The biggest debut of the year? Without a doubt, it’s Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood And Bone, a West African–inspired fantasy that sold at auction and is already headed to the big screen.
Zélie still remembers a world in which magic reigned. The rulers of Orïsha abused the gifts given to them, and the gods banished it, leaving them under the rule of a tyrant king. But every kingdom needs a savior, and perhaps it’s up to Zélie to create the change she wishes to see. Fresh, fast-paced, and epic, this will be one of the biggest fantasies of 2018.
If the film rights sold, early rave reviews, and big-time billboards in LA and other major cities haven’t swayed you toward putting this one on the top of your TBR list right now, here are six other reasons you definitely should.
Wise Words from Mama Agba
Right from the start, we learn that Zélie still mourns her mama, who was killed by the king when he banished magic. But in Mama Agba, a village elder, she has a matriarch who both grounds her (complete with lashings!) and encourages her to fly. “When your opponent has no honor, you must fight in different, smarter ways,” she warns the girl early on.
While the breakneck pacing of the book will keep you flipping pages, the plot quickly propelling you forward, there is plenty of depth beneath the surface. Adeyemi tackles colorism, class, oppression, torture, and other issues as the war between the haves and have-nots rages in Orïsha.
A Gilded Cage
Power lies with those who have magic—or those who control it enough to stigmatize it. King Saran and his royal clan fear the return of magic, because that will mean they lose everything they’ve gained through eliminating it. Through Crown Prince Inan and (treasonous!) Princess Amari’s amber eyes, we learn about the royals’ perspective: the weight of the world sits on their heads along with those crowns. “They wear their secrets like glittering diamonds, embroidery woven through their lavish iro tops and long buba skirts. Their lies and lily-scented perfumes taint the honeyed aroma of sweet cakes I am no longer allowed to eat.”
Be forewarned: as you dive into the world of Orïsha, it’s best to have snacks handy. Sweet honeyed cakes, coconut pie, and oh, the jollof rice. While Princess Amari’s sweet tooth is curbed by the Queen, Zélie suffers from true hunger—both for the return of magic, and more literally. Adeyemi uses food throughout the book to ground us in the culture and viscerally remind us of the great divide between the royals and the diviners.
The Body Count
Blood spills fast and furious in this fantasy as the war between the royals and the diviner clans intensifies. Which is not to say the deaths that mark these pages are gratuitous. Each gruesome slaughter is felt keenly, both in the building of the plot and the emotional heft of the novel. You’re never quite sure where the blade will drop next, thanks to the King’s bloodlust, and the tension that comes with that is both brutal and delicious.
A Worthy Heroine
In much of YA these days, especially fantasy, it’s the everygirl thrust into the spotlight—often reluctantly. But Zélie steps up right from the start, and while she may not always trust her instincts (hi, Inan!), she knows she has to put everything at stake for the sake of her people. After all, her mother died because of magic, and the world has been dark ever since. She also wants it: she longs to feel the vibration of ashe magic in her veins. She revels (just a bit) in the power it brings. And she doesn’t apologize for that, which is incredibly refreshing.
Children of Blood And Bone hits shelves March 6 and is available for preorder now. Nab the B&N Special Edition, complete with six pages of handwritten behind-the-scenes material, maps, and more!