Let’s talk about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a YA fantasy that opens with a lynching and ends with an author’s note urging readers to rise. In between is nothing but action, emotional turmoil and rarely a chance to breathe. Emphasizing this occurrence, Adeyemi repeatedly echoes Eric Garner’s words, “I can’t breathe.”
Adeyemi tells this story through the shifting perspectives of three teenagers in the West-African-inspired world of Orïsha where, under the orders of the ruthless king, all the maji were killed, effectively ending the use of magic. Zélie plans to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. Princess Amari, the king’s daughter, steals a magic scroll and joins Zélie in her plight. Amari’s brother, Crown Prince Inan, whose mantra is, “Kill the girl, kill magic,” finds himself conflicted about his mission after experiencing Zélie’s story and her pain.
For the magical language of incantation, Adeyemi, a self-identified Ravenclaw, draws from Yoruba with translation help from her Nigerian-born parents. She told Jimmy Fallon, whose audience chose the book as the first Tonight Show Summer Reads, that she uses Yoruba to retaliate for her parents using the language as a way to talk about sensitive subjects in front of their children without the children knowing. The settings (depicted in a map covering the end pages, a must in fantasy world building) are based on places in Nigeria. Adeyemi also includes favorite foods like jollof rice.
While I read the hard copy of Children of Blood and Bone, I also listened to the audiobook. I hoped to learn the pronunciations and experience the musicality of some of the incantation and party scenes. That happened, but I was also caught up in Bahni Turpin’s performance. She captures each of the three voices, paces the conflict beautifully and heightens the drama.
This is an epic story with epic themes–betrayal, police brutality, oppression (both racial and economic). This is the world that is, but Zélie is on a hero’s journey. She is in contest with villains who are complicated and identifiable. And it will take two more books to know if she will succeed or even if there is hope. -Recommended by Rebecca Ballenger, The University of Arizona
Publisher: Henry Holt/Macmillan Publishers
PubDate: March 6, 2018
Adeyemi offers a discussion guide aimed at 8th grade CCSS. Children of Blood and Bone-themed book clubs should be awesome.
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