Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There are moments of Tomi Adeyemi's new series that are brilliant. However, there are others that are rather dull, convenient or eye-roll worthy. Overall Children of Blood and Bone is an okay book. I could see it setting up a great series as the politics and magic are certainly complex enough to warrant further reading. Maybe this will be one of those scenarios where the first book is just 'okay' but it's worth it to read the rest of the series? Or at least that is what I'm hoping.
Note: I am intentionally vague in places below so as not to give away spoilers.
The action sequences are incredible. There is a fight, about two-thirds of the way through (on a ship in an arena), that is my absolute favourite part of the book. Usually fight sequences are not my favourite moments in Fantasy or Science Fiction novels but these few chapters are so good I missed my bus stop one day! I was engrossed and completely forgot where I was in real life and what I was supposed to be 'sort-of' paying attention to. It takes real talent to really take over someone's mind like that; and Adeyemi did it superbly. I won't say anything more about this fight I adored than I've mentioned above for fear of spoilers; but it's a turning point in the story and was certainly a turning point for me in my enjoyment of the story and connection with our characters.
The other thing I really enjoyed about Children of Blood and Bone is the format. I'm a huge fan of each chapter being from different points of view. My thanks to Adeyemi for naming her chapters the character names (just like G.R.R. Martin)! It keeps me from having to think too much about who is talking and makes my reading experience smoother. I feel like my preference in many cases is the multi-POV format for fantasy novels, so it's nice to see it used well in a YA book.
I hate to say this but there's a lot of mediocre or just poor choices in character development and dialogue. I will confess that I do adore one character (yes the same one everyone else does), Amari. She is not the main character of the story, that is really Zelie; but Amari is sooo much like a real person and has the most genuine thoughts that it's hard not to love her. I think many of us connect with Amari because she's like we are in real life, unsure of what to do and self-doubting. It's really too bad our other characters, especially Zelie, are not as well developed. In fact had Zelie been even half as compelling a character as Amari I think this book would be vastly improved. Zelie's choices often infuriated me and her selfishness rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps that is realistic of what many people might do, be selfish, in the given scenarios but in a heroine I want more.
The two 'leading' men of Children of Blood and Bone are okay. One is adorable in his own way, and the other is Kylo Ren. Seriously all I could think every time I encountered one of his chapters was yes, yes, we get it you hate everything and everyone because you hate yourself. I'd like to have seen a little bit more character and personality from him so that I could distinguish him from the love to hate villain Ren.
And the Ugly
The love... oh the awful romance. As is common, the romance was the largest downfall of Children of Blood and Bone. I was okay with the first 'hook-up' couple; but Adeyemi's choice for a second set of romantic partners is not only boring, but it's very, very cliche and convenient. There is nothing I hate more than convenience. It's like she felt her main four characters all HAD to experience some sort of attraction to someone and so she just wrote it in where convenient for the plot. It was too much for me. I'd have liked to see more emphasis on the first romance (which is quite cute) and no secondary romance at all. The characters involved in the secondary romance had more than enough going on without needing to be confused or distracted by romantic urges. I really wish more writers would be willing to explore characters without them needing to fall in love. Self-reflection can come from many places; it's just laziness that we always use romance to show it. One suggestion I would have for Adeyemi is instead of her second 'couple' having romantic feelings immediately; maybe instead in book 1 have them develop some respect for one another. Then hold off on that possible romance for later books if you still feel it's important for the characters (and/or plot). The benefit of knowing you're writing a series is you can plan ahead and build systematically without needing to drop everything all at once. Authors like Brandon Sanderson and Chris Wooding are superb at this.
This wasn't a bad story, or poor writing per say. It was more that I could see all the potential Adeyemi has to be amazing while reading and so I can't help but rate Children of Blood and Bone 3 out of 5. I found it especially frustrating to feel immersed at one moment and bored or rolling my eyes at the next. I could even forgive the secondary romance that I hated if the rest of the story was as compelling as those main fight scenes. It's really quite odd as usually I find fight sequences to be necessary to move the plot forward and so I put up with them waiting until we can get back to focusing on the characters. Obviously if Adeyemi can make all her characters as complex and well developed as Amari; and make dull events like travelling landscape a little bit more exciting (or just shorter narrative, we don't need another Tolkien and his rocks) then I think this could be an incredible novel.
I will read the second book because I do think there is room for Adeyemi to grow and she has likely done that just by publishing this book and receiving feedback. I am hopeful that in the future Adeyemi can be on the list of must-read YA fantasy authors. Until then I hope she continues to work hard and write lots more.
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