Overview (No Spoilers):
I love perusing the ‘Best Of” lists, especially in literature to see what titles I need to add to my TBR. Children of Blood and Bone is a book that I saw repeatedly gracing the must read lists, in addition to reading countless glowing reviews by fellow book lovers. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued and I was excited to read a book that generates such positive buzz. Children of Blood and Bone is marketed as young adult, but its themes are definitely dark and mature with Adeyemi’s story being one of pain, heartbreak, oppression, and fear.
In Orisha, the Diviners were all powerful eleven years ago, as they had magical powers spanning a wide ray of specialties. Then abruptly their powers abandoned them, with King Saran and his forces taking advantage of the weakness, massacring large swaths of the adult Diviners. The remaining population is left to suffer under strict laws and extreme prejudice. Growing up under these terrible conditions, Zelie’s strong personality, particularly when paired with her tell-tale white Diviner hair, clashes severely with the existing biased social structure that is meticulously designed to break her and anyone who supports her. When a chance encounter sets the stage for the return of magic, can Zelie endure even more hardships and dangers to bring power back to her people, while managing to keep her family safe?
The themes lean more into the adult realm, but the characters and story have the gaps and leaps one would expect of YA. This literary world is so fascinating that I continually found myself wishing for additional details about the culture, politics, and magic.
While I enjoyed the premise and worldbuilding in Children of Blood and Bone, I found the decisions made by the characters to often be frustrating and break with their established personalities. For example, Zelie falls madly in love with a key villain who stalks her dreams, burns her home, and kills many of the people she loves. Zelie is too strong of a female character to have so completely forgotten these irredeemable transgressions just for a lusty connection with someone she has only met a handful of times. There are other situations where Zelie forces her party on a path that leads to even more death, with the dangers outweighing the initial sacrifices that would have had to have been made. I don’t want to spoil anything here but you can read more about these specific scenarios in my additional insight section. While Zelie is strong, it is these impulsive demands that makes her hard to like, despite being a fabulously powerful female protagonist. That said, Zelie is not the only character to make rash and contradictory decisions. Prince Inan is another incredibly frustrating character as he spends this whole read waffling and bouncing back and forth from his sister or father. In the meantime his sister, Amari has a core of steel, but plays the timid card for 99.9% of this read.
Overall, Children of Blood and Bone manages to toe the line between YA and adult themes in this heart heavy adventure, with a captivating literary world that begs for more detail and smoother transitions.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- I wanted to know more about the driving force behind King Saran. Was the death of his first family the only reason that drove him to be so hateful? Did he ever really care about Amari or Inan? How did he find out or determine to ‘kill’ magic in the first place? Why not kill all the Diviners if that was his intention? He was certainly ruthless enough.
- How do Amari and Inan have powers? What are Amari’s powers going to be? What is their mother going to do now?
- I was so frustrated with the missed opportunity to grant all of the powers to the hidden community of Diviners when they had the chance, instead of waiting for a festival. I understood Zelie’s hesitation but when her people are actively being hunted down that would seem to add weigh to the decision.
- The gladiator war games might be the most off key sequence for me. Sure the visuals would be stunning, but the sunstone just happens to be the ‘prize’ was a bit too convenient. Also, to win the ‘prize’ Zelie and her group must kill countless of her own people to win. That loss seems like too steep of a sacrifice to not be more acknowledged.
- Can we talk for a second about the romance between Prince Inan and Zelie? How could she ever have let herself fall in love or even harbor the option with someone who burned her village and killed so many of her loved ones?
- Zelie sacrificing Lekan instead of her ‘pet’ was insane to me. They have a chance to restore magic and Lekan is their best source of knowledge. Not to mention he can grant powers. The balance of sacrifice seemed out of calibration, especially when Zelie’s pet was hardly in the rest of the book.
- Now that the scroll is destroyed, how will the ceremony be completed in the future?