Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I’m excited to finally getting around to reading this! There’s been a lot of hype around this since it was released – and in an effort to personally read more books from marginalized authors – this has been on my radar ever since! I stupidly started it right before the holidays, which meant that instead of taking me maybe a couple of weeks, it took me 521521 years to get through, but I’m finally there!

The story follows Zélie, a young divîner girl who since the disappearance of magic eleven years ago, has lived in hiding and oppression. But there might be a way to bring magic back. Zélie and her brother Tzain embarks on an unwilling quest to do just that, clashing with the royal siblings Amari and Inan along the way – hoping that they might just be able to return the world to the way it once was.

This was a fantastic read. It starts off with a bang, throwing you right into all of it, and it’s amazing.

It quickly became painfully obvious that most of the fantasy I read is of a Western/Medieval variety. This is set in the fictional land of Orïsha, a beautifully crafted African-inspired land of deep jungles and boiling deserts, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. The cultures, religions, and magics are well-crafted and thought out, and this just goes to show how important it is to read a variety of authors. This is beautiful.

It also became very apparent to me that this is heavily inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender – a show which I’d seen for the first time only months before reading this – and the author also states that this was one of her inspirations. At times, it was almost too inspired, when you consider it’s about four kids (Zélie, Tzain, Amari, and Inan) caught up in a quest to save the magic of the world. There’s even an eclipse that is of importance in both stories, and I couldn’t help noticing the funny names and blending of animals. Maybe it was just because Avatar was so fresh in my mind – because I really love both stories – but sometimes it threw me a bit. But on the other hand: if you love Avatar you’ll absolutely love this!

Though I really loved this book, I felt the pace slowed a lot in the last third of the book. It might have been partially my own fault – something I’ll get to in a moment – but I felt like we were constantly going around in circles, having a little bit of a romance subplot (that didn’t ever seem to lead anywhere) before we got caught in some trouble, and then it all repeated again. Up until the halfway mark and near the end I was totally onboard for all of it, but there was a section there that I felt lagged.

Anyway, my biggest issue – and what leads me to think that maybe I’m to blame for being inattentive and not following the plot and pacing enough to properly appreciate it – was with the audiobook quality. Funnily enough, the audiobook of Children of Blood and Bone won awards and received a lot of praise, but sadly, this wasn’t my experience.

The narrator is brilliant, don’t get me wrong, but it essentially boiled down to the volume going up and down too much. There are a lot of emotional and excited scenes, where various characters yells at each other, and whether it’s an issue with the narrator being too invested, or the sound technician not mastering it well enough, I struggled to enjoy it. I constantly had to lower the volume when someone shouted at someone else, only to raise it again when the volume went back to normal. It was incredibly frustrating to listen to, especially since I listen to audiobooks when I lift weights or work with chemicals at work, and I’m often not able to reach for my headphones.

One example, which annoyed me most of all, was Admiral Kaea, whose only line seemed to be: “INAN!” at the top of her lungs, berating the young Prince. It made me want to tear my headphones out.

Anyway – I’d highly recommend this to anyone who loves fantasy, especially if you’re looking for more books by marginalized authors! (But maybe don’t get the audiobook version – if that’s an option.)

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