You have your duty and your heart. To choose one means the other must suffer – Tomi Adeyemi.
Speechless is a word that floats to the top of my head when I think of describing this debut. Not only is the writing some of the most moving, powerful, endearing, heart-breaking, that I have ever read, the story itself is so intense and so incredible that it is hard to move on from it. It is clear that I have what they call a book hangover – the kind that doesn’t make you sick, but it leaves you with a feeling of loss and sadness because that particular journey is over.
Zélie lives in Ilorin, a small fisherman village in the land of Orïsha where she is training to graduate from Mama Agba’s class. This is her one goal; something she has worked towards her entire life since the monarchy murdered her mother and people like her in front of her eyes. Zélie wants to be strong; she is determined and she won’t give up without a fight. Little does she know, these are the exact traits she needs to fulfil a greater destiny than she ever dreamed of.
The maji were slaughtered; their magic stolen. The diviners are the children of the maji. All of them share a common identity: their silver eyes and white hair. This identity seals their fate: they are taken as slaves in the stocks, killed, raped, beaten and slaughtered for the whole of Orïsha to see. The gods do not hear their pleas or their cries for they have disappeared too. That is until one fateful day when Zélie saves the very daughter of the man who enslaved all diviner: Princess Amari.
Suddenly, magic is back.
Children of Blood and Bone begins in a time of social injustice. This is a crucial theme throughout the novel, and will undoubtedly continue in the next books. With this social injustice comes a stampede of emotions and whispers of what is right and what is wrong. They vary through every character’s perception. Magic will save an entire race of people. It will make them strong, unleash their powerful gifts from the gods. Magic will also burn cities and villages, innocent lives. If magic is not brought back, the race of diviners will have a cruel life by the people who fear them.
The complexities of the story shine in every character who share their story: Zélie, Amari and Inan, the royal prince. Zélie is the fearless warrior. She has a job to do, but it doesn’t stop the insecurities flowing through her head as strong as the magic flows through her blood. Why her? Why is she the one to save an entire race? Perhaps it is because of the strength in her eyes and the trust in her heart. Amari is a spoiled little princess who cannot pick up a sword without shaking. At least, that is Zélie’s perception of her. Throughout this journey, it is Amari who grows the most. She has a heart of gold. She wants better for her people – all of her people, and she will do whatever it takes to make a better world. Inan is the most complex. He is the prince, the captain and his duty to the kingdom comes before everything else. That is until two things are sparked within him. They cloud his judgement. He is neither a baddie, or a goodie. All these characters fight for what they believe in leading to a rollercoaster of emotions, questions and the moral to follow your heart and do what is right.
Despite the magic, the gods and the faraway land, Children of Blood and Bone is a story about the world we live in today, namely the USA. Author, Tomi Adeyemi writes that she was inspired to create this story whilst watching the devastation of loss in the black community. Police brutality against boys with black skin, beating them half to death; mothers with dark skin losing their children and never having that hole filled again. What is worse is that there is no change, which is why I think she created this story. Zélie commands change in her kingdom, for her people. If there is something in every reader’s heart for this piece of fiction, surely change can be made in our own world.
Honestly, I don’t feel like I have done this book justice in this review. It made me smile; it made me cry. The horror of war between these people is heart-breaking, just as the beauty of friendship and family is joyful. If Children of Blood and Bone wasn’t on your reading list for 2018, it should be.
Love, Faye xo