It didn’t become a home because they filled it with towers. It became a home because they built it together – Tomi Adeyemi.
This story continues to take my breath away. It is brutal. It is mesmerising, and it is magical. I adored Children of Blood and Bone when I read it in 2018. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on its sequel and I was forever watching Tomi Adeyemi’s Instagram stories to get some kind of inclination as to when the story of Zélie, Amari and Inan would continue (whether Inan would continue at all!). I watched snippets of the long process to get this book absolutely right and perfection is what it is. Children of Virtue and Vengeance will remain in my top five books of 2020 and it’s only the second book I’ve read this year.
Zélie has just brought magic back to Orïsha, given her own people – the maji – the rightful power that was stripped from them so many years ago. The book begins with heartbreak, that of Zélie and her brother Tzain, as they bury their beloved Baba who sacrificed himself so that magic could intertwine in the blood of his daughter and all those like her… so that they could begin to pave a way for the brighter future of the maji everywhere. Of course, it is never that simple.
As magic is back, it means that another set of people have been blessed – or cursed – with unfathomable powers: the tîtáns. These are the people who have magic in their veins even though they despise every strand of hair on a maji’s head. They are the soldiers to be weary of, especially because they are under the command of the queen, who is the most powerful of them all. The war continues, murdering the maji young and old, except this time, the crown has the power of the gods coursing through their veins without the knowledge, the understanding nor the respect of how to use it.
What I love most about this book is the development of each character, so finely tuned and explosive in emotions. Zélie is a lioness, the Soldier of Death, who continues to fight for her people, but inside she is heavy, broken and struggling to fight another day. She doesn’t want this to be her life anymore; she wants to break free, be free and start again in a land that isn’t consumed by war or death or the memories of lost souls she cannot bear to think of. Nevertheless, she is strong, brave, wise in her young years and that is what makes her a leader, the growing mother of her people and the person that everybody looks to in time of need.
Amari, on the other hand, has become a little more complex. I really love her character development, although I don’t adore her character as much as I did in the first book. I understand the reasons why she acts the way she does, how she thinks like a king’s daughter – like the queen that she is ready to be for all of Orïsha. I can see the slow obsession eating away at her like her father’s ghost. She wants what is best for her entire land and she falls into the same trap of how her father came to be. Sacrifices must be made in order to create a better kingdom for everybody and in those sacrifices are the mistakes that lay hidden and the true identity of somebody who began as a naïve little princess running away from her castle. I think I love her development the most in this book because she is the most surprising and she is the most complex which adds another dimension to the story. She becomes the person she detests most in the world and that is a powerful, complex character.
And yet, every single character does what they believe in their hearts is right and just. Some believe it with such a passion that they are blinded by it and don’t realise the damage that they have already caused. There is still a thread of naivety throughout this story that reflects on society today; this is what makes Tomi Adeyemi’s work so crucial and so inspiring to read. Her story began and continues to be a homage to black people across the globe who are suffering devastating loss and cruelty. This book series is a dedication to black communities and one that opens the eyes of every reader.
One last point that I have to talk about is the love element between Zélie, Inan and Roën. I had completely forgotten about Roën’s character because I was so fuelled with the tormented romance between Zélie and Inan. What was I thinking?! Roën is by far one of my favourite characters in Children of Virtue and Vengeance. He is witty, smart, cunning and strikes me as a man who has utter control over everything in his life, but he has that unexpected, crucial soft side too. He is the man that you want Zélie to fall in love with. As for Inan, whether he is alive or dead, Zélie has a hunger to slaughter him that is twisted with her love for him. They clash and they fight, but in the end, they can never back away from each other. That is what makes young adult romance so addictive.
There is so much more to this book. There are characters that are beautiful, funny and strong, some that I haven’t mentioned because you must fall unfathomably in love with them for yourself. It will blow a magical breath of fresh air into your lungs, make you addicted to each and every page and it will bring tears of joy and sorrow to your eyes. It is an absolute must-read as is its prequel, Children of Blood and Bone.