BWW Review: CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi
"As long as we don't have magic, they will never treat us with respect. They need to know we can hit them back. If they burn our homes, we burn theirs, too."
~Baba, CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE is one of my favorite books of 2018, and I expect to still feel that way at the end of the year. Out today, this book has been highly-coveted since the very beginning. There was a massive pre-empt deal from Macmillan for this debut, which netted author Tomi Adeyemi a seven-figure deal that included movie rights--and she's only twenty-three years old. The buzz around this novel has set the book world on fire, and it's all well-deserved. I've been waiting to get my hands on this book for a long time, first when I saw the deal announcement and heard how awesome it sounded, and then again when I saw its beautiful cover. Now I've read it and am already eager to read it again, as well as get my hands on the beautiful finished copy. (A true collector, I plan to own the Barnes and Noble Exclusive Edition.)
COBAB reminded me why I love fantasy so much. As much as I couldn't wait to read this, when I first received an advance copy of the book, I was a little daunted by its meaty 600 pages. But, as often happens with fantasy, the pages melt away as you delve deeper into the world, and when you get to the final hundred pages or so, you're left wondering how time flew so fast and why the book isn't longer because you're just not ready to say goodbye just yet.
Zélie is a divîner; magic once existed in Orïsha and divîners were powerful maji. Now, magic has been eradicated and the children who were spared as their parents perished are now condemned to a world that despises them. Their friends and family members are charged hefty taxes for harboring their existence. They are often sold into slavery and treated as less than human until they die. They are feared and reviled. When Zélie encounters a princess with the abilities to turn divîners into maji, the kingdom will stop at nothing to destroy her and the knowledge she harbors. Yet Zélie must restore magic if she wishes to free her people and restore balance to the world.
I don't even have words for how good and epic this debut is. I am so glad there are two more books and that we're not done with this world yet. I have grown to love all the characters so much and want to see more of them, even secondary ones such as Roën, who we meet late in the game and anticipate seeing more of in the future. (Roën might just become a fan favorite a la Leigh Bardugo's Nikolai if his character expands enough; my fingers are crossed!) Characters changed and evolved so much, too. There is so much more to Princess Amara than what meets the eye when we first encounter her and she is truly a force to be reckoned with now. I am so excited to see her evolve and grow.
And ooh, the romance? As a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender who wanted Prince Zuko and Katara to get together and has admittedly read fanfic to make those wishes realized, I adored that hate/love relationship between Zélia and Prince Inan. Inan goes through so much of the loyalty cycle that Zuko does, and seeing this couple as canon, so similar to another couple I love so much, enamored me to them even more and made me root for them to get together despite all the odds stacked against them. (Plus, Katara and Zélia both have frustrating older brothers who HATE the love interest, so extra drama there!) Inan is the most complex character in the entire novel because he is so at war with himself and what he views as right and wrong. There are so many fundamental building blocks he must tear down, and so many decisions he might make. I think this is another reason my mind likened him to Zuko, who was by far my favorite character in ATLAB. I really like characters full of gray matter who toy with what is right and what is wrong and whether to follow heart or duty. They are the most interesting characters, and the ones that have the most story meat.
That said, I adored all the characters and was happy whenever the POV flipped from one to the next. Sometimes, books frustrate me when they do this and I just want to get through the one character and back to the next one. COBAB flips from Zélie to Amara to Inan, and I enjoyed each of their perspectives so much and felt they all had unique arcs and demons to face; I was excited to become reacquainted with each of them.
Perhaps the richest part of COBAB is the world-building and lore. The magic the maji wield isn't quite elemental in nature, but has the feel of it. There are so many types of abilities, and we've just scratched the surface. The new maji are going to learn so much, and we're going to be right there alongside them. I thought it was fascinating that we not only saw "traditional" types of magic such as fire-wielders and mind-readers, but also people able to manipulate disease. There is also a passage that talks about the mythology of Orïsha and the way the maji came into being that endeared my mythology-loving heart and made me want to know more about the past. I also thought the way Orïsha managed to reflect some of the brutality and horror in today's world--both past and present, really resonated and will have readers reflecting on the book in more ways than one. It also tackles racial divide and the way groups try to tear one another down and can't
I'm impressed that Adeyemi wrote this book so fast (She told Writer's Digest, "I had about 75 days to outline, write, and revise a 95,000 word fantasy so that I could enter Pitch Wars.") She wrote her first draft in June and did her first revision in July. Granted, there were more revisions after that, but to do so much in so short of time and have such a solid world and product is stunning. Whenever I am blessed with a fantasy idea, it takes me forever to world-build enough to feel I can start to play, so I deeply admire authors who can do so much so fast.
COBAB is stunning, and a debut worth picking up this week. If you love fantasy, you are going to fall head over heels for Orïsha and its citizens and covet the next book as badly as I already do!