“Reality told us we would fail. But again and again, we fought. We persevered . We rose.”
“I teach you to be warriors in the garden so you will never be gardeners in the war.”
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is a refreshing return to the origins of the fantasy genre, where stories were set in epic and imaginative worlds, where magic thrives and wonder abounds, but where the lessons the characters learn despite their beautiful surroundings spill out of these intricately built universes and address the problems of modern day society.
Zélie Adebolais a young woman born to a maji mother. She is born in a time of conflict, when all the magic in the kingdom of Orïsha is stolen away by a ruthless king. Zélie is forced as a young girl to watch her people (including her own mother) be tortured and killed as the king unleashes his cruelty on the people.
Now Zélie is grown, and she has had enough. Together with her brother Tzain and friend Amari, she sets out on a journey to bring magic back to Orïsha and in its wake justice and equality. She has one shot, and she must be quick about it with the crown prince right on her heels.
This debut fantasy was the perfect blend of strong female characters and magical wonder. While she must be every bit the hero, the fact is that Zélie is still unsure and scared, like anyone who would be thrown into her position. Rather than a caricature, she is human, and that coupled with rich writing helped seal this as one of the best books I have read in a while.
I was drawn in by the diversity especially of this book, which had an undeniably West African flair to it. Though the book was 500+ pages it read quickly and I never felt like the story lulled or went slowly. It is rare to read a fantasy novel centered on people of color, and it was refreshing and encouraging to see it burst into popularity the way it did. The racial themes in Children of Blood and Bone were timely with the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustices that shamefully continue to persist in our justice system and neighborhoods, and Tomi’s refusal to sugar coat this ugly monster that still lurks in our modern day society was the perfect discussion point that reminds us there is still a lot to be done and battles to be fought.
4.5 out of 5 stars