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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Book Name: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Publisher(s): Henry Holt and Co. (US) Macmillan Children's Books (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Release Date: March 6, 2018 (US) March 8, 2018 (US)

If GRRM wrote a mix of The Incredibles and Avatar, with a necromancer heroine.

Last year, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone came in second to RF Kuang’s The Poppy War on my personal list of Most Anticipated Debuts. After seeing Ms. Adeyemi’s interview with Jimmy Fallon (he lauded her success at an early age, and she quipped that every day she wasn’t a doctor, she was a failure in the eyes of her Nigerian parents), I bumped it up on my TBR list (but later moved it back down, see the note below*).

If you’ve followed my reviews, you probably notice I frequently compare stories to the Avatar Universe (last Airbenders, not endangered aliens), typically to point out diversity of people and magic. Not so with Children of Blood and Bone, although it certainly has both. In this case, it’s the combination of a Chosen One and siblings travelling across the land, with a prince, who is looking to prove himself to his father, in hot pursuit. Throw in a lovable mount, and you have the narrative formula for Last Airbender. Given the age of the characters and some potential Korrassami romance, it might even be more Legend of Korra.

I found the worldbuilding luscious: I don’t know much of African folklore and mythology, but the characters are clearly varying shades of dark—save for what appears to be an Asian mercenary who makes an appearance. The magic system is connected to patron gods, and practiced by individual clans. It a mix of Dungeons and Dragons schools of magic and Avatar-like element bending. For example, Burners (same name as in The Hundredth Queen, another one of my YA favorites!) resemble Fire Benders, Connectors are empaths, Tamers are druids, etc. Young Diviners are those people with the potential for magic, but who have not yet connected to that divine power to become Magi.

The scariest sounding are the Reapers, who might as well be a sometimes-less-scary version of necromancers. The main character, Zélie, is a Reaper, like her mother before her, and starts the story like all other Diviners: bereft of magic, and with no mentors.

At its core, the story is one of persecution by the powers-that-be. Fearful of the Magi, the king of Orisha has found a way to tear magic from the world, and slain all of the Magi. The Diviners, marked by their white hair, are despised and exploited as slave labor.

When magic resurfaces in the form of a scroll, Zélie must take it, as well as two other artifacts, to somehow use on the right day and right place to bring the connection of the gods back at all. Fail, and magic will disappear forever.

She is joined on her quest by her brother, the warrior Tzain; and the dictator’s daughter, Amari, who flees her father with the magic scroll when he executes her Diviner maid. They are pursued by Prince Inan. Like Zukko in the Last Airbender, he wants to prove himself worthy to his father, the king, until his worldview is challenged over and over again.

The character chemistry moves the fast-paced, straightforward story. The author executes the relationship building among all the characters elegantly, always infusing doubt into the viewpoint characters to the point that we do not know final alliances until the very end.

As with any story of persecution, there are brutal deaths which made my blood boil and my heart break. Like in Song of Fire and Ice, no one is safe. Though a YA-targeted novel, it covers heavy themes.

My major complaint of the story is the narrative voice. While compelling, the first person, multiple point of view narratives all sound about the same in my head. Though this is easier to follow in third person narratives, there were times that, if I had to pause in the middle of the labelled chapters, it might take me a while to figure out whose viewpoint the story was in when I resumed. In contrast, if one reads A Game of Thrones, they can tell from the voice if they are reading Ned, Bran, or Sansa, because even in Third Person, they still sound unique.

Given the fresh worldbuilding and character relationships, but tempered by the narrative voice, I rate Children of Blood and Bone 8.25 stars out of 10.

*Note to address the Blood and Bone in the room:

In the Fantasy-Faction Facebook group, some commenters brought up Ms. Adeyemi accusing Nora Roberts (of all people!) of trying to profit off the book title. She since apologized, though some fantasy fans did not think she went far enough. In the atmosphere of Cocky Dragon Slayer trademarking attempts, I almost didn’t read Children of Blood and Bone. Having spent $20 for the book, ebook, and audiobook, my miserly instincts won over. I’m glad I read it.


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