Sometime last year, I stumbled on an article online that detailed how a 24-year-old Nigerian-American Harvard graduate had scored a million dollar deal for a trilogy that is being published by Macmillan’s Children Publishing Group. And how movie rights had also been sold to Fox 2000. The movie is already in development with producers behind popular Young Adult movies like Maze Runner, Twilight and A Fault In Our Stars already attached to the project.
This is a Young Adult novel and while it employs some YA tropes that we’ve seen in the past – a quest, some romance thrown in the mix and the fact that the story is spread out over trilogy- the one important distinction it has from many of its contemporaries is that it has an African theme and African characters. It draws heavily from the Yoruba mythology, mentioning the gods and goddesses that were/are worshipped by the Yoruba people.
The book takes place in a kingdom called Orïsha which was once a kingdom of magic. The magi (the magicians) are brutally murdered by a tyrannical king who outlaws their language and abolishes magic. This leaves behind the dïviners whose magic has not yet been realised but who have a distinct marker of snow white hair.
One of the main characters Zélie is left to mourn not only her mother, but the birthright of magic now lost to her. She and other dîviners also have to endure hatred and mistreatment from the non-magic people . An accidental encounter with a rogue princess sends her on a dangerous journey that will give her the chance to restore magic and give a fighting chance to the dîviners who have been maligned and called maggots.
There are three alternating perspectives; Zélie’s, Princess Amari’s and Prince Inan’s their pursuer and antagonist. The perspectives of these characters are captured with depth and insight. The reader is able to sympathise and empathise with the antagonist.
The main characters are fleshed out and actually have growth arcs which is not something one finds in many YA novels.
My only criticism would be that the king was a bit one dimensional, his motives for wanting magic gone forever are not really explained, however, this is the first of three books so I hope some of King Saran’s back story is told in the other books.
I think the novel’s greatest strength is it’s accurate portrayal of racial tensions, persecution and structural inequalities. Just like Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, this is Tomi Adeyemi’s first novel but it actually doesn’t read like it is her first novel.
The author’s note shows how Children of Blood and Bone was born, out of anger at the systemic racism that exists in America but this anger was channeled in the best sort of way; in a highly enjoyable story that also makes you really evaluate the world around you.