Review: Tomi Adeyemi Novel Children of Blood and Bone

Talon Smith, Head Editorial Editor

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“They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise.” These four powerful sentences mark the back of newcomer author Tomi Adeyemi’s book, Children of Blood and Bone. This epic fantasy novel was released in March of 2018 where it soon joined the New York Times’ Best Seller list and has since remained there for over 88 weeks. With the next book in the series, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, scheduled to be released this December, the perfect time has come to revisit this adventurous story.

Children of Blood and Bone follows Zélie Adebola, a teenager living in the land of Orïsha. This land was once filled with magic, practiced by the maji. Threatened by the maji’s power, a tyrannical king mysteriously took away magic and ordered all the maji to be killed. One of these maji was Zélie’s mother. Those like Zélie, future maji, now suffer oppressive rule beneath the monarchy, but all that has the potential to change when Zélie’s magic is awakened. On her journey to restore magic, Zélie faces both danger and romance.

One of the first elements to be brought to the reader’s attention is the world of Orïsha. Adeyemi does an excellent job creating a completely original world. Not only is every character a person of color, the world reflects this with the obvious influence of African mythology. None of the details feel forced, in fact I felt relieved to be reading a story several steps away from the widely used folklore of Europe.

If you enjoy characterization and character development, Children of Blood and Bone is certainly for you. Zélie’s character grows and develops as she is exposed more widely to Orïsha’s people. Apart from her, the opinions and beliefs of other key characters sway back and forth widely as they are faced with the harsh realities present in their world. Many complex and intense emotions are brought directly before the reader for every character important to the plot. Not a single person seems to be less than three dimensional.

Characters develop alongside the plot, both moving at a steady and intriguing pace. Not a sentence passes in Children of Blood and Bone where something is not happening. No one will find themselves bored, even as side plots come into the main focus.

All together, only one major flaw is apparent throughout Adeyemi’s work: a lack of polish. Several scenes lack the air of experience that comes with an author who has been published multiple times. This sometimes results in a lack of description regarding certain details of the world which differ from real life, causing parts of the story to become confusing or muddled to readers. Other times the world appears flexible, with specific aspects not seeming to transfer across the entire setting, such as travel, time, and the process of learning magic.

Despite not possessing a large amount of experience, Adeyemi weaves together a beautiful and original world complete with political commentary on society. Her story has clear and obvious parallels to the real world, touching on major issues such as police brutality and colorism.

In addition, Adeyemi does an excellent job at stepping away from what the young adult fantasy genre is overcrowded with. She utilizes underused tropes and develops multi-sided characters with true depth beyond the stereotypical archetypes. Children of Blood and Bone, all together, is a fantastic book worth every second it took to read. It clearly deserves four out of five stars.

Those readers looking for something different or fantasy fans simply looking for another amazing new world should give this book a try. And, hopefully, attempt to finish it before Children of Virtue and Vengeance is released on the 3rd of December.

Pictured above is the cover of Todi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. This is the first book in the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy, the second to come out December 3rd, 2019. (Henry Holt and Company)