In Orisha, there are two kinds of people: the maji and the kosidán. The latter rule over the former, keeping them firmly under thumb even as they fear their magical abilities. But ever since King Saran killed almost all maji, magic hasn’t really been an issue anymore. The remaining maji like Zélie are maji in name only, recognizable by their white hair, but without magic powers. As fate will have it, Zélie, her brother Tzain and none other but the princess Amari find themselves on their way to restore magic to Orisha, in possession of a magical scroll and pursued by Amari’s brother Inan.
I enjoyed reading Children of Blood and Bone but I’m a little torn about it. I wanted it to be a little more revolutionary than it was.
There are many good things about the book. I liked the world-building that was interesting, unusual and well-constructed. I liked the characters. It was so perfectly paced that I could barely put it down. And, even if the next few things I write will point out how I hoped it would be more revolutionary, I recognize and applaud that it’s still in itself revolutionary to have a novel by a Black (female) writer about Black characters, drawing on African cultures, in this case specifically the Yoruba, for a fantasy setting.
But there were two things that I thought could have been pushed more. One was that I was really hoping for, rooting for and even kind of expecting for a bit: a queer love story. Zélie and Amari are obviously made for each other and should fall in love. Instead their respective brothers get shoehorned into the story and make the entire thing feel like the epitome of compulsory heterosexuality. Get rid of the brothers (or at least the romantic angles there, but you could easily lose Tzain and nothing much would happen) and let the girls get it on in peace.
The other thing was that the story itself, the way it unfolds, the narrative choices made just felt pretty conservative to me. It’s just a very classic build-up. Maybe that’s just due to the fact that this is a debut novel and Adeyemi might stretch her narrative muscles a little more in the next novels, but here, I just thought that it could have been a little more daring.
That being said, I am not sure whether I will continue reading the trilogy. When I picked it up, I wasn’t aware that it was the first book and even the ending of this one didn’t feel like it necessarily needed the story continued. But I’m not totally averse to continue. I guess we’ll see what happens when the book comes out.
Summarizing: Not bad, but didn’t convince me entirely.