The blogosphere was all atwitter earlier this year with the release of “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi. Whispers of the novel being the next Harry Potter were heard. Jimmy Fallon picked the novel for “The Tonight Show” Summer Reads. The novel certainly sounded promising. This book seemed to check all the right boxes — young adult fantasy written by new promising author with a diverse background. The excitement upon starting the book was palpable. Would it live up to expectations?
Set in the fictional world of Orisha, “Children of Blood and Bone” dazzles with the world building, a key element in creating a strong fantasy-based world. Orisha has a rich history, which is carefully doled out in bite-sized chunks throughout the entire novel. Shared in mysterious tales and lessons told by a wizened old woman and revealed via tragic memory flashes of the main characters, readers are pulled through the story determined to learn if the stolen magic, once it is returned, will truly bring about the destruction of the entire country. Who is telling the truth — the government or the citizens?
“Children of Blood and Bone” starts out strong with three distinct characters sharing their side of the story. Zelie has maji blood and holds the key for restoring magic. Inan is next in line to the throne and struggles with answering the call of his father and putting duty before self — a recurring theme in the book and Inan’s life. His sister Amari is the bridge between Zelie’s world and Inan’s. She sees the truth of the maji and their suffering and the horrors her father’s reign has brought upon them. Amari strives to bring everyone together and achieve the goal of bringing peace to the land of Orisha. For her that means helping Zelie fulfill her destiny and return magic to Orisha.
As the story clips along, the book suddenly loses a bit of steam near the 300-page mark. The distinct voices of Zelie, Inan and Amari become muddled and confusing as they come together. After spending much of the novel with Inan pursuing Zelie and Amari, the tension of the cat-and-mouse game disappears, and as a result, the tension that keeps readers moving forward is gone. It is about this same time, those who hold the knowledge of the magic in the world and how to wield it are no longer around to guide the children to the next step in their harrowing journey. The three children, along with the other allies they encounter, seem lost at sea as the book reaches its conclusion. This uncertainty as the book reaches its final pages may discourage some readers from moving on to Book 2 when it releases in 2018.
Adeymi does paint a wonderfully fantastical world. The gods of Orisha dance and mingle in the reader’s mind whether the stories are being shared by the elders or relived through flashbacks.
Readers will be aware that while Orisha is a fictional place, there are reflections of our own reality within the pages of “Children of Blood and Bone.” This is where Adeymi’s writing ability truly shines. The lessons the characters learn, the truths they discover are not forced, they are gradual, heartbreaking and real. Readers will come to love Zelie, Inan and Amari through “Children of Blood and Bone” and may even find hope for our own world in the final pages.