As a Nigerian-American girl and voracious reader growing up in Homewood Flossmoor and Hinsdale, Illinois, Tomi Adeyemi rarely encountered powerful characters who looked like her. Nevertheless, this 24 year-old recent Harvard graduate has burst onto the scene this year with a NY Times best-selling book set in the mythical West African kingdom of Orisha which features strong black teens fighting against a brutal king to protect their traditional ways.
Narrated alternately by the four main teenage characters, Zelie and her brother Tzain, who are persecuted former magi, and Prince Inan and Princess Amari, who are children of the Orishan king who wants to kill all the magi and eradicte their magic forever. After a seemingly inauspicious encounter in the marketplace, Zelie and Amari’s futures become intertwined and their race to save magic begins. Based loosely on the West African mythology of Oya, Children of Blood and Bone is fast paced and (fair warning), the first book of a planned trilogy. This debut series is also being made into a series of movies by the filmmakers who brought us Hunger Games and Twilight and is sure to be a hit with the millions who have made The Black Panther such a cultural phenomenon.
There has been much written about this book being an allegory for the modern black experience in America, and I understand and applaud those scholarly critiques. I think it’s essential these days to broaden our literary horizons to include non-Western European themes, characters and settings. It’s a great big world out there and we can and should explore it, even if it’s just through literature.
Politics aside, if you’re looking for a great fantasy with phenomenal world-building and nonstop action, read this book. Or even better, listen to its audiobook which was beautifully narrated by Bahni Turpin. Her use of a variety of accents and her command of the Yoruba language, which is sprinkled throughout the book, brought this story vividly to life for me. I can’t wait for the second book in this series to be released in March of 2019 which will be called Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Although this book was written for young adults, it will also be appreciated by adults who loved Harry Potter.