Sunday, March 11, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zelie Abedola wants to fight back against the regime that oppresses her and her people, the diviners. Society is structured to keep them downtrodden, poor, and ostracized. When she encounters Amari, a runaway princess with ancient and powerful magic artifacts, Zelie makes a rash decision to save her that puts her family and village in danger. With the king's son on her heels, she and Amari travel across the country as fast as they can to attempt to restore the magic that was stolen from the maji and change Orisha forever.

Children of Blood and Bone is novel that sucked me in and never let go. The world is incredibly immersive and well constructed. It feels both alien due to the fantastical trappings and familiar due to the social aspects. The maji or magic users used to rule Orisha and were organized in 10 factions based on their powers. Not much is seen of this time, but diviners hold on to the memories. Orisha was taken over by those who don't use magic when their leader Saran simultaneously destroyed the source of magic and murdered any maji of age to use their powers. Afterwards, society discriminated and oppressed anyone with dark skin and white hair, signs of the potential for magic use. Taxes raise every time guards come by to drive diviners into slavery that builds and maintains Orisha. Diviners expect abuse of every kind from the Orishan government and any person socially above them. Small pockets of people rebel in small ways, but the diviners are so oppressed that even those rebels have no real hope.

The characters are as well drawn as the world, namely in the three main characters Zelie, Amari, and Inan. Zelie is diviner filled with rage and drive to succeed that gets her into trouble more often than not. Under the surface lies the pain and sadness from her entire world crashing down and her mother murdered in front of her. Her development through the novel is amazing, going from a rash girl willing to risk lives for a futile show of force to a young woman striving to do what's right even when the odds look bleak. She is by far my favorite character because she is the character who knows herself the most and she has seen the most true version of the world. Her motivations change slightly, but her desire to free herself and her people propels her throughout the novel while the other characters are working through new views of the world or new senses of self.

Amari and Inan are siblings pitted against each other by their sadistic father. Amari's closest friend is Binti, a diviner and her servant. Both parents only see imperfection in her and press her to drive them out in varying degrees of cruelty. Binti was the one constant for comfort and friendship until murdered by Saran. Out of grief, Amari took the artifact that gave Binti powers and left with no clear plan. Although she loves Binti, she still has misgivings about diviners in general having power because of the upbringing she had, colored by prejudice, fear, and privilege directly achieved from the oppression of diviners. Her portrayal felt real because it's difficult for people to change their entire world view so quickly and it's natural to have some misgivings about the future. Inan, on the other hand, finds out that he has diviner power that he has to reconcile for his hatred of the people. His mission is to get rid of magic so he can go back to normal and ignore his true heritage. In his view, the diviners will treat the ruling class as the ruling class has treated them. He can't fathom equality or peace because of how his own people have taken past wrongs and subjugated an entire people for a decade. Both Amari and Inan had similar upbringings, but completely different reactions to the same situation.

Children of Blood and Bone is an amazing novel that takes aspects of our society and weaves it into a  fully realized fantastical world. The characters felt so real no matter what their ideology was. This book is around 600 pages and only read it in a few days, an impressive feat with my schedule. I can't wait to be immersed again in this world for the second book. It has everything: a bit of romance, breathtaking action, dynamic characters on all sides, and engrossing prose that made it hard to tear myself away.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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