A West African-based fantasy adventure world where princesses, despot kings and magic are the backdrop to a heritage-rich and energetic storyline? Say no more! Who cares that Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone ’s intended audience is Young Adult, this novel is the escapism that we all need. See if you can guess how our literary contributor, Vanessa Thomas, really felt about the book…
Children of Blood and Bone is the first novel in a trilogy written by 24 Nigerian-American, Tomi Adeyemi, the recipient of one of the biggest book deals for a young adult author ever. Before we even get on to the review, we must mention that the book has already secured a major film deal, and rightly so. This fantasy fiction is superbly written, centred around African, specifically Nigerian characters, and bringing to life the power and mystery of the Orishas (Yoruba Gods and Goddesses).
Adeyemi studied English literature at Harvard and spent a period of her studies in Brazil where she focused on West African culture and mythology, no doubt, sowing the seeds for her successful debut novel. Writing had always been her passion; however, she never imagined the reception her first book would get.
Set in Nigeria, Adeyemi’s debut takes us on a journey I craved in fiction as a teen. Protagonist Zélie Adebola’s life is ripped apart when the King outlaws magic, killing all traces of it, and thus her mother. (Without too many spoilers) Zélie, her protective brother and a princess set off to try and bring magic back. Like any good fantasy book, they face a variety of hurdles along the way. But, unlike many other fantasy books sitting in the top 10 in current book charts, this book is flowing with melanin, furthermore, the characters are written with depth and humanness.
Adeyemi brings Lagos, Ilorin and the other areas of Nigeria that the trio travel through, to life in your bedroom/commute (wherever you read the book) as you picture diviners with shining white hair calling to the Orishas for power. The novel is proudly Nigerian, and proudly Yoruba, fictionalising a fascinating and incredibly important part of Yoruba culture, seldom given its due.
This book genuinely warmed my heart, and I can imagine what this representation and visibility will do for young black readers across the globe, particularly in the motherland. I promise I’m not just gassing up the book, The Guardian described it as:
“A hugely enjoyable escapist story that makes you re-examine the world around you. It is a miraculous achievement.”
It has already been cited as the biggest fantasy debut of the year, and I’m not sure what fantasy I’ve read (including Harry Potter) tops it. Children of Blood and Bone is electric, from the writing to the characters to the literal magic, and the plot had me hooked the entire way through.
Adeyemi has already put pen to paper for book two, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is due to be released in 2019. There are currently no details for the film release, so we don’t know when we’ll get to see Zélie on the big screen. But speaking to The Guardian, Adeyemi is clear about one thing, the film must have a black director. She said: “It’s a deeply, deeply personal thing – there are parts of the book that black people get instantly because they’ve lived it.”
Bring on book 2!
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is published by Macmillan Children’s Books. Buy the book here.
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