Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and 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 the enemy.
Children of Blood and Bone has been hyped to the moon and back, which does make me a little more wary of the book itself. So many books haven’t lived up to the hype with me (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, The Upside of Unrequited), but there are books that did live up to the hype (The Hate U Give) so I was hopeful as I went into this book. It both did and didn’t live up to the hype for me.
Children of Blood and Bone is a book about Zélie, a teenager girl who watched her mother murdered on the day magic disappeared from the world. She has carried that anger and grief around with her, as her and her people continue to be oppressed by the ruling family and magic continues to be blamed for everything wrong in the world. The book cycles between the points of view of Zélie, Amari (the Princess) and Inan (the Crown Prince) as Zélie and Amari join forces to bring magic back to the world.
I absolutely adored the world-building and the magic system to this world. The different kinds of magic, yes, but also the history and the rituals behind the magic, showing it was just a part of the culture to people like Zélie and when the King tried to stomp out magic, it was trying to stomp out an entire group of people. I really liked to see the artefacts and the temples that are so important and some of the descriptions were absolutely amazing.
Zélie and Amari were two of the main characters and I loved both of them. Zélie I liked straight away, though I became quite frustrated with her at times, because her frustration in wanting to stand up for herself and those she loved, warred with her knowledge that she was not strong enough to do so and it would only lead to bloodshed. I emphasised with Zélie completely, especially when it was obvious her grief over her mother was still so raw. She carries the weight of that night on her all the time and I think Adeyemi illustrated that perfectly, how grief and frustrated anger and love guides Zélie’s actions so completely.
Amari has her own grief to deal with and it is far more fresh than Zélie’s and it is what pushes her away from the life she knows so well. Unlike Zélie, Amari never has to worry about running out of food and water, her physical needs are taken care of even if her emotional needs suffer under her parents, but when she loses the most important person in the world to her, she does something daring and completely unlike herself. It was Amari’s character arc that I find myself liking the most, despite Zélie being the main character, because she was so terrified all the time but you can see her growing as a person and learning how to deal with the fear so it doesn’t paralyse her. I loved seeing Amari growing as a person as she sees people outside of the palace and learns more about magic outside of Binta. Adeyemi makes sure that the grief that motivates Amari to beginning on her journey doesn’t just disappear, Amari continues to grieve throughout the book and it makes her character that much more sympathetic.
As great characters Zélie and Amari were, the two other main characters suffered for it. Tzain is Zélie’s brother and while I liked him well enough as a side character, I felt like he wasn’t needed on the journey at all. He seems to be there mostly to blame Zélie at the end for everything that had happened, leaving me to stare at him blankly. Like did he miss everything that had happened up to that point? Inan I couldn’t stand, even when he was supposed to be a good guy. I really didn’t like his chapters where he seesawed between finding nothing wrong with magic and understanding why his father wanted to stamp it out. It felt like there were supposed to be parallels to Prince Zuko (from Avatar the Last Airbender) with Inan and he just fell completely short. I didn’t like him and I really didn’t like his romance/bond with Zélie.
This brings us to the romance which I felt like was the weakest part of the plot. I didn’t particularly like either romance but the one between Zélie and Inan was particularly grating, partly because I disliked Inan as a character, partly because it was so instant and partly because it was quite obvious that the only maji Inan cared about was Zélie and she was the only reason he was willing to defy his father even a little bit. I can’t get the image of him burning Zélie’s village out of his head and I couldn’t understand why Zélie could forgive him for it, whether he felt guilty or not.
Children of Blood and Bone is an epic fantasy and while I did like parts of the plot, I felt like it became a little predictable at times. It also felt like there were certain plot points that I wished the book would go into more depth but then the book also felt too long as well. It felt like Outlander where I enjoyed most of the book (apart from Inan’s chapters) but I still found myself slowed down by the sheer size of it. When everything felt like it was working out in the middle of the book, I looked at the rest of the book left and sighed.
This book is definitely one I would recommend and I’m going to pick up the next book in the series (especially if the cover is as gorgeous as this one), but it’s not without its flaws. 4 stars!