My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Children of Blood and Bone is a fantastic debut novel by author Tomi Adeyemi. She was inspired to write this book by West African mythology as well as the black-lives matter movement. Although that sounds like an unwieldy premise, I feel that the two inspirations blend. Despite the fact that the book is fantasy and not contemporary, it makes you think although, as I was reading it I did not equate it with the movement. Perhaps other people felt that it resonated with the movement more strongly, but I felt that it was a fantasy that made you question your perception of things in general – rather than in relation to a specific topic.
I have always been a huge fan of mythology so I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this book. Despite the popularity of mythology in middle grade and young adult literature, following the publication of Rick Riordan’s various series – we have not had great diversity in the subject. Authors that tackle mythology tend to focus on the Greek or Roman aspects and to a lesser degree the Egyptian or Norse. It is not often that an author introduces us to a mythos as Adeyemi did with Children of Blood and Bone. I was enamored by the stories and gods from the start and would love to read a companion novella that just expanded upon their stories (much like Riordan did with Greek Gods and Greek Heroes).
The story is told through alternating perspectives, although Zélie is our main protagonist. She is joined on her journey by her brother, Tzain and a noble princess, Amari. The final perspective is Amari’s brother, Prince Inan. As the main characters are together for the majority of the novel, I didn’t feel that the narrative changes were needed although they helped us to understand each character’s emotions and thoughts. Sometimes I felt that there was too much inner monologuing, I wanted more showing than telling. Help me understand why Inan is developing the way he is, rather than just telling me. It made her writing feel like the debut author she is, rather than one who might avoid those types of pitfalls. It is one of the aspects of the book that brought my rating down from five-stars.
I felt that the characters were fairly well developed and grew over the course of the novel. As the novel progressed, you began to understand each of the characters’ motivations and form a connection with them. Each of our four main characters was unique and had their own voice, which I really appreciated. I didn’t strongly connect with any of them – but I really enjoyed each of them.
The use of mythology in this book is what shone most for me and I wanted to know more about the magic system. I wanted more, but the book was already long and it might have been unwieldy with that addition. The world itself was also vividly described and we were taken on a journey across Orïsha with the characters. I loved experiencing the various lands, although I wish the details were a little more developed. For example, we learn about different animals that as readers we are not familiar with and I was left with so many questions. Again, due to the length of the book, I suspect it was just not feasible, but it really would have brought the book closer to five stars for me.
The themes of the book are so powerful and force readers to think, even though they didn’t realize that was what they were going to experience going into the book. Sometimes the two sides of a conflict are not black and white, you have to recognize that both sides might have merit and both sides might have faults. Our protagonist, Zélie, discovers that she may be able to bring magic back to the world – but she wonders if that is a good thing. Yes, her people are oppressed and deserve their magic back, yet not all people are good and what might someone with questionable intentions do with great power? The author did a fantastic job broaching the topics and making the reader question themselves.
While this book was not perfect, I adored the mythology and storyline. Despite the fact that I felt the plot arc would be completely wrapped up by the end of the book – those final pages flipped the script and set up an intriguing second book. I highly recommend this diverse and needed fantasy book by debut author Tomi Adeyemi.