What a book. That’s really all I can say. My emotions are spent. If you plan to read this book, I wish you luck.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Synopsis From The Book
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Ever since I heard about this book, I have wanted to read it. As such I have avoided its spoilers like the plague. In that process, it has dropped from my need to buy list until I read over the Golden Trio Reading Challenge, where I was able to put this book for the ‘celebrity book club’ category. My hype to read it has been reinvigorated.
As we begin it, I have to remind myself that this (and Nocturna) is a novel set in a non-European magic standpoint. As such my reading times will probably be a bit different. Not to mention that this book is thick at 525 pages. (Not as thick as War Storm however. That book didn’t want to fit in my hand) 500+ pages and a magic system that isn’t inherently European based? Once I get into it, I’ll be sucked in, but it may take a bit longer to read than what my guess would typically be at 2.5-3hrs.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Well that was a… book. I feel so emotionally drained. So much happened. So much pain, suffering, death, destruction. This book was amazing. It destroyed me, and entertained me all at once. To have had my heart ripped out, stepped on, put back together, shattered, and then said ‘it’s going to be okay’, was something I did not sign up for. Falling in love and having my heart ripped out is one thing. Empathizing and understanding the characters only for them all to die around me? I… I am at a loss. I have never adored so many people to have them torn from my hands like I never deserved their brilliance in the first place. Its war, genocide actually, and I am ravished.
I feel like I have so much more I can and want to say about it but I am left unable to do it at all.
Zélie lives in a village with her father and brother, years after her mother was taken from her in an event called the Raid. (Essentially it was when the royal family decided to commit mass genocide, and killed all those known as maji). She is a divîner, or essentially one who can become a maji, but never had their magic awake. This is because on the night of the Raid all magic died. Skilled in a staff and with words, she tries to keep her family together when everyone around her calls her a “maggot.” When her brother, Tzain, and her go to the capitol to barter their fish, they encounter the princess Amari who is on the run.
Amari is the royal princess, known to be docile and often questioned in legitimacy (she is said to be too dark skinned to be her father’s daughter). One day her best friend and maid is called to her father, Amari believes this is because her best friend was accused of stealing (Amari had given her a bracelet so that her friend could pay the rising taxes). Instead, Amari discovers that her father has a weird magic scroll that can let divîner’s use their magic, and then he kills her best friend. Amari steals the scroll and flees. This is how she meets Zélie.
Zélie, Amari, and Tzain escape back to the sibling’s home. Upon arriving they realize that with the scroll they must travel to a magic holy temple, Chândomblé, to discover the use of the scroll. Amari’s brother, the crown prince Inan, chases after them to retrieve the scroll and Amari. The group makes it to the holy mountain. It is here that they discover how magic was lost. The king, Amari’s father, killed off the population of magic users who acted as the connection between magic and the maji. He then killed the maji.
The only way to bring back magic is to collect the three holy artifacts: scroll, dagger, and sunstone, bring them to a sacred island, and perform a ritual on the Solstice (thirteen days away). If they can not, magic will be lost forever. Zélie forms a new connection with the Sky Mother, and she is the only one who can now complete this task. The man they learn this from, provides them with the dagger, and tells them where to find the sunstone. He dies. They travel to find it.
They get the sunstone in a large battle, and end up meeting up with Inan.
While the three are on their journey, Inan has been chasing them, plagued by dreams of Zélie. He believes she has cursed him, when in reality it is he awakening his own magic. He slowly begins to dream with her more, and they both begin to like (lust) each other. He arrives at the Holy Temple and discovers the truth of the gods who provided the maji with magic. He ends up killing his father’s only other love, and admiral of the army Kaea, by accident when she rejects the magic he is beginning to show.
He meets with the three intending to bring them back. Tzain doesn’t trust him. Zélie is trying to understand him (and mocks him for becoming what he always hated). Amari is trying her best to mediate in a way. Tzain and Amari are kidnapped by divîner’s. Inan and Zélie save them. There is a celebration between all groups when they discover magic can come back, but then the guards attack (those who heard of celebrations and followed a lead). Inan and Zélie are taken.
Zélie is tortured, by Inan’s father, for a method to destroy the scroll. Tzain and Amari save her. They escape and try to get to the sacred island. They narrowly make it in time, when they are stopped by Inan and the King, hostages being used to try to stop those trying to bring back magic. Lots of people die, and magic is brought back.
What I Liked:
This is how you do Evil!; You need to show it, not tell it. And boy, does this evil king show it. You get his ideals, you see how he has suffered. You see the scars he has inflicted on his own children. Then you see him torture, by his hand, Zélie. You watch as he turns on his own son, having to be struck down by his daughter. Evil is what they do to the people who matter. It’s the innocent lives taken too soon, that you have grown to love. It is the horrors they have created that strike close to home. You can say someone is the most horrible villain ever, but unless they strike close, it does not matter. And this man strikes close.
Magic System; I like the religion aspect of it, the incorporation of how the powers were used. Is the language of magic a real language? In total I liked it, even in its limited understanding. Also the fact that everyone is related to magic, I always love magic systems like that.
Inan; is our powerful but broken prince who does not know what he wants to believe. He sees what evil magic can be but ends up trying to understand both “sides” but doing it horribly. I feel as if his character struggle in this book will really show how much the country is going to go through the same struggle. It is his change and mindset that reflects the country, as he is the representation of the country. With his death (spoiler), you get a non-closure to his story and the question of, what next?
Tzain; is simply focused on protecting his family, and for that I respect him.
Zélie; is powerful and rash, but she is trying to believe in what is best for her people and what can be best for everyone. Since the story is told most from her perspective, I feel as if I love magic as much as she does.
Amari; is weak and kind, but she is also powerful and strong. She does things because it is right, even if it means risking herself. She stole a scroll for the people she never knew, even as a pampered princess, and she fought her father. I adore all the characters, but I probably adore her the most. (Which is surprising because I couldn’t much stand her at the beginning).
Side Characters; Wonderfully written, real and tangible.
Moral struggles; Magic vs. Non magic. What is evil, and that line. The magic users create horrors in defense, but what they do is what is said they could do. They are living to their legacy of horror, after horrors are acted upon them. Although there is the idea of “they are bad too”, I suffer for the maji and divîner’s. I stand by them, and for what they are, as the ones who were massacred simply for being alive. This book depicts slavery, racism, and oppression of so many kinds. Ideals are put into perspective through a magic lens, as if to say we see it as wrong here, why not in real life?
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
To have read this when the sequel was in my hands as well. It can not come soon enough.
There was a bit of instalove betwee Zélie and Inan, but I saw it more as lust than love. I say this in the sense of, it could be read as love as I think about it after but as I read it, I saw lust. Lots of lust, because love would not have led Inan to betraying Zélie like he did.
Time Taken To Read
Another one of those books that the sequels are going to determine if this is a 4 series for me or a 5.
‘Strength cannot always roar, she said that day. Valor does not always shine.’ – Zélie thinking of Mama Agba’s words. pg 19
‘Gods are nothing without fools to believe in them.‘ – Amari remembering her father’s words. pg 82
“Safe ended a long time ago.” – Yemi’s thoughts heard by Inan pg 108
“You raised me to fight monsters… It took me too long to understand that the real monster was you.” – Amari to her father pg 512
‘This truth holds me close, rocking me like a child in a mother’s arm. It binds me in its love as death swallows me into its grasp.’ – from Zélie’s chapter pg. 519