Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer based in California who has written a young adult fantasy debut full of magic, adventure and forbidden love. This is the first book in a planned trilogy.
Adeyemi graduated from Harvard University in English Literature. She studied West African mythology, culture and religion in Salvador, Brazil.
The story follows Zélie Adebola, who has been chosen by the Sky Mother – who is the mother of the gods and the creator of all humans – to bring back magic in the country of Orïsha and restore the majji to their former glory. Zelie is a diviner, who is descended from those with magical blood. She lives in a world where magic is forbidden. It has almost been eradicated by King Saran who fears those he doesn’t understand.
Using raids across his kingdom, King Saran has killed all majji, and silenced their gods. He is one of the K’osidan: those without magic. The k’osidan and majji have always been at war, competing for power. Each majji can be recognised by their white hair and darker coloured skin. This makes them different in appearance as well as power, which in turn makes it easier to destroy those with magic.
With her brother Tzain, who has sworn to keep his sister safe, and Amari, the Princess of Orisha, they journey across the land to collect three artefacts and take them to a holy temple which only appears once every 100 years. They must do it while being chased by Inan who is the crown prince of Orisha and brother to Amari. He is desperate to win the approval of his father and prove himself worthy of becoming the next King of Orisha. If the children do not succeed, magic will disappear forever.
Each character has experienced the incredible personal loss of a loved one. They have all witnessed torture and the senseless taking of lives, just because someone looks different. They are determined to make their world a world of peace.
The characters each have to battle their own demons. Each chapter is written from the viewpoint of a different character and in this way we can empathise with them. We are able to understand their fears and losses. Their love and agony. We can appreciate their despair when called ‘maggots,” a disparaging term used when talking about the majji.
The story is easy to read and difficult to put down. Each character becomes someone you can either love or hate, but as you continue reading, it becomes clear to the reader that everyone has their flaws and we all have the opportunity to not let our past determine who we become.
Adeyemi doesn’t dwell on long descriptive passages. Rather, she allows her characters to describe a scene through their own eyes. Just enough to allow us into their world. Her story is gripping and new. Her world is one of fantasy but with connections to the world we know. We are able to see the intelligent giant lionaire, Nailah and the massive snow leopanaire, which are animals used to carry people. The great cities of Orisha and the small fishing villages along the coast: each one brought to life through the eyes of one of the main characters. It is a world of cruelty and despair, but we are given the choice to give up or work at making Orisha/our world a better place.
Adeyemi has said the idea for the novel came after a trip to Brazil, describing: “I was in a gift shop there and the African gods and goddesses were depicted in such a beautiful and sacred way… it really made me think about all the beautiful images we never see featuring black people”. In the Author’s note, she mourns the loss of unarmed black men, women and children who have be shot by police. She feels we all have the power to change the evils in the world. Children should not fear those who should be protecting them.
Children of Blood and Bone deals with racism, colour, lack of understanding, jealousy, and power. It is a story of hope for a better world.
Once you do yourself a favour and read this beautiful new fantasy, put March 2019 in your diary now so you can read the next instalment of this wonderful tale. As Adeyemi says, we are all children of blood and bone.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Rating out of 10: 10
Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: March 2018