“On earth, Sky Mother created humans, her children of blood and bone. In the heavens, she gave birth to the gods and goddesses. Each would come to embody a different fragment of her soul.”
Zélie is a divîner, a human with shocking white hair given power by the Sky Mother and her children, the gods. Zélie thought she would grow up in a world of magic, obtaining her powers at 13 and becoming a maji, but everything changes when King Saran severs Or?sha’s connection to the gods, taking magic away, and with that Zélie’s mother.
When Zélie helps a rogue noble escape the palace, her first instinct is to run far away from this sure to be troubling princess. But soon she finds herself on a quest to bring magic back to Or?sha, partnering with her family and friends on the most important journey of her lifetime. A story of violence and love, hatred and acceptance, Children of Blood and Bone is the YA fantasy you don’t know you need right now.
This novel was one of my favorites so far this year. During many parts of the story, I was close to tears, but the section that got me the most was the author’s note in the back, which tied the issues of Children to tragedies that are happening right now. The author writes, “Children of Blood and Bone was written during a time where I kept turning on the news and seeing stories of unarmed black men, women, and children being shot by the police. I felt afraid and angry and helpless, but this book was the one thing that made me feel like I could do something about it. I told myself that if just one person could read it and have their hearts or minds changed, then I would've done something meaningful against a problem that often feels so much bigger than myself.”
When I inevitably re-read Children, although my emotional experience will be similar to the first, the fact that Adeyemi used the prejudice and violence that Zélie faces as a symbol for the oppression many black people see today will not be lost on me. This fact majorly heightens the book’s importance, in my opinion, and though I understand this work of fiction is not a perfect analogy for anyone’s experience, Children is still a book at increases feelings of empathy, understanding, and righteousness in the reader.
From a fantasy standpoint, Children also exceeds expectations. The different types of elemental-style magic don’t seem like anything new, but Adeyemi tieing everything back to the gods is awesome. There's a familiar tone to her brand of magic, and yet the way it is deeply tied to emotions, wielded almost invisibly, and able to destroy its user makes the power seem different; raw, wild, and real. Also, her creation of ryders (giant, cat-like creatures used for transportation and battle), is a super cool idea that made me want a lionare, leopanaire, or panthenaire of my own.
Children is a book everyone should read, but I’d especially recommend it to fans of Shadow and Bone and The Black Panther. The Legends of Or?sha series is one that is going to stick around for a long time, and due to its incredible storyline and astonishing cliffhanger, one that I’m going to most certainly stick with as well.