Children of Blood and Bone: An Astonishing African High Fantasy Until a Plot Twist Derails This for the Worst
Hey everyone. In this book there is a plot twist that is so huge, strange, and somewhat offensive that there is no way to properly review this novel without including spoilers. In fact it would a crime to not discuss these spoilers in the review because it’s that sort of thing that could make someone go from loving the novel to hating it instantly and I think everyone should be aware of it before they sink their time into the book. So if you want to go in blind, don’t read any further and find out for yourself. As for the rest of you, you have been warned. Now carrying on.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Last Christmas eve, Kindle had a super sale. There were so many books that cost only dollar.They were old classics, new releases, and anything else you can think of. So I found myself spending a couple hours that night clicking book after book to see what they’re about and then buying a few. One I bought because it looked different than anything I read before. It was an African fantasy. And just recently I gave it a read. This is my review of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
So what is it? It’s an African high fantasy of sorts set in a world where there is quite a lot of history between the magi and common folk. The magi were blessed by the gods with powers and abused their powers to rule in a dictactorship over the people ignoring the rule of the gods. Because of this the gods took the power away and the people revolted. A king angered over the murder of his family had all the magi slaughtered. All were slaughtered except for the children. Years later those who live in what's left of these formally magi families are heavily taxed having no way to survive unless they sell the children into slavery. And its not uncommon for the king’s men to rape, beat, or just killed any of the young powerless magi and no one cares. Because in th eyes of the common folk, they are no longer people. They are often referred to as maggots.
The story follows Ziele. A teenage girl who is just young enough to grow up in a world without magic, but old enough to remember the slaughter of her people. The memory of her mother being ripped out of her home at night and lynched haunts her nearly every day. And because of that she has a fire of hatred always running through her veins. But when the king's hikes taxes once again, that none of her village can afford, she is facing the possibility of slavery. To avoid this, she and her brother travel to an out of the way market to sale fish to get the money they need. But when Ziele sees a girl running from the king's soldier, she does the right thing and helps her escape the men. She and her brother Tzain, soon learn she’s the princess Amari, the daughter of the mad king. Amari claims she wants to help the magi and her servant (and only friend) was killed by her father. She shows them a scroll. Just by touching it any magi can awaken their magic. And despite how much Ziele hates Amari, for what her father had done, the three of them go on a journey to bring magic back. It won’t be easy though because the King’s Soldiers are on their tail, led by the cold hearted blood thirty prince Inan.
So the good? Let’s start with the setting. This is an African high fantasy which there are not a lot of, at least not in the mainstream. So its unique in that nature alone. Also this book explores a lot of interesting and dark themes a lot books would not touch with a ten foot pole. Though all the characters are African, the magi have white straight hair that marks them as something lower than human. This book shows slavery, massacres, and the slaughter of magi children as a spectacle the common folk pay to watch. And there is hatred on both sides. Ziele loses control of her temper because she is haunted by what happened to her people. And her magic allows her to bring back spirits, she can constantly feel the pain of those who died during the massacre. The same goes for those without magic, the king soldiers and prince Inan. There is so hatred in each group toward the other, that it makes the world seem so bleak. Amari is the only one who can see the good in people and her infectious forgiveness is a theme you don’t see in most novels. And it is welcomed here. In such a big divide between people, it could be sign for peace to come. There’s one scene where Ziele struggles with the purpose of her journey. When she sees how thick the hate is within her own oppressed people, she wonders, if they can restrain themselves when magic returns or if the slaughter and slavery would only flip in the other direction. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff that’s explored through the eyes of some amazing characters.
The bad? Halfway through the book, I was really loving it. The quest. The exploration of the dilemmas I mentioned earlier. And this cat and mouse game with the near psychotic prince Inan. Part way through the book, he accidently touches the magical scroll his hair begins to change color and inside him awakens a power to weave in and out of minds and dreamscapes. Angered even more that he been infected, he uses his powers to track them down our protagonists where ever they go. Unlike Ziele who is angry but knows right from wrong, he’s more of a wild rabid animal So he catches up with Ziel and actually buries the tip of the knife in her chest part way with full intent of finishing the job but stops when some bandits steal his sister Amari. And then he suddenly turns into a good guy and teams up with Ziele. Mind you this is the man who helped his father oppress a whole race of people, burned down Ziele’s village, and murdered some folks. It was like someone flipped the evil switch in his head off. The excuse un the book is he saw Ziele’s memories as he was stabbing her and he changed his mind. Changed his mind then? It’s preposterous as he served in the king’s army a while and seen stuff like this before and never cared. It’s jarring. Its weird. It bizarre. It’s a bit of bad writing I can get past though. So they work together and save Amari. Then comes the part that I can’t get past. When all is said and done, Inan puts on the charming smile and Ziele instantly falls for him. A few hours after he tried to murder her, she falls for him. And falls for him hard. And its insulting. Insulting to a lot of people. To women in general and to any people who suffer from or had ancestors who suffered from oppression, slavery, and/or genocide. First of all, women in general do not fall their attempted murderer. No man is that charming and no woman is that stupid. He also burned down her village killing people she loved. He’s part of regime that put people like her into slavery. Why would she fall for man at the heart of doing all these terrible things to her people? Its just infuriating. This is like a slave falling in love with her slave owner or a survivor of Wounded Knee falling for a member of the cavalry. It’s not only a bad plot twist, its super offensive, again to women and any group of people who have suffered from issues like in this book. And this hijacks the book for a long while. It just derails it. And when the book gets back in track, Inan begins to side with his father again. So I guess he turned evil again. I am baffled by the choices made.
Since reading this book, it bothered me why it was written this way. And the author, who is an African American woman, wrote about her inspirations for the book in a Q and A at the back of the book. She said she was tired of seeing racism and hate on the news, and wanted to write something more inspiring. It explains the theme of forgiveness throughout the novel. But it’s hard for more to believe, Ziele could forgive someone (And fall in love with him) so quickly after all he did. It’s not that she fell in love with him that bothers me. It’s that he never redeemed himself in anyway. If he proved that he changed and she began to fall in love with him over the course of the second book as he becomes a better person, that would still be weird but it would make more sense. It would make a lot more sense than making a strong character turn into a crazy in love dingbat the moment he puts on a charming smile.
Overall, there’s half a phenomel book here. It’s so wonderful and unique that it’s that it’s hard not to love. But that twist in the middle was painful. At least it was for me. It just made me angry because its absurd. And I haven’t been this angry at a book in the longest time. If you can overlook the bipolar maybe good evil guy chick magnet plot twist, then you may like it. This book is highly rated at Goodreads and elsewhere. So people must be enjoying it. And art is art. Just because it’s a train wreck in my eyes doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful in others. If this sounds like your thing from this review, then give it a read. I personally don’t think I will be picking up the second book and I can’t recommend it. I’m only giving it two stars because the good half is phenomenal.
2 smoothies out of Four
Overall Rating: An Astonishing African High Fantasy Until a Plot Twist Derails it for the Worst.