cultural, political, and ethnological. Some of those scenes were downright gut-wrenching.
The twists and turns were astonishing. It wasn’t merely plot, either. Being a character-driven novel, said twists were much less about plot, and all about the character’s motivations, which actively drove the story forward. And that’s how it should be. The fascinating part of Adeyemi’s setup was how she pitted one side against another, without fully revealing their intentions to the reader, and with a fair amount of ambiguity, too. What would they do next? When? How? Why?
The battle scenes were plentiful, intense, and well-choreographed. The mysterious factor was all-consuming. Death loomed everywhere, nobody was safe, nothing was promised.
All that’s lost might be found, in Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Book II in the Legacy of Orisha series. In the meantime, there’s the film adaptation to look forward to. In fact, FOX 2000 acquired the rights to it, even before the novel was published on March 6, 2018. In itself, that’s very impressive; perhaps unprecedented. Throw in the fact that the studio’s purchasing price was reportedly in the seven figures, with a predominantly African-American cast, and you’ve got a rare gem in cinematic history.