We are all children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, and the public fury that brought down the Edward Colston statue, it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that it’s not enough to try to do right by the planet – it’s also essential to do right by its people.
With that in mind, here’s my review of Tomi Adeyemi’s awesome kids’ book: Children of Blood and Bone – a book that’s so right for these strange times. It holds up a mirror this world’s “pandemic of racism”, while at the same time, providing an escape from it.
What is it?
A West African-inspired fantasy novel published by Pan Macmillan in 2018. Soon to be turned into a movie (eek!) this stunning book – the first in the Legacy of Orïsha series – has a sequel: Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which was released in December 2019 and is on my to-read list.
The book follows Zélie, Amari and Tzain on their quest to return magic to the maji in a bid to finally end their bitter oppression at the hands of kosidán (non-magical) king, Saran.
Magic is Zélie’s birthright, but it’s also the reason why she and her white haired, silver-eyed kin have been brutalised for over a generation. Their magic is universally feared; they are persecuted, and derided with a particular slur, yet they have a potent connection with the sky gods and the deep power of the earth.
Who’s it for?
I love a crossover book – as a child I read mostly adult books and now I read (and try to write) mostly children’s books. This is one of those wonderful books that I think would appeal to a wide age range.
There’s a fair amount of violence in Children of Blood and Bone, so while younger teens would love the magic, adventure, well-built world and powerful characters, it is definitely well-suited for YA readers. There’s certainly enough depth and brilliant writing in this book to compel any adult reader to devour its 500+ pages, too.
Things I love about it
This book has everything I love: tangible gods, a brilliantly-drawn fantasy world, earthy magic, compelling characters, clearly defined shifts in point-of-view and page-turning suspense.
It’s one of those books that is utterly word-perfect; despite its length, every sentence has been crafted to perfection. Here’s an example of what I mean:
This late into the day we’ve ascended thousands of meters, giving us startling views of the jungle beneath. Greens of all hues cover the land, creating endless canopies beneath our feet. A rushing river curves through the tropical brush, marking the only water in sight. It grows smaller and smaller as we climb, shrinking until it’s only a thin blue line.Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Things I don’t love about it
I have no criticisms of Children of Blood and Bone; I love the characters, its plot and narrative arc, the setting details and writing style.
While this is by no means an issues book, the way the maji are abused draws clear and uncomfortable parallels with the racism and violence of our own world. For me that is part of the book’s strength, but if you haven’t read Children of Blood and Bone and you want to (you must!) be prepared for some heartbreak.
Children of Blood and Bone kept me gripped, but it’s also substantial enough that I couldn’t gobble it up in one or two sittings.
I’ve spent the last few days yelling, swearing, and tutting while I’ve read it. “What’s happening now?” My husband would ask. It felt good to tell him about each twist of the adventure, to offload some of the tension.
Please, please read this book if you haven’t already – it’ll connect you with what’s happening now, while allowing you to slip into a fantastic world.
Have you read Children of Blood and Bone? Let me know in the comments below!