Magic is gone, cruelly extinguished by King Saran along with the majis who wielded it. The children of the maji, Diviners, were spared but left without any of their ancestral powers. Instead, they are second class citizens, subject to unfair taxes and sent into slavery when their families can’t pay. To be a Diviner is to be constantly on your guard.

We are all children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue.

Children of Blood and Bone is a Nigerian inspired fantasy with strong themes of genocide, prejudice and police brutality. I loved the cover on first sight and it’s received so much advanced praise so I was excited to pick it up. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The narration is first person split between three characters. Zélie is the main character, she witnessed the brutal execution of her maji mother when she was a little girl. She’s young, stubborn and impulsive, not thinking things through very well, but the fate of all magic ends up lying in her hands.

Amari is a princess who is a witness when the King discovers magic is returning, seeing her Diviner maid, who is also her best friend, slaughtered by her father. She runs, taking the relic which returns magic with her. She grows from the scared princess to a strong warrior, despite many people not giving her a chance to prove she’s different from her family. She is the middle ground of the three characters.

I liked the fact that one perspective was from the other side. Inan is the prince sent to retrieve his sister, Zélie and the relic they’ve stolen. He has been brought up to fear magic and he hates maggots, the derogatory word for Diviners. His father’s family was killed by maji, leading to the Raid, a genocide. I wanted to know more about what happened in the past, why did the maji target the Royal family, who at the time seemed to want to work with the maji?

They built this world for you, built it to love you. They never cursed at you in the streets, never broke down the doors of your house. The didn’t drag your mother by the neck and hang her for the whole world to see.

There are a few scenes in the book where you get a glimpse of how dangerous magic can be in the wrong hands. There is a bit of you that understands the fear in these moments, even Zélie has doubts about unleashing the power. I liked that it wasn’t entirely black and white with regards to magic. It isn’t some benevolent force, although surely there must have been a solution that didn’t involve so much suffering.

At times it really felt as though, somehow, I’d got an earlier draft than the one everyone was raving over, because with some strict editing and pruning, I think I would have liked it a lot more. And no, I didn’t read a proof as I waited for my pre-order in the end.

It’s a long book, not unusual for fantasy, but the pacing was uneven. There were sections which gripped me and then, they’d move on to something else and it would feel a slog again. They are up against the clock to save magic but somehow they have time to stop for a party? The parts that deal with prejudice, oppression and brutality come across as much more passionate than the plot to carry these ideas. If you read a lot of fantasy, the plot itself is quite generic.

And my biggest gripe might be somewhat spoilery, so look away now if you haven’t read it. The romance was a complete u-turn. I don’t mind an enemies turned lovers trope but it cannot be sudden. You cannot erase a lifetime of prejudice in a day, even if you are a mind-reader. How do you go from hating someone who kills your people to smooching after a few conversations? The romance was unnecessary, you can have a character learning that their outlook on the world is wrong without it being about a girl. And do it slower, it’s not like the book was too short to draw it out.

The map of Orïsha is vaguely Nigeria shaped and you may notice that most the places names are real places, even if they’re not all quite in the right positions. At least Lagos is still a bustling hub, though I’m not sure that the fictional places are intended to mirror their real life counterparts.

Science Fiction vs Fantasy Bingo: African

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Book Source: Purchased