The Kingdom of Orïsha was once rife with magic. The night it disappeared, the king dragged the maji out of their homes and killed each and every one. What was left was a Kingdom filled with resentment and oppression. Young Zélie remembers clearly the day her mother was murdered by the king, just like she remembers a time when magic was present in their world.
Princess Amari and Prince Inan have been brought up to believe that magic is dangerous. But when Amari watches her father murders her handmaiden because of a scroll that has the power to bring magic back, she steals the scroll and flees the castle. When she runs into Zélie and her brother, the three of them must work together to bring magic back to the kingdom, even as the dangerous Prince Inan follows after them, determined to destroy magic for good.
Children of Blood and Bone is one of the most immersive fantasies I’ve read in a long time. Its worldbuilding is fantastic. It’s easy to get lost in the kingdom that Adeyemi has created, especially as you watch magic slowly come alive within the book’s pages, and learn about the history that has led the kingdom, and the characters, to this point.
The strongest point of the book is definitely the characters. Throughout the novel, we see three points of view. First of all is Zélie, whose entire life has been coloured by the trauma of her mother’s death and the destruction of magic. Now, with the chance to bring magic back resting on her shoulder, Zélie is tasked with the challenge of her entire people – to free them from the oppression and injustice they have known her entire life. While Zélie is undoubtedly a character that is defined by her strength, a lot of the time this strength is what’s presented outward. She’s physically strong and quick-witted, but from the getgo, we learn that Zélie has deep-seated insecurities. That her brash personality has caused trouble for her and her family in the past. Now that she’s the only person in the kingdom who can save their people, Zélie has to overcome a lot, including her own insecurities.
Zélie is an overpowering character, and her personality and voice shine through in the novel. Amari, though, is a much quieter character. She is driven by the motivation of losing a loved one. She is also driven by a resentment for her father, the ruthless king who has always favoured his duty to the kingdom over his family. But as the novel progresses, Amari slowly gains strength within herself.
The most complex character of the entire novel, though, is definitely Inan, the confused Prince out to destroy magic forever. He is constantly in conflict between what his father wants from him, and what he wants from himself. He’s also faced with the decision of how to deal with a sister who has betrayed the kingdom and seems to have no qualms about doing it. Along with Zélie, with whom he shares a complex and contrived relationship, equally driven by the hatred he’s been forced to learn, and the understanding of her trauma that he slowly begins to understand.
Children Of Blood and Bone also had me on tenterhooks from beginning to end. It’s full of intense, fast-paced scenes. At the same time, the plot is intricate in the way it weaves together powerful themes that are incredibly relatable. One of its overarching themes is rising up against the oppression that the diviners, and the maji, face at the hands of the king, who doesn’t even view them as human.
I did leave the book feeling slightly unsatisfied with my knowledge of the various maji clans, as we only really got to see three different maji powers being used properly. But the novel is on the first of The Children of Orisha trilogy, and I have no doubt that the second and third book will delve further into the world of Orisha, along with its magic. My only other issue with the book is that the romance in it, while complicating the characters further, seemed a little rushed, moving from one extreme to another in the space of a short time in the book world.
Children of Blood and Bone is already #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and it’s easy to see why with its gripping plot, complex characters, and intricate worldbuilding. It’s a must-read, especially if you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Children of Blood and Bone is a fast-paced, immersive fantasy that will leave you wanting more.