Children of Blood and Bone
Nigeria’s Tomi Adeyemi was 24 when her debut Young Adult fantasy novel, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’, became a New York Times bestseller. Before its release on March 6, 2018, its eye-catching cover, showing a white-haired girl with fierce grey eyes, appeared on a 42-foot high billboard not far from the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the United States of America. To cap it all, Fox 2000 acquired it for the screen even before its release. Yes, you need not say it, this is every writer’s dream.
Rooted in African mythology, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ is told through the eyes of Inan, Amari and Zelie who’s the protagonist. Set in a fictional world called Orisha, the novel begins with Zelie in combat with Yemi, a girl notorious for winning all her fights. The match is highly competitive, but just when Zelie is about to deliver her winning blow, the arrival of the ruthless guards of Orisha ruins everything.
Apparently, Zelie and her family are descendants of the Maji clan, a people known to wield magical powers in the past but who have been subdued by the ruthless and merciless King Saran of Orïsha. Under the Maji clan are others, such as the Iku clan (Reaper deity) known as the Maji of life and death. Emi (Connector deity, Ori), the Maji of mind, spirit, and dreams. Omi (Tider deity, Yemoja), Maji of water. Ina (Burner Deity, Sango), Maji of fire. Afefe (Winder Deity, Ayao), Maji of air, Aiye (Grounder/Welder, Ogun), Maji of iron and several more.
King Saran’s hate for the Maji is driven by the memory of how his father, the late king, sought to unite Orïshan. But this didn’t happen because of magic which made the Maji too powerful and led to his death. His father was soft, Saran now tells his son, the future king, and he, Saran, has learned from the past and fights to ensure the Maji never get their magic back. But everything changes the day Amari, the princess learns about the Maji scroll hidden in the palace. Still bitter about the death of her closest friend, Binta, by her father’s hand, she flees with it and accidentally meets Zelie who’s on a trading mission to the capital. This opens the door to the beginning of a great adventure by the two fugitives, later three, pursued by the king’s guards. Later, they will learn that Zelie is key to bringing back magic because of her powers. So, armed with the scroll and the Sunstone, three of them, including Tzain, Zelie’s brother, would embark on a journey to a temple that would enable them chieve their goal.
The crown prince, Inan, is bent on winning his father’s respect, and this propels him toward the three like a magnet. This is where the tale springs surprises even as the writer drops hints of what is to come, the love affair between the heroine and the villain.
One of this book’s strongest points is the author’s world building ability. The seat of power is Lagos where Suran, the king of Orïsha rules with an iron hand. The narrative takes us to Gombe, Sokoto, which are in reality capitals of states in Northern Nigerian. Here, people ride beasts and there is no mention of an automobile anywhere. What’s again intriguing is the manner in which the heroes, Zelie, Tzain, and Amari travel from one part to the next, showing that either the cities are close knit, or more logically, the giant ‘leopanaire’ they ride covers a great distance, after all they are all able to get onto its back.
It’s one thing to write a beautiful epic story with amazing dialogue, a mix of suspense and intense action, and entirely another to make it believable. Adeyemi’s characters pray to gods common in Yoruba mythology such as Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder and lightning. Here, characters praying to Sango become burners who let out a flood of flame. Others exhibit the powers of Babaluaye, which enables them inflict their enemies with a disease or heal their loved ones. All these elements make this book thrilling.
However, like always, if you are Nigerian, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ may thrill you less because you are likely to live where the characters create adventure. But this doesn’t take anything away from this work. It’s creativity at its best, and sometimes you wonder how Adeyemi was able to do it all. Then of course, there is the love story in the story, between Zelie and Inan, the prince of Orïshan. Will their love survive everything else that threatens to pull them apart, or will the reverse be the case?
In an interview with ebony.com, Adeyemi has said she hopes her book inspires young black girls. This is most likely because there is hardly a book out there with a black female hero that has ever received the attention this novel is getting. The highly-anticipated film series is also going to solidify that. Produced by the brains behind ‘Twilight’, it has been reported that Fox 2000 paid about a million dollars for the book’s film rights.
Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego. She graduated from Harvard University and later received a fellowship to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ is the first book in a trilogy.