Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a marvelous debut novel, steeped in Nigerian culture, gods and mythology. It's a story of structural oppression, and fear of those with supernatural powers, and a king who is determined to persecute and exterminate an entire group of people to (he thinks) keep his country safe. It's about the lies we tell each other as to whom is fully human and who is not, and what happens when those deemed "less than" have had quite enough, thank you, and are determined to seize the power that has been denied them.
This is also the author's first published novel, and it shows, especially in the characterizations. There are three viewpoint characters: Zelie, chosen by Sky Mother to reawaken magic in the children of the maji, who were cut off from it eleven years ago when all the magic-wielding adults were killed; Inan, the son of the king who did the killing, and who wavers between lusting after Zelie and planning to murder her (Inan frustrated me; his was the most unfocused character, and it seemed like the author couldn't quite get a grip on him); and Amari, my favorite character, the timid, mousy daughter of the king who flees in horror from what her father is doing, and who develops into a "lionaire" by book's end.
(Yeah, about this world: supposedly it's based on the country of Nigeria, but I doubt the Nigerian people ride, instead of horses, HORSE-SIZED FELINES WITH CURLING HORNS. I need fan art on this IMMEDIATELY.)
This is a very fast-paced book, with many small chapters and frequent viewpoint switches. For the most part the story held together, except for an ill-advised romance between Zelie and Inan. This upped the teenage angst quotient considerably, and was unnecessary, since the basic plot provided all the suspense one could want. And the ending is a cliffhanger to make the reader scream in frustration. Still, this is a very good debut, and it's wonderful to see a setting, world and characters that's not just more boring European white guys. Yes, Tolkien and his knockoffs changed the face of fantasy forever, but there's so much more out there than Middle-earth. I'm so glad this book exists in the world, to show the new, exciting directions fantasy can take.
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