“Do not worry. I will make a far better queen.” – Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone
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.
C: I gave it 5/5 stars.
E: Me too
J: I also gave it 5/5.
C: Jenn, why specifically?
J: Why did I give it 5/5 specifically?
J: I liked that it was a fantasy world that we unfortunately never really get to see. We see a lot of whitewashing in fantasy and this was refreshing. We got to see a lot of different cultures and culture from African countries that I had never really read about previously. So, it has made me want to learn more about the culture and history there. I also liked that it wasn’t the same voice, it wasn’t the same magic system, it wasn’t the same background that we typically see in fantasy novels. The idea of power was also changed in this book. Our monarchy who held the power over all weren’t the ones that were actually the powerful ones in the story. The maji and the diviners were completely discriminated against, tormented, and beaten down. Yet, they still had the power to fight against the oppression.
E: Caitlynn, I know you had a lot of thoughts about this book.
C: Pretty much the same thing that Jenn said. I liked how unique the story was and we haven’t seen a lot of these stories. I want to learn more about these cultures, history, and African tribes. I just really liked all of the characters. I really like Adeyemi’s writing style. When I first picked it up I was really worried. It was a whole new world, a new magic system, a new language. But, she wrote it so beautifully that it was easy to read.
E: She is an incredible writer. I was thinking about that when I was finishing it. You don’t see a lot of debut authors that can write nearly 6-00 page books and have every page be important, relevant, and add to the story. I was amazed by the skill she can show while she’s writing. It almost makes me think of a much more powerful and more inclusive Sarah J. Maas.
J: I agree. Her writing style is so accessible. A lot of time with fantasy you can find a lot of writers try to write as complicated as possible which makes it hard to begin reading it. She had such a great access point that I could give this book to a 14 year old and they would be able to fully understand it.
E: I think the only downside to this book is how long it is. I”m not saying that it didn’t need to be as long as it was. But, when we talk in the scheme of pulling a younger audience most kids are intimidated by a 500 page book.
J: But, I think her target audience wouldn’t be.
E: I think that when we’re talking about pulling in a younger audience it would hinder it.
J: I think a lot of 14 year olds would be fine with it, we were.
C: Yeah, we had Harry Potter which was 700 pages.
E: Yeah, and Twilight.
C: But, if we are talking about reluctant readers they would be put off by it. I feel like a lot of our kids would be put off by the size.
J: Yeah, you’re right.
J: Another thing I really liked was that she tied all of the characters back to real life situations from our society. She included people like Tamir Rice and Philandro Castile and all of the people of color that are discriminated against and killed just because of their skin color. It was a really powerful way of doing it. She connects the reader to the characters first. Then, she forces you to understand if you were upset by these events then you should be upset by what is occurring in our society.
E: I didn’t read her acknowledgments, but I did tie the unjustifiable deaths to the chaos that occurs in the real world. I think what I really appreciated was that there wasn’t a single white person in this book. There was not whitewashing. It was all about people of color.
J: I also liked that she spoke about colorism that occurs. In media we still see people of color depicted only with a lighter skin tone or portraying only light skin to be considered to be beautiful. Yet, in this book we have Zélie who is dark skinned with natural and curly hair. All of the characters continue to express how beautiful and strong and attractive she is. This is os important to have representation for our kids. I loved that we got that narrative that we don’t often get to see.
C: I didn’t assume that anybody in this book was white. Often with other books it’s easy to just assume that the other characters are white.
J: You let the description lead you rather than automatically prescribing a race.
C: Right, or even if she didn’t give a description of the character I didn’t assume that they were white.
E: I think it follows the typicality of the narrative of that. We see so much whitewashing that it has unfortunately become the norm.
C: I agree.
J: Well, up until this point there weren’t a lot of books that had diversity. So, if you assumed somebody was white chances are you were right. But, this book set it’s boundaries. It was clear that it was a book about people of color, so it stops the reader from projecting races onto the characters.
C: Like you said Zélie they talked about how beautiful her skin and hair was and that’s so important.
J: I’m real excited for the movie.
C: I didn’t know it was going to be a movie, so I’m real excited for it as well.
E: Wait, it’s going to be a movie?
J: Yeah, it already in development with Fox.
E: One thing I thought was going to happen, hoped was going to happen, and am still hoping will happen was Amarie and Zélie were going to get together.
C: I thought so too.
J: I thought that was going to happen too! But, I liked Roen so much.
C: I agree.
J: I initially thought thats where it was going. Then Roen showed up and I really liked him.
C: I like him a lot.
E: I think that Amarie was a little ambiguous with her sexual orientation.
J: I thought so too, but she talked so much about Tzain it made me believe that there was something going to develop there.
E: But, at the beginning she would talk about Binta and it seemed a little bit less like good friends and more like she had a crush on her.
J: Oh, I didn’t see it that way.
C: After the boys were introduced and the relationships with the boys were introduced I saw it more as a sisterly thing. But, at first I thought they could end up together.
J: Yeah, when they first introduced the two characters together. I thought they could definitely end up together. But, I didn’t see her relationship with Binta as more than just a friend that she feels guilty about.
E: I’m eager to see what happens with our prince in the next book.
J: I hope he becomes a tyrant.
E: I’m not sure what I hope.
J: I want her to make him not redeemable. Because, throughout the book I continued to think that no matter what he did wouldn’t take away from what he’s done.
C: I agree.
E: I can agree with that. I guess I just don’t know what role I want him to play.
J: I would love for him to be the villain.
E: I would love for him to be the villain but I don’t know to what capacity.
J: I would love for him to be a tyrant that believes that what they are doing is good because they think it’s best for everybody. I think it speaks true to a lot of what happens in society. Nobody thinks what they are doing is “bad” they think what they are doing is for the best. But, that doesn’t excuse it or redeem it.
C: I hope she doesn’t switch perspectives next year. I hope it stays with just the three.
E: There was a part that killed me with the perspectives. I don’t want to say it because it’s kind of a spoiler. But, there was a point that I needed to know what happened with a certain character. They were great but frustrating.
J: I love how well she did with the perspectives. I don’t read chapter headings a lot. Yet, I was never confused as to whose perspective I was reading.
C: They each had such a specific voice.
J: I just can’t wait for the rest of this series.
E: Me neither.