Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
*(This post contains spoilers. Kindly avoid reading it if you haven’t read the book or would not want any spoilers.)*
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were 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 an enemy.
This is a story of Zelie, a diviner living in fantasy land of Ilorin in kingdom of Orisha whose mother was killed in a raid conducted by King Saran. The raid which killed thousands others was done as an attempt to kill the magic and people practicing magic from the kingdom. Now, Zelie along with her brother Tzain, her father and many other young diviners kids live a terrible life paying exorbitantly high taxes, living in extreme poverty and suffering the stigma of being children born to parents who practiced magic.
The premise of the story was very beautiful and had a lot of potential. I was particularly thrilled about the all black characters and the African set up. This is the first young adult book that I have read with all African characters and it was extremely refreshing. In the world of Orisha where magic people, also called Maji and non magic people lived together, their interaction lead to racial, cultural and prejudice issues along with the structural inequalities causing very serious problems of brutal oppression and sufferings.
But the disappointing part was where the story had nothing new when compared to many other fantasy reads. It was very basic plot having a main character who is very ordinary but is also intrusted with mammoth task of saving their world or getting rid of the evil and end all the sufferings because they are very special. What exactly is special about them? No one knows. They just end up being in the perfect circumstances to be a leader on whom everyone depends.
Coming to the characters, Zelie, the protagonist is a young short tempered girl who have a knack of getting in trouble quite often due to her anger issues and have her brother Tzain to clean up her mess. While Zelie recognises her tendency to attract trouble a serious flaw, there is not a lot that is done on her behalf to improve it. She finds Princess Amari running away from the palace and decides to help her escape which puts in motion the chain of events of this fantasy adventure. Zelie gets in her possession magical artifacts and suddenly have a major responsibility of doing a sacred ritual and saving the magic which otherwise would be lost forever.
King Saran, father of Princess Amari and Prince Inan, is a ruthless king and doesn’t bat an eyelash before slitting the throat of anyone capable of doing magic. He has blind hatred for magic people and conducted an attack many years ago when he came to the throne killing all the elders who use to practice magic and sparing only the young ones who were not trained enough to use or control magic. He also found an artifact which acted as a “power source” from which all the Maji derived their power and tried to destroy it. Because of this, in the years following the raid, magic people felt that their magic is lost.
The thing that I liked the most is the inner conflict that Zelie felt when she was on the path to bring back magic. She saw how magic in wrong hands can be used as a weapon of mass destruction and having it experienced first hand, she had serious doubts on whether she should revive the lost magic or not. It was the part of the story in which I felt Zelie was able to show some maturity and wanted to take the decision that would not have serious consequences later on.
Princess Amari played an important role in starting off the chain of events by stealing the magical artifact from her father. She escapes the palace and meets Zelie and Tzain who discover the ability of the magical artifact to restore the lost magic and end all the sufferings of Maji across the kingdom. Initially she is a timid and scared girl but soon it is revealed that she is a trained and skilled fighter. Later in the story she slowly starts to gain her confidence but the disappointing part here was that her role was reduced to being an accomplice to Zelie. I wish she had more to her story then just following Zelie around and falling in love with her brother Tzain. I really wish instead of bringing in romance angle, Amari had more self discovery and complexity to her character and eventually become a warrior princess that she is meant to be.
There was also a brief discussion on the discrimination on the basis of skin colour. Princess Amari was a deeper coloured girl as compared to other royal women and was often suggested remedies by her mother and others to lighten her skin. Zelie also hints at similar issues while fighting another lighter coloured girl during her training. I wish there was more discussion on his issue since it was only discussed in the starting of the story and later abandoned. I found no further addressing of this later in the story.
The romance angle was an unexpected turnoff for me. I usually enjoy having some bits of romance in my fantasy adventure stories but I feel the story was a little too young to have a serious romance, let alone two. So Prince Inan falls in love with Zelie and Princess Amari and Tzain falls in love. I feel the story had to be more complex and progressed more before any romance could have bloomed between them. They should have spent more time, have some serious character development and have some epic moments in face of death before falling in love.
The character of Inan, the Prince was a complex character who was torn between his duty as a prince, future king of Odisha and having developed magical abilities. Inan was my favourite character since he had so many layers to his personality. He was torn between the values given by his father throughout his life and what his heart says is right and wrong. He initially fights to hide his magic and it takes a toll on his body, making him weak and vulnerable and he hates himself for having the magic. Eventually he tries to use his abilities to serve his purpose to find Zelie and kill her. Later in the story he had the strength to recognise whatever was taught to him throughout his life is wrong. He tries to make a right decision by helping Zelie and others in restoring magic and as a future king dreams to build a society where everyone is equal, magic or not. This change in his behaviour was a little bit abrupt and I thought for sometime that he might be bluffing but to my surprise he was not. Along with Princess Amari, I look forward to reading the character of Prince Inan as I feel both have a lot of potential.
The most disappointing part was the end in terms that was very sudden and abrupt. There was so much build up towards the climax and when it happened, it felt incomplete and left me wanting for more. I wish it was a little bit more drawn out and more was happening but instead it felt rushed. Being a fantasy adventure story, I feel climax is the most important part and should be epic and scar the reader’s mind for long time, which I felt was missing in this story.
Children of Blood and Bone is a great book to read in terms of diversity in the beautiful fantasy land of Odisha. There is a space for development of strong female protagonist. The characters exhibit serious inner conflicts in terms of recognising what is right and wrong. Many characters have great potential to showcase amazing storylines. The fight scenes are descriptive and epic.
But the story was a disappointment as it lacked any unique storytelling, drawn out and repetitive events narrated from different point of views and incomplete character development. There was an opportunity to address some racial and ethnic issues instead of bringing in a romance angle. The climax of the book was abrupt and sudden. I wish there was more happening in the climax so that could have lasting impression on reader’s mind.
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