Sunday, 25 March 2018

Review: 'Children of Blood and Bone' by Tomi Adeyemi

I adore Fantasy books. I love sinking away into different, magical worlds full of surrprises and marvels. My specialisation at University in Medieval Literature was in large part due to just how many of my favourite novels were based on medieval texts and events. But I found myself getting just a little bored, if you can believe such a thing! While medieval Europe has a wealth of stories to tell, I was desperately looking for a Fantasy book that used something else as its inspiration, that would surprise me and teach me. Children of Blood and Bone was that book for me. Thanks to Macmillan Children's Books and Nethalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange

Pub. Date: 08/03/2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan; Macmillan Children's Books

They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. NOW WE RISE. 
Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled - Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. 
Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden. Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. 
With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic - and her growing feelings for an enemy.
As I said above, no matter how much you love a genre, you still want it to surprise you. Part of why I get so tired of some Fantasy  novels is because they do exactly what has been done before. They see Tolkien and think 'I should also write novels set in a mythological Europe and draw my inspiration from Anglo-Saxon/Norse sources and it will be great', only they forget it isn't as easy as TOlkien made it seem. So when I saw Children of Bloog and Bone I got very excited because here was a Fantasy novel that went down a different path, that would introduce me to a different kind of world, a different kind of language and culture. In and of itself, that makes Adeyemi's novel incredibly brave and fascinating.

Inspired by West-Africa. stories and history, takes some of Fantasy and YA's most used tropes and does something new and interesting with them. We have Zélie, a girl with the power of magic in her blood, just waiting to be awakened. She is stubborn and passionate, but also deeply marked by her day to day experience. And this is why I continue to think of Children of Blood and Bone as brave. Because Adeyemi doesn't shy away from the dark side of her world, of our world. Children of Blood and Bone is full of racially-charged violence, both physical and emotional. Zélie is not just an outsider, she is looked down upon, a second class citizen, marked and shamed, constantly afraid and full of anger. She is one hell of a character to write and, especially considering this novel is meant for younger readers, Adeyemi does a brilliant job at showing to constant battle within Zélie. She is surrounded by other fascinating characters that follow the genre's conventions while not doing so at all. Amari is a princess, but also a rebel. She is a scared sister and a fierce friend. She goes through some of the most interesting development out of all the characters, in my opinion. There is also her brother Inan, who  is consistently torn between different sides. He is a truly tragic character and that is what I enjoyed about him.

Tomi Adeyemi's writing is beautifully descriptive and full of power. The way she describes different settings, whether its towns, temples or nature, is incredibly vivid and full of colour and life. I really loved the phrases of Yoruba she incorporated into her novel, as well as the fact she doesn't always translate them. If Tolkien could make up a language and not provide a translation, then Adeyemi can most definitely do the same with an existing language! Her prose is largely straightforward, which really serves to highlight the beauty of her descriptions and also works well for the plot, which moves at a nice pace. At times I felt the novel moved a little bit too quickly, or didn't linger where I expected it to, but then Adeyemi will give you everything you could want at other moments. The one thing she will also give you? One hell of a cliffhanger... I have no idea how I'll make it to the release of the second book in the Legacy of Orïsha series, which apparently isn't till 2019. Guess I'll gear up for a reread then!

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

Children of Blood and Bone is a breath of fresh air, full of beautiful imagery and hard-hitting representations of racism. The fact Adeyemi brings these two things together so seamlessly and doesn't let her plot break down under the weight of the latter is incredible. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in Fantasy and West African mythology.

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