BookBrowse Reviews Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Children of Blood and Bone

Legacy of Orisha

by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi X
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 544 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 560 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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A spellbinding debut fantasy that expands the boundaries of readers' imaginations while thrilling and delighting with captivating prose.

Voted 2018 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

What would you do if, in a world filled with magic wielded by different clans, the magic disappeared over night? What would you do if it didn't just disappear, but a ruthless despot was trying to make sure that it died for good, and all who could practice died with it? And what would you do if you could stop it from disappearing? In her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi takes readers to Orïsha, a land ruled by a murderous king where those with the potential for magic, divîners, are ostracized and persecuted, and not allowed to pass on their traditions or their language, Yoruba.

Zélie is a divîner, and like all divîners, is easily distinguished from her countrymen by her dark skin and white hair. Before King Saran raided the lands killing all maji - active magic practitioners (including Zélie's mother) - Zélie would have one day grown into her powers. Since that raid, divîners' potential to wield magic can't come to fruition. But that changes with the appearance of a runaway princess, Amari, and a scroll that is part of the connection of the divîners and maji to Nana Baruku, the female deity from whom Zélie's people get their power. Zélie and Amari learn that there is a chance to restore the connection to Nana Baruku, and therefore the magic of Orïsha, before it is lost forever. As they set out on their journey, hunted by Amari's brother Inan, both are forced to take a hard look at the brutal realities of power when wielded with injustice, racism, and colorism, and the scars left by fear and genocide.

This work is timely – perhaps, overdue – not only because of the themes Adeyemi wields intellectually and accessibly, but because the young adult (YA) fantasy world has needed epic fantasies that root the concepts of magic, setting, and culture somewhere other than European, American, or generally "Western" locations. Rooted in West African and Yoruba religion, mythology, and magical traditions, Adeyemi gives readers a different way of experiencing wonder, a different way of sensing the world, which extends beyond representation and the presentation of diversity, though these are important. Adeyemi does not rely on the fantasy to give her prose strength; if the magic and the fantastic elements were stripped away, we would still be left with a story that touches upon the brutal elements of life that so many teenagers themselves face: inherited trauma, prejudice, isolation, facing down systems and institutions that are designed to keep them oppressed, and the fear and loneliness of families torn apart because of the inhumanity of others.

In Children of Blood and Bone, Adeyemi recognizes the maturity thrust upon contemporary youth and adolescents and has written them a book that doesn't offer false promise or hope of redemption through magic, but instead offers them a world that reflects, in many ways, the complexities of this one. And the idea that maybe, just maybe, injustices can be fought and triumphed over when we recognize the value of all to exist.

This is the first in a series that is going to challenge everything that readers know about what makes good YA fantasy. It's going to leave them demanding more, not only from the series, but from what the standard of "good enough" in publishing already is. Growth, confrontation, trauma, and the search for a better way by two strong women are all part of this epic fantasy. If I have any criticisms, it is that it ends on a cliff-hanger and 2019 is far too far away to wait for the next installment of what is sure to be the bestselling Legacy of Orïsha series.

This review was originally published in April 2018, and has been updated for the March 2019 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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