Main / Review & Summary / Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone

By Tomi Adeyemi

Brief Summary
Detailed Summary
Read it or Skip It?
Movie Adaptation

So, I’m finally crossing Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi off my to-read list! I’ve been meaning to get to this title ever since it came out since it seemed like it was the type of book I’d enjoy, but it kept getting preempted by other new releases.

I finally found some time for it over the holidays though, but now of course I still need to read the second book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, in this trilogy.

Plot Summary

For the Detailed Plot Summary, click here or scroll all the way down.

Zelie is a diviner, a maji child. The maji are clans of people who once had magic powers that have since disappeared from the kingdom of Orisha. In one brutual night many years ago, the maji were all eradicated from Orisha by King Saran who fears their powers.

An encounter with Amari, princess of Orisha, leads to the one opportunity to reawaken magic in these lands. Zelie and Amari must embark on a treacherous journey to restore those powers.

See the Children of Blood and Bone on Amazon.

Book Review: The Good Stuff

At its core, Blood and Bone is a fantasy novel of the action and adventure variety, dropped into a vivid and imaginative world.

A group of teens are on a quest to resurrect magic within the kingdom of Orisha. They must travel the world and collect artifacts, all while fending off the royal guards. It’s filled with unique locales, colorful characters, loyal allies and bitter foes. There’s plenty of battles and a hearty dose of (adolescent) romance as well.

It’s unmistakably a diligently plotted out novel with a clear vision. When I first started the book, I thought it was shaping up to be a book that suffers from some criticisms that are generally YA stereotypes, like two-dimensional characters, silly romances or predictable plot progressions. And while there is a little of that stuff, it also ended up having enough of the unexpected in store that it I was pleasantly surprised by it.

It’s also a story that deals in themes about prejudice, the dangers of power and abuse of power, and discrimination. However, I wouldn’t describe this as a particularly deep dive into these topics — they play a large role, but the book doesn’t really fully explore the nuances of these things in any notable sort of way. Still, I’m interested to see what Adeyemi does with her setup in the next two books of the trilogy.

It’s an easy read, not because it’s simplistic, but because it’s interesting, fun and adventurous and easy to get lost in the story. It’s one where I started reading and then looked up to realize it was now dark out and I’d managed to skip dinner. Oops. (I ended up ordering a pizza, thanks for asking.)

children of blood and bone orisha map

Map of Orisha

Book Review: Some Criticisms

There are some things that gave me pause that I’m hesitant to mention, only because I don’t know if they will be fleshed out more fully later on. The rules around the use of magic and the backstory about the realm I felt were both areas that needed more definition and a fuller exploration. However, since this is a trilogy, I don’t know if Adeyemi is simply holding some cards close to her chest to be revealed later on.

As for stuff I wasn’t a huge fan of, trilogy or not, the plot of Blood and Bone includes a handful of too-convenient plot contrivances in order to make the story fit together. For example, it just happens that the centennial is coming up, or that a priceless, irreplaceable stone is being given away as part of a competition for some reason. Most of it is pretty minor stuff though, not a deal-breaker in my opinion.

My main gripe with Children of Blood and Bone though is that it’s yet another “chosen child”-type story. Like Harry Potter and Lyra Belacqua (from His Dark Materials), Zelie in Children of Blood and Bone is a “chosen child,” a child who is chosen by fate or the powers-that-be to be special and save everyone else. It’s a well worn, but very successful trope. And while I enjoy all these stories, it’s not my favorite trope simply because I don’t find fate to be a very inspirational concept. I prefer stories that focus on the choices we make and personal agency. But anyway.

Finally, it has to be said that at the end of Chapter 3, Children of Blood and Bone contains the ever-so-cliched phrase “the breath I did not realize I was holding”, a set of words for which some variant thereof appears in books constantly. There’s also another rendition of the same phrase later on in the novel as well. It’s a pedantic criticism, but I’m honestly surprised people are still using this phrase all the time.

Children of Blood and Bone Movie Adaptation

Children of Blood and Bone is being developed into a feature film, planned as the first in a trilogy, by Disney’s Lucasfilm. Lucasfilm is an important studio at Disney — the only other franchises they’ve helmed are the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies — which seems to bode well for Children of Blood and Bone getting a quality adaptation.

For all the details, see Everything We Know about the Children of Blood and Bone Movie Adaptation.

Read it or Skip it?

If the idea of a Harry Potter-type story rooted in African culture appeals to you, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Overall, I found Children of Blood and Bone to be a delightful and adventurous ride. For whatever tropes the Children of Blood and Bone falls victim to, it must be said that there is plenty of originality in this story.

I’d also recommend this book to anyone who likes a little more action and adventure in their books. There’s lots of sword swinging and faraway lands to explore. I’d also mention that while this book is generally categorized as YA fiction and it does contain some YA-type themes and characteristics, I think non-YA fantasy readers would enjoy it as well.

I’ve already bought the sequel, so yes I plan on reading the follow-up. Also, if you liked this book, I’d recommend checking out Katherine Arden’s fantastic Winternight trilogy, starting with The Bear and the Nightingale.

See the Children of Blood and Bone on Amazon.


Detailed Book Summary (Spoilers)

Quick Summary

The section-by-section summary is below, but here's the quick version. Orisha is a kingdom with two groups of people, the maji and the kosidan. The maji once had powers (ten clans, each with one power), but one day their powers disappeared. That night, there was a raid and all the maji were killed by King Saran, leaving only the children (diviners). The diviners have no power until they transform into maji, but now that the magic has disappeared no one does.

Zelie is a diviner who has a chance encounter with Princess Amari, the daughter of King Saran, who has stolen a scroll with the power to reawaken magic. (Amari stole it after seeing her father murder her diviner friend and loyal servant Binta). Zelie and Amari take the scroll to Zelie's teacher, Mama Agba, who reveals that she is a maji Seer. She tells them they are meant to find a legendary temple (Chândomblé) where all the maji's powers can be fully reawakened. Meanwhile, Zelie and Amaeri are being chased by the palace guards, led by Amari's brother, Crown Prince Inan.

With Inan and the guards in pursuit, Zelie, Amari and Tzain (Zelie's brother) travel to Chandomble with the scroll artifact. There, a priest (Lekan) has another artifact (a dagger) and tells them they need to find the third, a sunstone. They need to bring them to a sacred island and perform a sacred ritual on the upcoming centennial in order to re-forge the connection with their god, the Sky Mother. Otherwise, magic in Orisha will be gone forever. Lekan uses his magic to activate Zelie's Reaper (power over the dead) abilities, but is then killed by Inan's guards. The three get away and manage to track down the sunstone, which is being offered up as a prize. They fight a difficult naval battle and win it.

Meanwhile, Inan has discovered he too has some magic in him. He is a Connector, which deals in magic of the mind. However, when Kaea (his father's most trusted second-in-command) finds out his secret and threatens to reveal it, Inan loses control of his magic and kills her. Inan is able to use his power to connect with Zelie and track her down. Inan finds them, but when Zelie touches him, he sees her memories. It makes him reexamine his beliefs about the maji and magic, though Tzain and Amari are skeptical. Meanwhile, Tzain and Amari are abducted by masked men, but they turn out to be part of a secluded diviner settlement. When the dust settles, the diviners agree to help.

As Inan and Zelie begin to fall for each other, the royal guards attack the settlement, and Zelie is taken and tortured. Tzain and Amari recruit other diviners to rescue Zelie just as Inan tries to rescue Zelie as well. Tzain, Amari and Zelie escape, with Inan staying behind. They recruit a group of mercenaries led by a pickpocket named Roen to help them reach the sacred island. Fleets of royal warships head there as well. The three make it to the island, but Inan's belief in the cause starts to waver under the influence of King Saran.

As Zelie goes to perform the ritual, Inan and Saran reveal that they've kidnapped her father. She gives up the artifacts, but the guards attack anyway and Zelie's father is killed. Zelie then uses blood magic to strike back successfully, but Inan uses his own magic and goads Zelie into destroying the scroll artifact (which can only be destroyed by magic). However, when Saran sees Inan is a maji (and pieces together that Inan killed Kaea), Saran kills Inan. Amari, in turn, kills Saran. Still, despite the scroll being destroyed, Zelie is able to call upon the blood and spirits of her ancestors to forge a new connection with the Sky Mother. Zelie is killed in the process, but is resurrected by the gods. Magic is restored, and the book ends with Zelie seeing that Amari now has some magic in her as well.

Section-by-Section Summary

Note: This book is told from three different points of view, Zélie, Amari and Inan

Chapters 1 - 8

The kingdom of Orisha (Orïsha) consists of two groups, the white-haired maji and the dark-haired kosidan (kosidán). Maji children are called diviners (Divîners) before they get their powers and transform into maji. The maji once consisted of ten clans, each one gifted with a different power. However, some maji abused their power, causing people to hate them. One day, their powers disappeared. King Saran then ordered "the Raid" that killed all adult maji and made the kosidan the ruling class. Though the maji no longer have powers now, the kosidan still hate and fear them. (The maji are also weak to majacite, a rare black metal that limits their powers.)

Zélie Adebola is a diviner who is being trained to be a fighter by a kosidan woman, Mama Agba. Zelie's older brother Tzain is a kosidan athlete training for the Orisha Games. Their maji mother (a Reaper with power over death) was a killed in the Raid, and their kosidan father (Baba) was beaten severely and has been very weak ever since. Zelie travels on Nailah (Zélie's lionaire steed) from her town of Ilorin to the city of Lagos to trade for coin to pay a new tax the king has levied.

Princess Amari and Crown Prince Inan are King Saran's children and live in the palace at Lagos. Amari overhears her father's advisor saying that some indestructable artifacts have washed ashore and one (the sunstone) is missing. The advisor claims the artifacts can transform diviners into maji. Amari watches as Saran summons Binta, her diviner servant and friend, and uses the scroll artifact to make her transform. King Saran then kills Binta, to Amari's great horror. Amari steals the scroll and leaves.

Zelie is headed out of the Lagos market when a girl in a cloak (Amari) grabs her arm and begs for help. Zelie agrees. They make it out of the city just barely (with the help of Tzain and Nailah) after an extended scuffle with the guards. When they are safely away, Amari admits to Tzain and Zelie that she is the princess and tells them about the scroll.

As the captain of the guards, Inan is frustrated after the failed capture of the cloaked fugitive. King Saran privately tells Inan that the fugitive is Amari. They've also identifed Zelie as the person aiding the fugitive, and Inan heads to Ilorin to find them.

Chapters 9 - 13

In Ilorin, Zelie brings Mama Agba the scroll. Mama Agba confesses that she is a maji Seer who used magic to get rid of her hair. Mama Agba uses her remaining magic power (ashe) -- weak from disuse but awakened by the scroll -- to summon a vision of Zelie, Amari and Tzain traveling to the Funmilayo Jungle. There, she believes they will find Chândomblé, a legendary temple, where they can fully reawaken the majis' powers. Soon, the guards arrive and set Ilorin on fire, and the three of them depart.

In her dreams, Zelie sees a vision of Prince Inan. She sees the white streak running in his hair and realizes that he has magic and unwittingly used it to summon her. Prince Inan is a Connector, with power over mind, spirit and dreams. She tells him this, and he is shocked as he realizes it is true.

Chapters 14 - 21

Zelie, Tzain and Amari travel to a market where Amari trades her finery for their travel supplies and gold. Amari also reveals that she has had sword training. After an arduous climb, they reach the ruins of Chândomblé. Meanwhile, Inan and the guards continue in pursuit of Amari and Zelie. They kill the merchant that traded with Amari and head toward Chândomblé.

At Chandomble, Zelie, Tzain and Amari find a Sêntaro (high priest and spiritual guardians) named Lekan. He explains that magic disappeared because King Saran attacked the temple and stopped a sacred ritual. Lekan explains that they have one chance to recover the artifacts (a scroll, dagger and sun stone) and perform the ritual to restablish a connection to the Sky Mother before magic is gone forever. It must take place at the centennial solstice in one "moon"/month on a sacred island that appears. It also requires a female designated as the "mamalawo" to perform the ritual. Lekan has the dagger and they have the scroll, but the sun stone needs to be recovered.

Lekan then performs a different ritual in Yoruba (the maji language that was banned) to awaken Zelie's powers and name her the mamalawo, but just as it's completed Inan and the guards arrive. Lekan is killed, but the others escape. Inan orders Kaea (Admiral of the Guards and second-in-command to King Saran) to rebuild the bridge that was destroyed, determined to track them down, while Inan tries to figure out where they went by uses his newfound powers.

Chapters 22 - 34

The three make their way to Ibeji, where Lekan had tracked the sunstone to. There, a girl in the stocks tells them about Babaluaye, a recently resurfaced relic that turns out to be the sun stone, which is rumored to give immortality. In Ibeji, there is an ampitheater that fills with water so that ten captains can stage a naval battle and win the stone. So far, the captains have all end up killing each other though, so no one has won the stone yet. After failing to steal the stone, Zelie volunteers for a battle.

While Zelie learns to use Reaper magic to raise the dead, Inan summons her in a dream, and Zelie accidentally gives away their location. At the same time, Kaea discovers Inan's secret, and he kills her in a panic when she threatens to reveal it.

The three are accepted in battle, and appointed a ship and crew. Tzain rallies their crew, Zelie uses her Reaper powers and Amari uses her sword-fighting skills to finish off the final captain. They win the battle and the sun stone with it.

Chapters 35 - 55

In the jungles, Inan manages to track the three of them down, leading to a fight between Inan and Zelie. However the moment Zelie touches Inan, he is able to see all her memories flash before his eyes and he is unable to kill her. Meanwhile, Amari and Tzain have been captured by masked men. Zelie reluctantly joins forces with Inan to find their siblings.

It turns out the captors are diviners who were looking for the scroll artifact. Zelie and Inan plan an attack using their combined powers. The battle only stops when the captors realize they are diviners as well. Tzain is injured, but Zulaikha/"Zu" (one of the captors) is a Healer and fixes him up. The captors explain that they are a diviner settlement that has quietly been built up. Roën, a pickpocket, flirts with Zelie. Meanwhile, Inan assures Amari and Tzain that he's had a change of heart and is on their side, but they feel unsure.

Before they continue on their journey, the diviners plan a celebration where everyone in the settlement will be able to awaken their powers using the artifacts. Zelie also helps Inan to control his powers. They almost kiss, but instead it results in a fight with Tzain (who does not trust Inan).

Chapters 56 - 71

As the festival approaches, Inan convinces Zelie that they can build a new Orisha together, where the maji are not oppressed. As they embrace, Tzain sees and is furious. Then, the palace guards arrive. They attack and kill Zu, leading a diviner boy (Kwame) to use dangerous blood magic to fight them off (which kills Kwame in the process). However, the guards still capture Zelie.

Restrained in majacite, Zelie is taken to the palace prison. Inan goes to see her, but he's changed his mind about restoring magic. He now thinks its too dangerous after seeing Kwame single-handedly destroy three platoons of guards. King Saran then walks in and starts torturing her for information. They brand the word "MAGGOT" (how they refer to maji people) on her back. Zelie gives up the fact that the artifacts can only be destroyed with magic. Inan tries to reason with Saran, but Saran kicks him out.

Amari and Tzain go to a diviner friend of Tzain's (Kenyon) who runs a bar (toju) that only diviners patronize. Amari (who has the scroll and sunstone) asks them to help, offering to restore their connection to the gods (and their magic) in the process. At night, Inan sneaks in and tries to rescue Zelie just as the diviners (led by Amari and Tzain) attack the fortress as well. Amari and Tzain carry a very weak and injured Zelie out (Inan stays behind because his father still does not know he has switched sides). A newly-transformed Healers does her best to help Zelie. By now, solstice is only one day away.

Chapters 72 - 79

The diviners (plus Tzain and Amari) make their way to Jimeta, a city known for its criminal and mercenary population, to try to find a boat to get to the island. They happen upon Roën and his men there. Zelie convinces them to help, promising them the gods' favor as well as the favor of the future queen of Orisha (Amari). They sail across Lokoja Sea to find multiple fleets of warships headed toward the same island. They decide to board one of the warships, which Roën's men manage with ease, quietly incapacitating all the guards aboard. Zelie confides in Amari that she fears her magic is weak due to the torture, but Amari reassures her to have faith that it will return when she needs it.

As Inan and King Saran sail toward the island as well, Saran tells Inan that his own father (Inan and Amari's grandfather) worked to unify the maji and kosidan, but it resulted in his death and the death of Alika, Saran's first wife. Once again, Inan's beliefs waver as he considers the deadly power of the maji.

When they reach the isle, a fog shields Zelie and the others as they approach the temple, and Roen's men cause a diversion so they can enter. However, inside they are ambushed by Saran and Inan. They have Baba (Zelie and Tzain's father) and are demanding the artifacts. Against everyone's wishes, Zelie trades the stone and scroll for her father, though she gives them the wrong dagger (because Inan has never seen the real one). As she walks away, the guards attack and Baba it shot with an arrow.

Chapters 80 - 85

Baba's death awakens Zelie's magic, and she uses his blood to power the blood magic that tears through the soldiers. Inan frantically tries to destroy the artifacts, but can't. He then provokes Zelie into destroying the scroll, and it works. However, Saran sees Inan using magic, realizes he is a maji and also figures out from the residue Inan's magic leaves behind that Inan killed Kaea. Saran turns on Inan, and murders him. Seeing Inan killed, Amari attacks her father and kills him.

With the scroll destroyed, Zelie worries that all is lost because the scroll's incantation was supposed to tether the connection to the Sky Mother. However, she thinks about the power of blood and has the idea to draw upon her ancestors to forge a new connection with the Sky Mother. She uses blood magic to reawaken magic in all of Orisha and it kills her, but she is given her life back.

Epilogue

As the book closes, Zelie returns to life to see that Amari too now has a white streak in her hair.

See Children of Blood and Bone on Amazon.