Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

REVIEW BY: Ishita Khambete

Summary: Children of Blood and Bone is a book written by Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi. This book is about the journey of a girl named Zélie who has to embark on a journey to restore magic to her kingdom, Orïsha. It is on this journey where Zélie finds her magic as well as love. *There are spoilers!*

According to Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone is an allegory for what black people are experiencing in real life, and how these conversations can still happen even though they’re expressed in a more fantastical way. To Adeyemi, magic is a key element in her books as well as what she wants to write about in general. She also wanted to incorporate real-world elements and issues, and that’s where the inspiration for including references to the black experience came from.

The key groups of people in this book are the divîners and the kosidán. The divîners are a group of people who are capable of becoming maji and harnessing their magic. They are distinguished by their dark skin and stark white hair. The kosidán are non-magic wielding people, they are distinguished by their lighter skin. These groups are in constant conflict with each other because the kosidán treat themselves as better than the divîners due to their lighter skin and the fact that they don’t have magic. In this society, having magic is seen as being shameful, and because of that, the kosidán target the divîners for that aspect of their lives. This conflict represents the entire relationship between these groups of people because of the kosidán’s sense of superiority, they ended up oppressing the divîners and made them do various things for them such as pay higher taxes and do physical labour for them.

There are two major themes in this book: How race and class can be used to divide a nation and the story of how teenagers try to win their parents’ approval. The first theme is the usage of race and class to divide a nation. This theme is seen in the descriptions of the divîners and the kosidán. The divîners are very dark skinned and have distinctive white hair, compared to the kosidán, who have lighter skin and black hair. These descriptions are synonymous to descriptions of white people and black people. In American society, black people have been constantly oppressed by white people, and this oppression has been mirrored in the book. The other part of this theme is class. The divîners are in a class lower than the kosidán and because of that as well as the general power that they have, the kosidán are able to systematically oppress the divîners. In the end, these divisions split the nation. The other theme is the story of how teenagers are trying to get approval from their parents. The key example from this book is the character Inan. He is the crown prince of Orïsha and he is constantly trying to please his father, the king. The king is a big proponent of using violence to subdue the divîners and he wants his children to be like him. Because of the pressure from his father to fit a certain mold, Inan tries very hard to do what his father tells him, because he knows that if he fails, his father could do very bad things to him.

Other themes include the connection between power and brutality and oppression. Adeyemi dealt with these themes very well, in my opinion. She created a world where she could easily include magic as well as the themes since both of these go hand in hand. Magic is an important element of this book because as mentioned earlier, Adeyemi wanted to include this because she felt that this was the only way to convey her message in a way that is entertaining to the reader. Magic has a connection to the themes because the kosidán see magic as disgusting and thus want to get rid of it. The reason for the hate of magic is because of the king. He had one bad experience with the maji, and then he swore to destroy all of magic. Since the kind had control of all of the divîners, he was able to manipulate them into doing whatever he wanted, he was able to connect his desire to destroy magic with the power that the kosidán have over the divîners.

When I look back at the book now, I realize how obvious these themes are. I think that what Adeyemi is trying to get at is intentionally obvious because she wants the reader to understand that what happens in the book happens in real life as well. Adeyemi does a good job with including the themes in her book because it’s obvious enough what she’s trying to get at but not so obvious that she ends up explicitly saying what she’s implying.

Another major part of Children of Blood and Bone is the actual world. The story takes place in the fictional land of Orïsha, but it is directly based off of real-world civilizations and cultures. Orïsha is located in West Africa, and the inspiration for creating this world came from Adeyemi’s Nigerian roots. Her parents come from Nigeria, and they practice Yoruba culture. While writing the book, Adeyemi got help from her mother when naming spells since she used the Yoruba language. Adeyemi intended Orïsha to be like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter world, and I believe that she was effective in using Harry Potter as inspiration for her worldbuilding. The reason I think that Adeyemi did a good job with her world building is because she created a world where everything seems real, despite being magical. Everything is very well thought out and Adeyemi describes all that in amazing detail, and the great detail contributes to the overall sense that this kingdom truly exists and that the people who live in it are actually real.

A significant part of this book is the frequent use of descriptors and adjectives which provides a vivid mental image of what’s going on. One example of this is on page 171 when Zélie thinks, “It scorches through my body like a flame, yet chills my skin like ice, flowing in uncharted waves.” Here Zélie is describing the feeling she has looking at something very significant. This sentence itself is chock full of descriptors and thoroughly describes what Zélie is feeling. However, this is only one example from an entire book of vivid descriptions.

Overall, Children of Blood and Bone is the type of book for people who enjoy series such as Harry Potter,Percy Jackson, or other books with magic in them because this book is a fantasy book at its core even with its very real and harsh themes. This is a perfect book for people who want to read a book that isn’t completely whimsical and has some roots in reality. To summarise, this book is a good book for people who enjoy fantasy books with a little bit of reality incorporated in it. I’d give this book a 10/10 just because I like it so much.

If you’re looking for more books to read, here are some recommendations:

- American Gods by Neil Gaiman: This book follows the story of a man named Shadow, who after the death of his wife, is left dealing with an identity crisis caused by being hired by a mysterious man who goes by the name Mr. Wednesday.

- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: This book is about a psychotherapist who tries to uncover why a woman murdered her husband.

- The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan: This is the first book in the Heroes of Olympus series, and I recommend that you read this after reading the PJO series since you won’t understand anything if you don’t. This book is a continuation in the Percy Jackson timeline and it’s about the adventures of three new characters in the series who are trying to find the lost hero. The series as a whole is based on Greek and Roman mythology, Roman mythology being the new concepts in the series.

- The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan: This is the first book in the Kane Chronicles trilogy (my favorite Rick Riordan series, so I’m a bit biased). It’s about two siblings named Carter and Sadie Kane who are learn about their family’s past and the circumstances of their mother’s death, and are thus roped into a journey that brings them closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has been around since the times of Ancient Egypt. This trilogy is based on Egyptian mythology.

- Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: This is the first book in the Infernal Devices trilogy, and serves as a prelude to the Shadowhunters series. It follows the story of a girl named Tessa who is introduced to the supernatural world of the Shadowhunters following the death of her aunt and her brothers’ disappearance. She is roped into a world in which she cannot escape.

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