Bookgab: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

by - March 22, 2018

Children of blood and bone is like the movie I never knew I needed to see to feel whole until I actually sat down and saw it. There's a reason why the whole YA community is buzzing about CBB, why they're shouting their love from rooftops and throwing five-star reviews at it on Goodreads for the world to see. CBB immediately became an intrinsic part of the #Weneeddiversebooks's already established foundation, and it didn't happen by accident. Tomi had said that she wrote CBB during the time where police officials were taking the lives of young black unarmed men without any real consequences. The destruction of black lives is still so imbued in the ideology of humans that she felt she needed to write CBB for those people to see the actual person in their POC skin varieties. Because the link between black or brown and "danger" has to be snipped and torn to shreds by the truth at some point.


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 (Amari), Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince (Inan), 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.

CBB is everything it promises to be and more. The West African inspiration behind this book already sets it apart from anything in Fantasy that you've most probably ever read. And it's set apart in the best way imaginable. The new cultural aspects explored in an alternate Lagos almost forces you to become part of this fictional world. Tomi's descriptions, her multiperspective structure, and her raw indulgence in the cultural aspects of being in an African location makes it impossible for anyone to not have a visceral experience of a life outside of their own. While I was reading the book I kept on imagining the cast of Black Panther portraying the roles of Zelie, Amari, Inan, and Tzain because, despite it being 2018, that is the closest POCs have gotten to a portrayal of a fictional world which reflects diversity so unapologetically.

As expected, Zelie (the protagonist) is by far one of the strongest female characters I've read about in a book. As a diviner and a reaper - one of the maji abilities - like her deceased mother, she can fight like no one's business, she loves fiercely and she lives to uplift and support others as much as she can. Zelie is a diviner which is what maji's are called before they come of age and develop their abilities. There are 10 Maji clans - or there used to be - and they all have different elements that fuel their abilities. In CBB we are introduced to reapers, seers, connectors, healers, and burners in the new world where magic is actually taken off the face of the earth. Zelie and her friends unlock diviners abilities as they continue on their journey to bring magic back before it's too late. This is something that Zelie starts off thinking is the best thing for her people, but she starts questioning the elements that come into play when humans are handed extraordinary abilities, especially when there is no one to control the way they use it, but themselves...

The same can be said for Amari regarding her strength of will.  The human rebel princess who stole the only artifact that can bring magic back to the diviners, despite her father (the king) making it his mission to assure that magic never returns to Lagos again. Amari acts after a devastating loss of a friend, and it's not clear from the start whether she did it purely driven by emotion or if she actually believed in her new-found cause. Amari is not too conflicted about her circumstances, she leaves the comfort of her royal upbringing and finds that what she had feared all her life, is the reality. I must say, I didn't like Amari in the beginning because she allows herself to be paralysed by fear on several occasions even though she is said to be a trained fighter. Her role seemed to have run its course after the first few chapters, but I was pleasantly surprised by her growth as the story unfolded. She might be the character with the most personal growth in the book and by the end, there is no way for you to not root for her.

On the other hand the antagonist or unreliable character of prince Inan, had me conflicted. But mostly I was annoyed by his blind faith in the word of his father. His character is put in the worst possible position in a world where certain aspects are seen as black and white, while he is very much in the grey zone. The problem I had with him is that he allowed the word of another to fuel his part in the destruction of a whole race of people while at the same time he discovers how wrong that is in a matter of days... Inan had no spine, and some people deserve better (I'm trying not to spoil things).

With regard to the plot, all I can say is that every single chapter had a cliffhanger, which of course, made it almost impossible to put down. It also made it read a lot like a film. Knowing that Tomi did use writing techniques commonly found in scriptwriting, it was easy to see how the film could be adapted to the screen. The novel is very much plot driven, which at times did bother me a little because everything seemed like it was happening too fast but the payoff was definitely worth it.

“You crushed us to build your monarchy on the backs of our blood and bone. Your mistake wasn’t keeping us alive. It was thinking we’d never fight back.” - Zélie

CBB explored different themes of familial love, romantic love, hate, discrimination, revenge, genocide, and betrayal that most definitely keeps you on your toes throughout the book. It also explores these themes in a way that makes you rethink situations in real life. It won't take you long to realise that this book wasn't written for certain people to enjoy, it was written for everyone. If you start this story there will be a reason for you to keep on reading even if this is not the type of book that you normally would pick up. At the end of the day, CBB is a human story with a sprinkle of magic and incantations to light a fire up the behinds of our characters. And if you love human stories, then Children of Blood and Bone is for you.


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